PHOTO: Shutterstock
Jesse Frost
June 1, 2017

Unless a customer has grown and picked beans or peas before, it’s hard to explain to that person how much work these crops entail. Without big harvesters or a big crew, bean picking is a slow and tedious task that can easily eat up half of your harvest time. For that reason, I highly recommend that despite the potential pushback from customers, every farmer charge prices that reflect what these crops cost to produce. Here are pricing strategies for peas and beans.

Calculate Your Costs

Prices can be a tricky thing. If everyone else at market has beans or peas at the same time as you, the price you want might not be the price you get. Although you should never undercut your own costs if you can help it, involve math in your pricing strategies. Think about everything that went into harvesting the peas or beans and charge accordingly. Here’s a simple equation: Add all your seed and related costs (tractor fuel, compost, market fees) to the cost of your labor in planting and harvesting. That is what it cost you to get them to market.

For example, let’s say it took 3 1/2 hours of labor and $6 worth of seed, amendments and fuel to produce 40 pounds of beans. If you give yourself a decent wage (and you should—farming is hard, so I calculated $16 per hour) that means it cost you about $62 to produce that 40 pounds of beans. So the bare minimum you could charge in this instance is $1.55 per pound—that is just getting back what you put in. For most produce, I recommend you make a 30 percent profit. No business can grow if it makes only the amount to pay for production; consider this in your pricing strategies.

Adding the 30 percent profit (about $20.50, for a total of $82.50) puts your cost at around $2 per pound for this set of beans. (If you had harvested only 20 pounds for that same cost, notably, the price would double.) You can also consider your market—people in urban areas will generally pay more for produce than those in rural areas—and what the other farmers are charging if they have the same item. Adjust your price accordingly. Be careful not to undercut other farmers, though—it behooves everyone to charge roughly the same. If other farmers charge less, you can charge more and boast better quality through whatever you want to highlight, whether it be Certified Organic, “homegrown” or something else.

Improve Production Efficiency

Pricing strategies can start with the types beans and peas you grow. Because beans and peas are expensive to produce, consider growing types that are easier to harvest, heavier by weight, higher yielding or even specialty (yellow beans or purple peas, for instance). The goal is to get them in and out of the field with as little work as possible. Perhaps that means buying a bean or pea harvester for a larger operation. Or maybe it’s just investing in faster varieties (closer to 50 days than 60) that produce well. Improving the production side of things can increase the profit potential for the crop you want to sell while keeping the price within reason.

Try Different Marketing Methods

How you sell peas and beans can also factor into pricing strategies. If you find that your costs were high and your crops will be more expensive than you want to charge (or your customers are willing to pay), consider ways to add value without increasing costs. One possibility is selling items in containers at market. Generally speaking, customers love an easy item that is already divided. A small pint container filled with 3/4 of a pound beans at $3 might be more appealing than charging $4 per pound for bulk. With longer beans, you can also tie bunches, stack them high and sell them for $1 a piece. It might add a little labor, but it will also help hide the potentially high cost in the packaging and presentation. You can also consider adding value via services. You might have to experiment, but whatever you can do to move those beans and not waste that effort or money will pay for itself in time.

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