Find Wholesale Clients for Your Farm: Here’s How

Selling wholesale has its advantages. Here are ways to greatly increase your chance of success with potential wholesale buyers.

by Robin Hackett
PHOTO: U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr

Although wholesale prices are less than what you can charge for vegetables at the farmers market, selling some of your produce to wholesale buyers does carry several advantages. For one, selling to wholesale clients can be a great way to generate some revenue outside the season of your community-supported agriculture operation or farmers market. Wholesale orders also tend to be consistent and are typically easier to package and deliver than produce destined for a farmers market.

Here are several tips for finding your farm’s first wholesale accounts.

1. Establish a Delivery Radius

The first step in identifying potential wholesale clients is to establish a radius within which you’re willing to make deliveries. There might be a great farm-to-table restaurant an hour and a half away, but does it make sense for one of your employees to spend that much time away from the farm every week? Depending on the order, it might, but calculate that before agreeing to it.

2. List Potential Wholesale Clients

The next step in finding wholesale accounts is to generate a list of all the possible clients in your area. Many farmers sell to restaurants and grocery stores, but you can get creative and pursue other potential buyers as well, including bakeries, schools and coffee shops. Once you have a list of potential buyers, research each of the businesses to determine whether they buy local produce. Then, rank the businesses based on the probability that they’ll buy your produce.

3. Create a Wholesale Pricing Sheet

Next, start a pricing sheet that lists the crops you plan to sell and details their price and availability throughout the season. As you write your own pricing sheet, do some research to learn the units in which various vegetables are typically sold. Some vegetables are sold by the case, for instance, while others are sold by the pound or by the bunch. Next, determine how you’ll price each vegetable. Again, it’s worth it to research the approximate asking price for various vegetables.

Once you have a sense of wholesale pricing in your region, begin establishing your own prices. Base these prices on your own “costs of production,” that is, how much money it costs you to produce an individual unit of a given vegetable. Although you might be able to sell hundreds of bunches of carrots for $2 each, if they cost you $2.25 each to grow, you’d lose money. Your pricing should also take into account the delivery costs that you anticipate incurring, including mileage, labor and packing materials.

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4. Make Contact in Person

Once you have a potential buyer list and a pricing sheet in hand, its time to begin reaching out. Show up in person at businesses you want as customers, and bring some samples of your produce to show. Ask to speak to the chef at a restaurant, for example, or to the produce manager at a grocery store.

If you reach these people, keep your pitch short and clear. Explain what you grow and why you believe they should buy your produce. If you can’t reach the people you have in mind, leave your samples and pricing sheet with someone who can pass them along.

In my experience, local businesses are typically quite excited about working with farmers, so don’t be too nervous about pitching your produce to a new buyer.

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