Video Clip: Pick-Your-Own from Farmers and their Diversified Horticultural Marketing Strategies

Organic Agriculture June 15, 2011 Print Friendly and PDF

Source:

Farmers and their Diversified Horticultural Marketing Strategies [DVD]. V. Grubinger. 1999. University of Vermont Extension. Available for purchase at:http://www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry/Videos/marketvideo.htm (verified 31 Dec 2008).

This is a Farmers and their Diversified Horticultural Marketing Strategies video clip.

 

Featuring

Norman Grieg, Grieg Farm. Red Hook, NY.

Audio Text

Hi I’m Norman Grieg we’re at the Grieg Farm in Red Hook, New York. We’re located about 100 miles north of New York City in the Hudson Valley. The farm is 550 acres and it’s a fruit and dairy farm. We’ve changed crops over the years, but it started just with apples, strawberries and crops for the cows. As we’ve found that we wanted to go more retail, we’ve created retail season so now we have asparagus, strawberries and peas in June. In July we go into blueberries and summer raspberries and then fall raspberries starting in August with apples, blackberries, pumpkins and then Christmas trees at the end of the season.

I’ve always thought of the New York City market as our local market and the way that people happen to come, is instead of advertising to the world, we target local newspapers. The upper east side in New York City has its own newspaper, Greenwich Village has its own newspaper, Brooklyn Heights has its own newspaper, so we target neighborhoods where we think they would have the disposable income to have automobiles to travel for a weekend or a day off and we advertise classified ads in those local newspapers because if you try to do radio or television for metropolitan New York City it’s prohibitively expensive, but if you can target those as your local market it’s possible.

My family has been in the pick-your-own business since 1949. It started as a gleaning process after we’d harvested for wholesale on a small acreage of strawberries. In the sixties we had a write-up in the New York Times and we were picked out everyday so we decided that should never happen again. We added another 15 acres of strawberries that next year and now we need a write up in the New York Times every year to pick the crop. But it’s interesting how the market has changed over the years. In the 50’s everyone came in a station wagon with four or five children and mother and father and they would wait all year for the three weeks that strawberries were ready and pick 100 pounds of strawberries per car and take them home and spend the day freezing and jamming. And that doesn’t happen anymore. The market today, the public comes a single headed household maybe with one child, or a young couple out for a day in the country and they’ll pick eight or ten pounds of berries and not know what they’re going to do with them all. But then they will stop at the market and pick up a jar of jelly and shortcake and heavy cream to go with it. But the trend in the industry is that the pick per customer has gone down. The trend on our farm is that we’re harvesting the same total number of pounds of berries each year, but there are three times as many customers. We have more and more people who come from a greater distance and stay for a longer period of time so we tried to create a greater point of interest for them and so we have a small petting area, we have a picnic area, we have a place where they can feed the fish beside a place where they can cut their own flowers, or visit our nursery, or visit our market and bakery, or stop and see the dairy cows. So we try to become a destination agriculture rather than just a pick-your-own place.

One of the interesting but difficult aspects about pick-your-own is that if you have a field of produce, it’s really like stocking the shelves in a store and you have to have inventory on the store shelf for the public to come. So you’re constantly dealing with the shelf life of the product on the plant. On a crop like apples, sometimes you have a two-week window to pick the apples even though the flavor may be perfect on a smaller window than that. But it’s a job always to match the public attendance and pick vis-à-vis what you have in the crop and there are a lot of ways to manage that. One of them is to target your advertising. If I see I’m going to have a hot week and I’m right just before peak in strawberries I know I have to advertise heavily that week to get the public to come. The other way to do it is not to do any advertising and let the people come when they want to, and then pick what they don’t pick and send that to market or sell it retail at your farm stand.

I’m a dairy farmer and I’ve been taking care of animals for years and when we started having the public come to the farm, the only way that I could think about it as a farmer was - now we just have another kind of animal on the farm. And so when I think of pick-your-own, there’s a part of it that’s just grazing and its not very different than your dairy pasture. The area closest to where the public comes in gets grazed very heavily and the area at the far end doesn’t get grazed at all. So if you can constantly control where the entrance to the pasture is, then you can pick all the crop. When people come to pick-your-own at the farm, where they park their car is very important. You can walk a little bit to the crop, but Americans don’t like to walk and if they pick much crop, they really don’t want to walk carrying what they picked back to their car. So the length of row, we’ve gotten so we never plant anything that’s more than 280 feet long and preferably with parking at both ends of that.

Information is key even in the farming business, especially in pick-your-own and how you communicate with your customers is something that has to be done very efficiently. We used to do mailings for each crop, then we did quarterly newspapers and now we collect e-mail addresses and by doing that it’s much less expensive for us as the farmer and the information is much better, because we can send weekly e-mail bulletins for free.

Farming has to work, not only for the customer, but for the farmer as well. And you have to decide what it is you want out of farming. For me, once we went to a situation where we were entirely open to the public, then it’s easy to add other things that are public. At the Grieg Farm what we do new each year is what keeps it exciting for me as the farmer.

This video project was funded by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (USDA).


 

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.