Rick Gush
January 4, 2013
packaged sliced carrots

Photo by Rick Gush

Someone has taken the time to wash and chop their carrots before selling them at the farmers market here in Italy.

The continuing trend in selling vegetables is adding value. Because someone took the time to wash and chop their carrots, that action has added “value” to the product. I’ll admit that, on some level, I’m not happy with this idea, but I suppose that’s because in this specific instance, I really enjoy chopping carrots, so the idea of buying pre-chopped carrots isn’t a perfect fit with me. I wasn’t so crazy about the mixed salad greens packages that started showing up a few decades ago, either, and I recently made fun of the cooked corn on the cob in plastic wrappers.

But, I’m obviously the dinosaur here, and of the less stubborn other customers in the world, a whole lot of them do seem to enjoy the convenience of value-added fruits and vegetables. This means that small farmers that sell their produce should seriously consider ways in which they might add value to their products.

In most cases, the added value is probably some form of processing. Carrots can be made into carrot cake, carrot salad, and used as an ingredient in canned stew; they can be freeze-dried and sold to backpackers, and so forth. The trick is discovering some synergy between your own capacity to add value and your ability to market the resulting product. There’s no point in making big batches of delicious carrot salad if you can’t sell carrot salad. But there aren’t too many products to which value cannot be added. If your customers really like you personally, and buy from you because they like you so much, or are comfortable with you, you have actually added value in the form of emotional comfort, which can be a pretty important motivator.

If you sell ears of corn labeled “Grown on the land where the baseball movie Field of Dreams was filmed.”, for some people, that will be a tremendous addition to the value of the corn. Pick-it-yourself orchards often add value to their fruits by enabling the warm, family experience of harvesting fruit together.

A good-looking label is also a way to possibly add value to a vegetable product, and is certainly the way that many fruit companies establish brands of fruits. Chiquita bananas have had a winding history, but there’s no doubt that the little blue adhesive tags added value in the form of some sort of comfort, as if subconsciously, we as consumers had been trained to believe that the bunches of bananas with Chiquita labels were good to eat and didn’t contain hidden tarantulas.

One of my own favorite added values on vegetables is the roasting of the beets that are available here. The roasted beets cost a bit more than the raw beets, but almost everybody prefers the roasted ones, because they’re already cooked, nicely sweetened and need only be sliced to be instantly edible. Hmm. Roasting also sweetens carrots.

When is some clever farmer going to discover that there might just be a market for pre-roasted carrots? Stranger value-added things have happened.

Read more of Rick’s Favorite Crops »

Filtered Under Urban Farming

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