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Sustainable Smallholders Handbook part 9

Here is our ninth instalment about joining the Food Industry and living off the land with a sustainable smallholding.

At BigBarn we would love to promote thousands of profitable smallholdings on our UK Food Map to help reconnect people with where their food comes from and helping build inclusive, sustainable, communities around food.

To help here is the ninth of 12 extracts from Lorraine Turnbull’s book The Sustainable Smallholders’ Handbook

Markets & Marketing

Working hard to produce goods from your smallholding is not, by itself, going to sell anything. The marketplace is where you sell your products whether they are goods such as cider or vegetables or a service such as holiday accommodation.

real food direct

Your market may be local or national or even international; but whether it’s accessed at a farmers’ market, via a shop, or on the internet, you need to make customers aware of what you’re selling and where and how they can buy it.

Every smallholding and its goods and services is different, and different products and services lend themselves to different kinds of marketing. For example holiday lets, farm shops, evening classes, and leisure attractions such as riding all involve the customers actually visiting and using your premises. Other products such as food and drink are portable, and customers can buy them at retail outlets far from their place of origin or online.

You will probably make a significant proportion of your sales at farmers’ markets or food fairs where you get to keep the entire profit net of stall rent. The smaller country produce markets generally held in church halls and run by volunteers are unlikely to sell enough to make the ordeal worth it:

Rapeseed oil direct from British farmers

I tried the nearest such market when I was selling eggs, honey and plants. It was boring and stuffy and did my head in. I never made enough to cover my time and I lasted eight weeks. I’d never recommend them. Ordinary weekly town markets are also probably not much use to the artisan producers: the majority of stalls are straightforward price cutters, and the clientele are only after mainstream products at rock-bottom prices.

Farmers’ markets and food or craft fairs are the way to go. They are more vibrant and dynamic. The clientele is more affluent and more sophisticated and has come to shop. Farmers’ markets also routinely sell alcohol, which most others don’t. (Remember, though, that if you want to sell your cider or mead or fruit liqueur at a market you need to check well in advance whether it has a liquor licence. If not, you have 10 working days to apply for a Temporary Events Notice).

get listed on the Local Food Map

Try and ensure you have regular days at markets if possible. Your loyal customers want to know you are always there on a Thursday and may make a special trip just to buy from you. When I sold cider at Padstow Food Fair I tried to book every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the holiday season. Some markets are better-attended than others: before you commit, pay a visit and talk to one or two of the stallholders. Find your nearest farmers’ or Country market(s) on BigBarn’s shared Local Food Map here.

A much more recent development are hubs, to bring customers and local producers together. Customers place their orders online and every week meet the producers at a local venue to collect their orders and socialise. Customers get better food and you, the producer, get a fair price: you set your own price and keep 80% of it. The rest is divided between the local hub organisers and the venue. This compares to the 8-20% of the sale price most super- markets will pay you, so if you’re looking for a new sales platform BigBarn offers a hub platform as well as marketplace where small producers can sell their produce

Tempted? You can read more over the next few months or buy Lorraine Turnbull’s book The Sustainable Smallholders’ Handbook available here

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