SELLING YOUR FRUIT
There are many different places that you can market and sell the fruit grown in your own orchard. These include:
ROADSIDE STANDS - Many growers sell their produce directly from their own farm, especially if they are located along a fairly well-driven road or highway. This way the grower receives higher retail prices. Good signage is very important to direct people to your stand. If your location is not good for traffic, often good locations can be leased from landowners, such as at the intersection of 2 highways, or in gas station or strip center parking lots. Roadside stands can be open seasonally, only on weekends, or only during higher traffic times.
FARMERS MARKETS - Many towns and cities have set up Farmers Markets to promote local growers. It is an excellent way to both receive retail prices and to build a clientele that wants to buy local food. It is also a good way to meet other growers in the area.
ETHNIC FOOD STORES - Ethnic groceries, especially Asian food stores, are excellent markets, as they sell to cultures that consume lots of fruit and specialty produce. Prices are lower, but volume can be very large. They are also often connected to a network of other stores from the same culture.
LOCAL GROCERY STORES - Many communities have local grocery stores that prefer to buy local produce. The buyer is frequently one of the owners. They try to market what is fresh and in-season. Often, costs of pre-packaging and delivery are less expensive than with regional chains.
INTERNET SALES - For products that can be readily packed and shipped, retail sales over the internet is an excellent way to get higher prices, and delivery costs are passed on to the consumer. The Web is also a great way to drive traffic to a roadside stand, farmers market, or attract other area buyers. Every business should have an internet presence. You should check on local health and business regulations regarding the shipping of fresh fruit.
LOCAL RESTAURANTS - Some local restaurants, especially higher-end eateries, have chefs that feature locally-grown produce and what is in season. This is a great way to receive higher prices for your crops.
COOPERATIVES - For certain crops (when they all produce similar grade products), co-ops are a very good way for smaller growers to pool their crops together and create the volume to be able to sell to the larger buyers such as regional grocery chains. This is also a way to work together to purchase packing equipment, etc. It requires a fair amount of labor and leadership to do the legal work to put it together.
Sometimes larger area growers will act like a co-op, where they purchase from smaller growers and re-sell the crop along with theirs, as long as the quality of the products are similar.
REGIONAL GROCERY CHAINS - Some large regional chains, such as Publix Supermarkets in FL and GA, sometimes buy locally grown fruit, if the producer can supply enough volume. In some cases, individual store managers can buy individually for their store. For these larger volume sales, prices are lower and must be competitive with other crops available at the time, and will likely include some packaging and delivery fees to the regional distribution center. Contact the regional buyer for the particular crop you are selling for information on what they are willing to buy. They normally need enough to ship to a large number of stores repeatedly over the season, which can be huge volume! This is why we have the large-scale commercial agriculture in America.
BROKERS AND DISTRIBUTORS - In the food business, independent brokers often specialize in a few crops and they work to put the producers and the larger buyers together. The prices will be discounted to pay the broker a commission on the sale, but they can often move a large volume of product. There are also local and regional food distributors that purchase and warehouse the product and service restaurants and grocery chains. This can also be a conduit to get to a number of locations that you could not market to on your own.