7 “Value Added” Ideas That Don’t Require A Commercial Kitchen

Jams, pickles and breads all make great value added farm products, but these ideas will boost your business without an upfront investment.

by Jesse Frost
PHOTO: Jesse Frost

The term “value added” gets thrown around a lot among market farmers. What it means, in essence, is to take a raw ingredient you produce and turn it into something more valuable. Grapes turn into wine, peanuts into peanut butter, berries into pie. Pretty simple.

But adding value to your farm business doesn’t have to be about cooking. While products made from your farm produce is a natural extension of your operation, it would meaning getting a microprocessing license, installing a commercial kitchen and dealing with a lot of red tape. To bypass the often-complicated world of food preparation, it’s worth exploring some simple ways you can add value to your farm offerings—some easy tricks to turn what you already grow or have (even if it’s just a clever slogan) into something more valuable. Here are some ideas to get your wheels turning.

1. Host Classes

Chances are, if you’ve been farming for any amount of time, you have some knowledge people would pay to hear. Hosting classes on farm or at another local venue can be a great way to make a little extra cash, get some helping hands or even spread the word about your farm. Kill two birds with one stone by hosting a canning class for $20 a head, for example: You’ll earn a little extra income while getting some of your tomatoes processed at the same time. There’s a lot of flexibility here, so figure out what your strengths are and brainstorm how you can share them with the world.

2. Ready-To-Cook Dinners

There are companies out there who are doing great business sending whole meals to customers—already portioned out, with recipes and ready to cook—and charging per delivery. I don’t know why an ambitious enough farmer couldn’t offer something similar at a premium to be picked up every week at market, taking the CSA model one step further into the kitchen.

3. Farm Swag

Shirts & Totes

Got a funny idea, an ironic pun or turn of phrase? What about a good image? Put it on a shirt or tote bag. People like buying food at market, but they love buying stuff—especially come Christmastime when the gardens may not be producing as much and people are looking for presents. Totes and shirts are a great way to fill that gap. Unless you can work it into the design subtly, I would avoid putting solely your own farm name on there, as it limits your clientele, but a clever shirt and tote can bring in some extra bucks and help fill up a table if it ever starts looking skimpy after a long market day.

Stickers, Buttons & Other Small Items

This is essentially the same idea but smaller and cheaper, so these items can also double as good marketing incentives. Giving someone a free button or sticker when they buy something may help endear the customer to you for life. You can also do this with food––if you know a customer likes garlic, throw in a couple extra. The value of creating customer loyalty is incalculable.

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4. Pricing Structures

This is certainly a less obvious way to add value to a market table, but pricing is an overlooked part of the market experience—usually decided on a whim—that can work for you or against you. Instead, consider this idea: Many farmers these days are selling their produce at $3 per unit or two units for $5 (a unit being a bunch of carrots, a pint of cherry tomatoes, et cetera). The brilliance here is that you make each unit worth $2.50, so that if someone only buys one unit, you are getting 50 cents extra. If they buy two to get the deal, you’ve sold two items and haven’t lost any money. It’s a good deal either way.

5. Flower Bouquets

How are flower bouquets adding value? First, people will generally pay more money for flowers than food. It’s odd but true. The other way it’s adding value is that it’s decorating your table in flowers. The flowers are eye-catching and bring customers over to see what else you have. Getting customers to stop at your table—where you can charm them into a sale—certainly has a value of its own.

6. Pickle Package

This fits in there with the idea of the ready-to-cook farm meal. Offering people everything they need, including a recipe, to make their own pickles might just revolutionize your business. A small box filled with cucumbers, dill flowers, mustard seed and a recipe could be a great way to make a little extra money while moving those excess cukes.

7. Canning Tomatoes

The tomato sauces you buy in the store are generally made up of the seconds tomatoes from various farms—the blemished or misshapen. And with the uptick in customers wanting to do their own canning over the last few years, I don’t see why you couldn’t sell your own seconds tomatoes as “canning tomatoes.” This gives you a very clever way you to sell tomatoes that may not normally sell on the market table. You’ll get less money, but at least you’ll get something for what might otherwise rot in the field!

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