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Harvesting Crops for Market

colorful grape tomatoes in small green cardboard containers ready to sell at farmer's market

A market gardener’s goal should be to run the operation as a business and to make a profit. Just as a home gardener plans their garden plot, a market gardener should plan for marketing crops prior to planting. While a marketing plan helps, it does not guarantee that what is planted will be sold. But, it can help eliminate wasted time, space, crops and money.

Market gardening typically targets local markets, although innovative marketers will eventually expand to other venues.

Tailgate markets, farmers markets, roadside and on-farm stands, pick-your-own operations and subscription marketing are possible direct-marketing venues for market gardeners.

Sales to restaurants, institutions, schools and grocery stores are wholesale marketing options to consider.

Beginner market gardeners find that farmers markets are an excellent place to begin selling their crops. They serve as an incubator for many new businesses every year and allow vendors to capture the full retail value of their products. Farmers market customers do not demand a consistent supply, and less than perfect crops can be sold at reduced prices. A farmers market is also a wonderful place to meet people and develop steady customers, which can lead to additional marketing channels.

Market gardeners need to be familiar with ways to ensure high quality, marketable produce. These include harvesting the right size crops; harvesting at the right time of day; handling the crops as little as possible; packing and bunching crops in recommended sizes and quantities; selecting appropriate containers for storage; and storing different produce properly and at the correct temperature.

By Brandy Brabham, WVU Extension Agent – Roane County