UT Extension Specialists Say Plan Now for Sales Later

Farmers market customer service

Karen Norton of Norton Family Farms offers value-added agriculture products for sale at the Franklin, Tennessee, Farmers Market. Photo by M. Leffew, courtesy UTIA. 


You will rarely find tractor parts for sale at a grocery store or pre-packaged snack cakes offered on a dessert menu at a white tablecloth restaurant. Different products fit different market outlets, and this marketing principle is important for farms selling products directly to consumers.

“Whether your sales outlet is a farmers market, roadside stand, Pick-Your-Own operation or any other direct market channel, some products are simply a better fit for certain markets,” said Megan Bruch Leffew, marketing specialist with the University of Tennessee Center for Profitable Agriculture. “For example, a farmers market may not be the best marketing option for Christmas trees, since the product is relatively more difficult to transport and farmers markets may not even be open in November and December,” she said.

Leffew recommends that farm operators ask themselves pointed questions to evaluate which direct market channels will best fit their products. “They should ask themselves about their product quantity, availability, transportation, production requirements and regulations regarding sales,” she said. “For example, items sold by weight must be sold by the net weight of the product measured on a scale permitted by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture,” she said.

Producers should also determine how much they can have available for their chosen market and whether that amount can supply the demand, Leffew added. “Also, timing is important. Season-extension techniques for produce can help extend a market season. Producers can also ask themselves what new things may need to be done to harvest and prepare the product for the market channel they are targeting,” she said.

Farm producers sometimes underestimate the cost of fuel and time needed to transport products to new markets. “It is also important to find out if there is any special equipment or skills needed to harvest and transport a product to market,” said Rob Holland, CPA director. 

Rules and regulations may also apply. “There could be different requirements to be met when selling a product through specific market channels,” said Holland. “Be sure to determine that before you try to market a product through a new place.” Answering such questions can help producers determine the direct market channel that is the best fit for their farm.

For more information about different direct farm marketing strategies, Leffew and Holland recommend the UT Extension publication “Choosing Direct Marketing Channels for Agricultural Products” (PB 1796), available for free at your county UT Extension office or online at
extension.tennessee.edu.  Click on the link to “Publications.”  

The Center for Profitable Agriculture is a joint effort of University of Tennessee Extension and the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.



Megan Bruch Leffew, Center for Profitable Agriculture, 931-486-2777, mleffew@utk.edu