As we start to turn our thoughts toward fall harvests, it’s also time to begin thinking about our crops for next year. While many gardeners cultivate plants in small quantities, many of the opportunities for “agripreneurs” center on high-yield, high-production crops that can be harvested, stored and sold. If you want to start earning a profit from the crops you grow next, garlic is a good place to start. October is the perfect time to plant cloves for next year’s harvest. Plus, once it’s mature, it can be dried and stored for four to six months, allowing you to sell it as demand dictates—a great strategy for beginning market gardeners.
Most marketing principles apply to any product you might be selling, and that is exactly the case in selling garlic. That said, I believe these five marketing tips will help you get your supply into more customers’ hands.
1. Pay Attention To Presentation
If selling at a farmers’ market, don’t set the garlic flat on a table—this prevents customers from seeing what you have for sale, especially if they’re viewing it from a distance. Instead, display it in shallow bins or crates so the product doesn’t get lost in the shadows, and tilt the containers so passersby can easily see into them. I’d recommend selling whole, nicely trimmed, tightly wrapped bulbs. Individual cloves look like a mess and end up getting damaged.
Make sure your farm’s logo is on your bin or crate. Brand recognition is important for repeat customers and word-of-mouth advertising. Also make sure the price is easily visible. Shoppers fear the embarrassment of asking the price only to then have to put the product back. Note cards with your logo and a bold price held in place above your product by a floral card holder looks professional and catches the eye. Chalkboard paint used on the front or back of bins is another great way to catch a customer’s attention and provide needed information.
2. Give Them Something For Nothing
Make sure potential customers don’t leave your booth empty handed. When selling garlic there are multiple opportunities for you to give the shopper something for nothing and educate them at the same time. Here are a few ideas:
- Samples: Providing potential customers with a free taste is a great idea. Most people are familiar with garlic, but not all are accustomed to the flavor of fresh garlic. Offer some crusty bread with a garlic and Parmesan dipping sauce or garlic-infused oil for dipping. Recipes can easily be found online and take mere minutes to pull together. Ultimately, choose something that showcases your garlic.
- Recipes: Provide a recipe for the dipping sauce you sampled, or provide another recipe you like that includes your garlic. Use standard note cards that include your logo and your phone number. You want customers to keep this recipe card and know they can call you should they need help with the recipe or need some fresh garlic in the future.
- Garlic Giveaways: For anyone who has harvested much garlic, you know the challenges of getting your shovel or fork too close, skinning the bulb or sticking your tool right through a couple cloves. While I wouldn’t suggest giving away a damaged product, keep the remaining undamaged cloves available to give away. Offer a hesitant customer a clove or even the scape of a hardneck garlic variety to take home and try. (Most growers of hardneck garlic will cut off the scapes to force growth into the bulbs. There is no need to discard the scape, as they are edible and have a much milder flavor than the bulb, excellent for stir-fries or braised asparagus.) When you offer a free product, educate the customer on what you’re providing, the type of garlic from which they came and how they might use them.
3. Strategize Product Placement
Situate your garlic among vegetables your customers routinely purchase, and have a recipe or two available that call for the inclusion of fresh garlic. Many customers will talk their way through their purchases, letting you know what they are purchasing and why. This is your opportunity to recommend the use of garlic in the dishes they are planning to prepare. Again, don’t be afraid to give them a clove to try for free if they’re hesitant to add garlic to their favorite dishes; you just might amend an old family recipe in the process.
4. Offer A Diversity Of Cultivars
Many people think garlic is garlic and mainly comes in powder form. Never miss the opportunity to educate your customers. Literally hundreds of named garlic cultivars or strains exist. Most customers are accustomed to the lighter flavor of softneck garlic they have purchased from the grocery store. They recognize the white papery shroud on softneck garlic, but are immediately enchanted by the colors of hardneck garlic and the size of elephant garlic. Be prepared to explain to them the differences and even show them the woody stem of the hardneck garlic. These conversations are all part of the sales process. An educated consumer is going to be a long-term customer.
5. Sell Garlic Starters
Don’t miss the opportunity to sell some of your individual cloves as “seed” for your customers to grow their own garlic. This will whet their appetites for garlic and increase their consumption over time. Provide a card that includes step-by-step instructions on when, where and how to plant garlic in your area. I would recommend a sign that says “Grow Your Own Garlic” or something to that effect. Again, you will need to make sure the cards include your logo and phone number.
Use these five tips for marketing garlic or selling more of your other products. Farmers play an extraordinary role in educating consumers about fresh, locally sourced foods. The farmers market is your place to shine.