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Front Page » May 16, 2006 » Local News » Profits in your backyard
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Profits in your backyard

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Staff Writer

Sherryl Fowers speaks on how to make a profit in your backyard.

There is money to be made at home. Many gardeners and entrepreneurs earn extra money by raising it in their backyard. Farmers markets are becoming a popular place for young people, husbands, wives, and others to reap the rewards of a backyard garden.

Mike McCandless, Emery County Economic Development Director, and Wayne Urie, Castleland Resource and Conservation and Development, hosted a seminar entitled Profit in Your Backyard at the Museum of the San Rafael on May 4. During this seminar, those attending learned many valuable tips to help them market the products they raise in their gardens.

McCandless explained that this seminar is a result of the economic development councils work to bring some economic growth to Emery County. Lots of different things are happening out there and we need to begin thinking outside the box. There are alternative methods of earning money. The idea of a starting a farmers market may take a couple of years to get going, but this effort is a great way to get small agriculture going and make it a great success, said McCandless.

Urie told of one idea that is catching on in the northern part of the state, especially along the Wasatch Front. He explained that community supported agriculture is taking hold. This is a partnership between the consumer and the producer. This idea originated in Japan and began in Massachusetts about 20 years ago.

To begin a partnership, a consumer pays the farmer for a share of the yield of the farm before the growing season begins. These partnerships finance the farmer up-front. When the harvest comes in, the consumer receives an allotment of produce each week during the harvest season. The season may be divided into spring with items such as peas, spinach, and green onions, summer with items such as beans, corn, carrots, tomatoes and peppers, and fall for pumpkins, onions, beets and potatoes. Fruits may also be included in the partnership.

These partnerships allow the farmer to be paid up-front and the consumer to be guaranteed fresh, locally grown produce. They show the consumers willingness to support the local farms, and partnerships like these increase the understanding on the consumers part of how a farm functions. I feel something like this can be done in this area, and done successfully. We have other things around here to offer in the line of meat, eggs, honey and dairy, said Urie.

Sherryl Fowers of Lynn Fowers Fruit Ranch in Genola also gave a presentation. She explained how she markets her fruits and vegetables at farmers markets around Utah County. The first part of her presentation dealt with the cleanliness of the sellers and the stand itself. If a stand offers fruit tastings, food handlers permits must be held by the sellers. The Utah Board of Health has strict rules to follow for fruit stands. Each stand must have a kit that contains sanitizer for cleaning the cutting boards and surfaces in the stand. It also must have a means for the servers to clean their hands and utensils. Items such as hand wipes, paper towels, buckets, cutting boards, scissors, tape and a cooler for a water supply are good to have in the kit.

In my stands, I insist that the people who work there are well groomed and wear our logo shirt and apron. Customers do not want to sample fruit from an area that is dirty, so keep the tablecloths and the salespeople clean, organized and presentable, said Fowers.

She then explained that customers want salespeople who are knowledgeable about the type of produce they are selling. If a customer has a question about the type of cherry or peach and the salesperson cannot answer it, the customer is less likely to make a purchase. The salepeople must know the benefits and uses of each variety of produce being sold from the stand. Teach your employees to talk about the product and offer clean, fresh samples, Fowers added.

Fowers said that farmers markets may take several years to build up and advertising is a must. She said there are many organizations that are valuable for producers to get involved with. The first was the Farm Bureau because they really care about the farmers. Utahs Own is an organization that markets and promotes products with the Utahs Own brand. The Future Farmers of America is a great organization for youth in the agriculture industry. It teaches them the entrepreneurial skills they will need in the future.

I have done several market surveys with grocers and Utah produce has always won out for taste and color. Utahs climate is great for colorful produce, and it makes for fresher produce in the stores. Housewives must tell their grocers that they want Utah produce to insure the freshest possible product, as well as the tastiest and most colorful, said Fowers.

What does the consumer want? Fowers said to get to know your customer and their tastes. Each market has its own personality, background and ethnicity. Producers should cater to the needs and tastes of the clients. Accommodate your customers, no matter how much produce they want. If a person wants two ears of corn and not a dozen, make them a deal on the two ears. If you accommodate them, they will come back. She also said that flowers are becoming a great sales items at farmers markets recently.

Robert McMullin of McMullin Orchards, was next to speak. His family has been in the produce farming business for more than 30 years and their farm is 950 acres near Utah Lake. Our main focus is shipping. We process and ship our own produce. Most of our customers by in bulk, but we have had fruit stands over the years. I want to say that in addition to what Sherryl said, our main goal is quality, quality, quality. You must have a quality product that customers will return year after year to purchase.

We have found that customers want to buy directly from the farmers. We only sell what is fresh and ripe, although we do offer several grades of produce for reduced prices. If the customer has a choice, they are more satisfied, said McMullin.

He added that the farmers market experience must be different and more personal than the supermarket experience. Be friendly and courteous, talk to the customers and engage them in conversation. Salespeople should know about canning and yields per bushel of each type of produce.

Another point McMullin made was concerning the Utah State Legislature. He said they are trying to enact a law that says farmers would be required to charge sales tax on the items they sell. This would hurt the farmer by adding more book work and raise the price of their goods. It would not be good for anyone, said McMullin. He urged everyone to write to their legislators and encourage them not do to this.

Emery County Recreation will sponsor a farmers market this year. It will begin Aug. 12 and run from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., and continue through September. Local growers will be there to sell the homegrown and homemade products. Laura Burgess is the contact person at 381-2970 or 630-6397. The farmers market is looking for anyone with produce, crafts, and homemade items to sell.

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