News release: Retail Farm Market School

Tim Baker, MU Extension Horticulture Specialist
102 N. Main, Suite 1, Gallatin, MO 64640

Release Date: July 10, 2014

Headline: Retail Farm Market School

I recently attended a “train-the-trainer” workshop about an exciting way to teach marketing techniques to growers who participate in on-farm sales or farmers markets, produce managers in stores, and even some applicability to growers who grow wholesale for produce auctions. It was taught by an Ag Marketing Educator, from Penn State Extension.  He calls the school the “Retail Farm Market School.”

The school is divided into five sections.  The first section covers produce science. The unit covers why produce spoils, how to handle produce, natural processes that plants undergo, the environmental factors that influence those processes, when and how to properly harvest produce, how to store produce until it is sold, and more.

The next section covers customer service.  In it we learn what the customer really is looking for when they consider your produce for purchase.  It is much more than the produce quality itself, and includes service, knowledge, and a courteous, professional attitude.

The third section covers “crisping.”  Crisping involves the steps that can be taken to actually improve the appearance of produce, including submerging in water (when appropriate), trimming, and the proper storage temperature.

The fourth section covers sanitation. There are three types of hazards to consider: biological, chemical, and physical.  The unit goes into detail on the numerous hazards that may be encountered. The material described here is closely related to GAPs (Good Agricultural Practices).

The final section covers merchandising.  This is especially important for the retail produce market, because it covers the methods that you can use to make your produce more attractive to potential customers.  It covers the flow of customer traffic, placement of produce within the flow, making good signs, branding your product, creating attractive displays, and more.

A number of Extension faculty were there from the Northwest Extension Region as well as the Kansas City Urban Region. We will be working on a school similar to this that will be held in the southern part of the NW Region, or perhaps the KC metro area.

There were also several Horticulture Specialists attending, in addition to myself. We are discussing developing a version for produce auction growers.

Finally, the Great Plains Growers Conference is planning a Retail Farm Market School for one of our all-day Thursday workshops for next year’s conference, January 8-10, 2015.  I’ll keep you posted when we get closer to the event.