Want to keep bringing your customers back to your farm stand? Here are nine tips for attracting repeat customers.
1. Play up what’s unique about your farm. Guy’s Eco Farm emphasizes the historical nature of the farm. “I think most of our clientele know that this farm has been here for generations,” Wittkofski said.
2. Offer unique products. Muzio grows rare varieties of beets and edible blossoms, along with his standard line of vegetables and berries. Wittkofski and Beardsley grow lavender and produce an extract, baked goods and other value-added products with the herb.
3. Develop relationships with local restaurants. You may need to donate a small amount of produce initially, so the chef(s) can sample it, but Muzio said it’s worth it to get your food and your name on their menu and in front of potential customers. Frankie’s Farm Stand has a longstanding relationship with an Italian restaurant with three locations in Connecticut.
4. Know your market and your customer base. “You can have the greatest concept in the world, but if you don’t have people that want that, it’ll be an uphill battle,” said Gideon. Because he understood he had a market for local organic produce throughout the year, Gideon knew winter production was a good fit.
5. Develop an outreach strategy based on what your clientele will want. Atlas Farms’ outreach strategy centers on a member/market-share program, similar to a CSA. People buy a share upfront for a certain amount of money and get additional credit for that. For instance, customers buy a $90 share and get $100 in credit to spend anywhere in the store. Over 2,000 members get a weekly newsletter. To reach the general public, Atlas Farms advertises through radio and print ads. They also host several events during the year at the farm store free to the public. Atlas Farms and Guy’s Eco-Garden reach out to customers via Facebook.
6. Accept credit cards. Using a smartphone and an app like Square or PayPal Everywhere, you can get payment upfront from restaurants (who would normally insist on invoices with payment terms of net 30, 60 or even 90 days.) It also enables customers who come to the farm stand to make impulse purchases. Muzio started taking credit card sales with his smartphone in 2016 and noted that customers who paid by credit card spent an average of 5 percent more than customers paying in cash.
7. Price appropriately. In winter Beardsley and Wittkofski look at what the market will bear nationwide (using resources like USDA’s Specialty Crops report). “In some ways, you’d love to charge as much as you possibly can, but you can really only charge what the market’s going to bear,” said Wittkofski. “Some crops are loss leaders. People want a particular crop and we grow it but lose money on it, because it brings them to the farm stand and we ultimately profit.
8. Give people something for their money. “I sell squash blossoms. Other farms charge per flower. I charge by the pound and load up the bag with extra. You have to treat people like you want to be treated. Treat ‘em like gold and they’ll come back every time.”
9. Become an expert that people recognize. Guy Beardsley co-hosts a local radio show about organic farming, and people who hear him on the radio end up visiting the farm store as a result.