With competition increasing at farmers markets, you need every advantage you can get to generate income. Few things make a product pop—and pop off the shelves—quite like a nice label. Certainly, labeling can add an extra step to the harvest, but the benefits may very well outweigh that work.
It should also be said that labeling is vital to restaurant and retail sales, as well, especially in the beginning when you are trying to make a name for your farm. Labels let the customer know who grew the product, but also perhaps when it was harvested and what it is.
The Benefits Of Good Labels
There are several reasons to label your food. The first is that your brand is important. If people like your product, they will seek your product out specifically and return again and again because they recognize the packaging. Another is that labels make your business look professional. Leaving your bags or clamshells blank gives them an unfinished look and requires the customer to inquire about their contents and price, which they won’t always do. Let the label do some of the talking for you.
This may go without saying, but if you are not Certified Organic you can not put “organic” on your label. That is illegal. And if you are Certified Organic, you must get your labels approved by your certifying agency before use. You can also not make any health claims that cannot be verified. “Microgreens cure cancer,” for instance, may get you a reprimand from the USDA. Not that you can’t have fun with it, but generally I would recommend sticking to the basics on your label.
We use one label for pretty much everything: our farm logo with the name of the product hand-written when necessary. This is convenient for us because it requires very little thought or extra work. However, if you plan to sell at retail shops or have a variety of different products to sell at market, it’s a good idea to include some additional information beyond your farm logo:
- When was the product harvested or processed?
- What is the name of the product?
- How much does it cost?
- What’s the weight?
All of these are important for food that may have to sell itself at a supermarket, small shop or nutritional center.
Applying The Labels
As I described above, at our farm we keep it simple. We buy round sticker labels in bulk and in the winter we stamp them all with our farm logo. The ink we use for the stamp is water-resistant, and we apply the labels only after they are packed to avoid smearing or spots. In the past we have saved this job for the market, but if you have a busy market, it may be worth doing as you pack or doing beforehand, though they may smudge or get stained that way. You can also get labels for your printer that can be printed as needed with all the requisite info altered to match the date. A template for that is not hard to set up, and many labels will come with a program for printing to stickers.
For items you bunch, such as radishes or carrots, you could potentially use twist ties with your farm name, though the upfront expense for having them made would only be worth it if you were selling a large bulk. Otherwise, on bunched items you can consider hanging tags, so long as they are waterproof.