Mbali Nwoko believes in the power of showing potential clients exactly what high-quality produce you have to offer, and that this sets a solid foundation to secure a regular market. She also understands that as a farmer you have to accept from the onset that not everything will go according to plan. However, it’s all about relationship building – if clients understand your challenges on the farm then it gives them better insight into your business operations.
Showing potential clients exactly what high-quality produce you have to offer is a solid first step for new farmers to securing a regular market. One of the common challenges that some farmers face today is the inability to find markets for their produce.
I am often asked how I went about finding the right people to buy my produce. The short answer is that I identified a few potential clients, then harvested a couple of bunches of spinach and whizzed them off to the would-be clients.
This way, I could show off the quality and the size of my spinach, build some interest during a face-to-face engagement and, in the process, open the door to a meaningful negotiation. This was back in 2016 and I still use this practice today.
This tactic has worked extremely well for me. The clients I identified liked what I had to offer. We discussed prices and they told me to deliver within the next day.
Upon receiving these opportunities, it was so important for me to ensure that I didn’t drop the ball when servicing the clients and ensuring that my produce met expectations. As much as this was my priority, there were some harvests that I could say were not up to standard or on par with client specifications, which led to a rejection in the crop or some clients just walking away.
However, I didn’t let this deter me from farming. As a new farmer you have to understand from the onset that not everything will go according to plan and that you will have some days where your produce does not look good. But it’s all about relationship building, if clients understand your challenges on the farm then it gives them better insights into your business operations and what they can and cannot expect from you or your business.
Today, my business has grown to the point where my clients pick up the phone to ask me what else I can farm and grow for them.
This now requires me to be a responsive farmer who listens to what the market wants. Again, I let the quality of my produce do the talking.
Be prepared to be consistent
Once you present samples of your crop to potential clients, you’re giving them an impression of what exactly they will be expecting from you when you deliver. Agree on a price and ensure that you can stick to the quantities agreed upon.
Others may suggest a different approach. And that is to find markets or clients before you even start planning your crops. This way, new farmers first investigate what’s needed in the market you’re targeting, to ensure that there’s demand for your product. Once you know the market you have in mind, then you turn your attention to farming the right crop to produce consistently to meet your clients’ needs.
“Never underestimate the power of word of mouth and social media. Use every platform you have to your advantage.”
For fruit and vegetable producers, it’s recommended that you try the following avenues to find regular clients:
- Fresh produce markets
- Chain stores
- Informal market, like hawkers
- Export channels
- School feeding schemes
- Franchised or privately owned retail outlets
- Catering companies
The easiest point of entry to the list above are the fresh produce markets. The reason for this is that they are a good indicator of how your crop is performing in comparison to the other farms.
Branding your produce makes you stand out and buyers will easily identify with your product when they return again on the market floor.
Approaching franchised retail outlets is also an easier point of entry to find the right market for your produce. You get to speak to the owner directly and they are usually always on the lookout for good suppliers of fresh produce. You always have an advantage if you are the farmer looking to supply directly to the retailer because you have control of your crop, as opposed to someone that is outsourcing.
An important takeaway is that you need to be proactive as a new farmer. The more you engage with people, getting your produce out there, the better your chances of finding reliable clients. Furthermore, if you keep ahead of your game, customers will refer you to other customers. Never underestimate the power of word of mouth and social media. Use every platform you have to your advantage.