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The Permacultivator - Journal of Cool Climate Permaculture
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Beyond the Farm Gate

Roy Hauptberger presents some of his ideas from his recent TAFE Organic Farming Course

In this article I will look at several possible enterprises on a property and try to give an overall marketing strategy for these enterprises.

The enterprises include a market garden (including herbs), orchard and aquaculture which will produce a number of marketable products at various times of the year, requiring a number of strategies to complete and maximise sales post-farm gate.

MARKET GARDEN

The market garden will incorporate a vast array of different vegetables at different times of the year and as such will not have large quantities of any one vegetable at any one time and for this reason I intend to target local markets, which would require smaller amounts of produce on a weekly basis.

One market I have investigated is local restaurants which all seem to have the same needs, being a consistent product, consistent price (but not necessarily cheapest) and a consistent supply but not always of the same product.

The vegetable needs of these restaurants seem to generally follow the seasonal needs of specific vegetables with cabbages, cauliflower, peans and beans being needed mainly in the winter/spring months with exceptions being summer growing crops such as potatoes, pumpkin and corn. Summer menus show high uses of tomatoes, lettuce, capsicum and cucumber - all summer growing vegetables which would coincide well with the market gardens natural environmental growing cycles.

The exceptions to these are potatoes, carrots and tomatoes which restaurants need year round. Carrots are not a problem as there are both summer and winter as well as all season varieties which will ensure a continuous supply but potatoes and tomatoes are another proposition.

One way to ensure a continuous or near continuous supply would be to create igloos or glass houses to extend the growing season of the summer vegetables or even heating these igloos to provide a continuous supply although this creates an entirely new proposition as to how I would run the garden.

Another way to satisfy and hold these markets would be to buy in the produce needed from interstate. The availability of our produce fruit and vegetable outlets would start calling us as they realise the benefits it can bring their businesses financially.

AQUACULTURE

The farm dams are to be stocked with trout and perch and the resulting produce could be sold locally in various ways, such as:-

* to restaurants and direct to households as with the fruit and vegetables. A reasonably consistent supply can be produced by careful stocking and, with fish able to reach marketable size in between 14 - 22 months, fish can be caught in small quantities to satisfy customers on demand with supply remaining consistent.

* by using this same stocking requirement we can bring the customers to us by charging to come and catch their own fish. At the same time you could conduct tours of the farm and offer other produce for sale direct to the public.

* local fish merchants would most likely take small continuous quantities.

* harvest the dams as a whole and sell the entire quantity to the fish markets at the going rate. (This is not my preferred option as it has a high labour requirement, is detrimental to the overall ecology of the property and prices are dictated by going price at harvest).

ORCHARD

The orchard will contain varying fruit trees as well as berry crops and can also be marketed in several ways:-

* as with other crops, to restaurants, fruit shops and direct to the public.

* by offering a pick-your-own service to locals and passers-by which would also avail them to the other products of the property.

* by grafting our own trees, we can create a separate product in fruit trees to sell to the public and nurseries (slogan - "Taste the fruit - buy the tree").

Again, by bringing the customers to our property we expose them to our other products which is starting to turn into a weekly shopping requirement.

VALUE ADDING

As well as selling produce direct from the ground, premium prices can be obtained by "value adding" (some form of on-site processing) to the produce.

One example of this, we could implement on our holding could be in the form of additional processing to our fish.

Rainbow trout lends itself to smoking and brings premium prices in gourmet establishments throughout our region and more importantly in Australia’s major centres. Currently most of the state’s smoked trout comes from Adaminaby in New South Wales Snowy Mountains and, although very good, give the impression of being old due to its extensive plastic packaging. By producing a quality local product, obviously fresh, which can also be in Sydney in a matter of an hour, the potential could be enormous. Maybe the use of smoked perch and yabbies could add interest to this gourmet market.

Another "value adding" product on our farm could be additional processing to our fruit products.

One way can be in the manufacture of jams, conserves and dried fruits. Another, is the production of frozen fruit products. Sauces, such as raspberry and apricot do not quite taste right when canned fruit is used but if sauces were made as fruit was picked and then quick frozen it would become a simple, quick method for people to defrost and use in desserts, icecreams, milkshakes and other fruit flavoured products while retaining a just prepared taste.

It could even become a cost effective method for large scale manufacturers of fresh cakes and pastries.

These are just a couple of examples of value adding. Others possible include dried herbs, wood products, saleable mulch and compost (although I would probably prefer to use it all myself) to name a few.

All these value adding products can also be sold at the farm gate to passers-by and visitors to the property.

TRANSPORT

Transport of my goods from farm gate to the markets can be accomplished in a couple of ways.

The main one for me would be personal deliveries to local restaurants and residences in a preferable refrigerated Pantec which would allow me to keep a hands-on outlook on my markets thus making it possible to respond to market changes quickly.

Alternatives would be transport companies which deliver door-to-door. I have investigated this form of delivery and have come up with delivere dprices from $3.00 per box up to $18.00 for a pallet space on a truck which would transport anywhere between here and Sydney, including Sydney metro, on call.

The best way I can think of to transport produce to customers is to reverse the process. Try and make them come to you.

By making it easy for them to purchase a large part of their weekly shopping at a more reasonable place.

CONCLUSION

Overall I feel there are adequate markets locally to distribute my produce and make a reasonable living. I have not even started looking seriously at markets outside the local area which could turn into a major research exercise considering the amount of opportunity which seems to exist on our own front door step.

I like the idea of bringing customers to the farm and if we can draw them to our property, hopefully by creating an attractive property, close to town, offering a variety of products which are fresh and reasonably priced with activities which create a sense of community, the supermarket of the future could actually be the farm gate itself.

J17 Autumn 97