I’m jealous. Ken sows seeds. Days later, green appears. He fertilizes trees. Blossoms come, bees get busy, and suddenly baby fruit hangs on branches, so thick he has to thin them. He plows the vegetable patch, erects support structures, and when neighbors drive by they can see he’s getting ready for row after row of crops.
My part of what we do at Full Flavor Farm isn’t visible yet. Since marketing is my niche (getting more and more people to come to our produce stand and buy things), we won’t even know if I’m successful until after we close the books for the year.
We were grateful for a good first season last year. But because we’re a business, not a hobby, we need to do better this year. These past few months, I've spent a lot of time figuring out what to do differently to provide more of what customers want. Call it my winter homework.
The first thing I did was study the results of our end-of-season survey. People were very generous with compliments (thank you!), but I was most interested in their comments and suggestions. There were many great ideas. One is staying open late one day a week for commuters on their way home from work. Another is offering freshly baked breakfast muffins and desserts on Fridays for people who plan to entertain over the weekend.
Almost everyone who took the survey offered ideas about different things we could grow. I conducted research online and then Ken and I spent one winter day going through different seed catalogs to improve our selection of crops. We focused on identifying varieties of vegetables and melons that will grow well in Wilton soil and valley heat.
We had to reject ideas that are never going to be economic for us. For example, we can’t grow corn in the volume that allows us to compete with Sloughhouse. And the requirement of labor-intensive picking makes strawberries a non-starter.
In the end, we have added new types of squash and cucumbers. We have tweaked the varieties of other produce, looking for the sweet spot between great taste and robust viability. To guide next year’s decisions, we will keep careful records of how these choices pan out.
The second thing I focused on is enticing people to buy more. One element of that is having enough of what customers want. So Ken has planted even more tomatoes and will be protecting them from harmful insects with surrounding marigolds and basil. He’s figured out a better approach to melons (he was never completely satisfied with either the quality or the quantity last year). And I’ve joined the “harvesting crew” (that’s two of us now!) so that we will have more freshly picked produce in the stand each day.
Another element is to make sure customers remember we don’t just sell produce. Too often, people last year said they had just bought “X” at the grocery store because they forgot we sell X. Our new roadside signs will help. We’re continuing to stock Jen’s fabulous jams and organic eggs, as well as our own raw honey. Ken will bake bread and I’ll be turning out a variety of breakfast and dessert breads, cakes and muffins. All this is highlighted on our new roadside signs.
Third, I’m working on how to reach more customers. Last year, we simply used NextDoor and Facebook. Despite these limited tools, momentum was growing. Each sales day brought new customers, even on our final day. This year, my goal is to double our customer base – help me out by telling a friend!
Ken was outdoors constantly all winter, improving the soil and drainage. Meanwhile, marketing Full Flavor Farm was my homework. I’m hoping my efforts make a difference. The test will come this summer – and I’ve got my fingers crossed for a passing grade!