Monday, September 10, 2012

On putting yourself out there, farming-wise

Last week I sat down and typed up an email that I'd been squirming over for a little while. I included the email addresses (via bcc to respect my customers and keep their information private) of local people who had bought eggs from us once or more over the past year. You see, we've got more eggs than we can possibly use ourselves, and in the past month we have ended up having more than we are able to sell. We needed more regular customers.

We are looking to develop a list of local people who want eggs weekly or biweekly, which we have put off before now because:

1. we seemed to have enough occasional buyers, and

2. because with our young hens we were still attempting to figure out how many extra dozen we had to sell in a given week and month.

Now that we've kept detailed records of production & sales all spring and summer, we've got # 2 dialed in - we know how many eggs our hens produce and how many our family eats on average. But lately # 1 hasn't been working out, so we've had extra eggs.

We've always had occasional egg buyers, either local friends or coworkers, but none had moved from occasional to regular customers, likely mostly due to us not having a regular customer distribution list, and them not being aware we were thinking of starting one. I was also fairly successful at selling eggs to a local corner store for several months earlier in the summer, but lately they have had enough from their other sellers, and since they buy the eggs for less than I can sell them to direct customers because of the store's mark-up, I haven't wanted to push to be on their regular seller list, if they even had an opening. In addition, I really value the direct connection between farmer and consumer that we get when we sell directly to the people eating our eggs. I know I feel better when I know exactly where my food is coming from, and I love being able to provide that connection to my egg customers.

In the future, as we attempt to move towards a bit more of a sustainable farming venture, we will need a good base of customers for our increasing line of farm-grown & produced products. This requires me to do what doesn't come naturally to me, put our name and our goods out there. Stir up a bit of interest in our product, and get some customers to shift from occasional purchases to being committed to buying from us regularly. Occasional customers are great, but in order to supply some kind of stability to our family as we attempt to shift a bit more into farming, we would love to have a larger regular customer list as well as all of our occasional customers.

Egg production from our hens will fluctuate as the seasons change, as they moult or become broody, as our current hens age, and as we add and remove hens from our flock, so we won't always have as many extra eggs as we did back in the height of this summer with young birds and long days, but having a list of regulars that are committed to buying eggs from us will keep us committed to providing good quality eggs on a weekly or biweekly basis.

My email was pretty basic, letting people know that we had a couple openings on our weekly egg-selling list, and if they wanted to move onto the weekly (or biweekly) list they just needed to let me know, but I was sure to give them a brief update on how our chickens were doing and what they were up to.  Later next week I'll share some more detailed tips on how I went about attaining my customers, both occasional and regular, but in the meantime, I know some of my readers are also small farm owners, or heading along that path. Have you gone out looking for customers? When you were starting out, or as you are starting out, did you let your business grow by word of mouth or have you been a bit more persistent to let people know about your product and it's availability? Did you find it difficult to pointedly ask your occasional customers if they would like to be on your regular list? What part of the customer-getting process do you find (or think you would find) the most challenging?

Linking up to the homestead barn hop!


  1. That shot of Little M is so adorable!
    I wish I lived closer, 'cause I'd be on your regular list for sure!
    Best wishes...

  2. I've never had a problem selling the extras to my friends. But we only have 30 laying hens and about 18 eggs a day. I have little pullets growing out now to replace the older hens when production tapers off. But my original plan was to only raise enough for our own use...then I caught the chicken addiction bug :)

    Best wishes with your customer list!

  3. We aren't to that point with our farming yet (YET!!!), but I run a small business myself and this is in area I REALLY struggle with. I tend to not say much more than "I make children's clothing for a living", unless someone asks more questions. I don't want to come off as pushy or anything like that so I just go along, doing my thing, and rejoice with every single sale!!! So I have no advice, and look forward to your post about attaining customers in hopes I can glean some tips to put to use myself!

  4. Letting people know that we have eggs at our children's Sunday school classes, preschool or elementary school gave us plenty of customers. Was easy to bring a cooler and drop eggs off once a week, too, when picking up or dropping off the kids.


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