2Bits: Tips for Farmers Selling Wholesale—what is scalability?!
Experiencing rapid growth is different from having scalability. Growth is an aspiration or end result while scalability is a capability that may or may not get exercised.
Today, our third newsletter on wholesale readiness, focuses on scaling. Growth and scaling are related, however not the same thing!
Typically, growth comes in spurts. Growth might be a school making room for an influx of new students, a trending restaurant ramping up to serve a wave of more diners, or a niche-market farmer getting lots of phone calls after a local newspaper features them. We’ve all experienced an “all hands-on deck” time to handle rapid growth. These peak times are stressful. Scaling, or your scalability, is the process of planning the steps needed that allow you to handle growth spurts.
Scaling steps for farmers considering wholesale selling:
- Develop a list of primary buyers: Talk to them! Learn their product needs, certification requirements, and pricing points. Understand what they need and when. Determine their product receiving process.
- Develop a list of secondary buyers and a Plan B. Why? A primary buyer may back out of their agreement to buy your products. They may go out of business. Stay in contact with these alternative buyers. An example of a Plan B comes from Chef & Restaurant Manager, Justin Hoffman, of The Center for Academic Achievement–Shawnee Mission, KS School District. This year, the primary buyer for their school garden’s student grown basil backed out several days before the basil harvest. Basil was ready by the garbage bag full! Chef Hoffman and students made pesto and sold it at the school restaurant.
- List all your inputs, including equipment, facilities, tools, supplies, insurance, and space needed plus their cost. Which items can be rented or leased? What must be purchased?
- Write all of these steps down. Make scaling work on paper first.
- And, the most important step of all, self-assess: What additional knowledge and training do you need to purposely, safely, and profitably scale. List the reasons you want to scale. Understand “why” before you determine “how.”
Planning for scaling and growth may involve a contract with a buyer or input provider. This USDA “Contracting” White Paper has valuable information to consider before you enter into a contractual agreement.
Why do buyers need to know about a farmer’s scalability?
- For single or family buyers, knowing why and how your farmer friends do what they do is important too! At 2BuyAg, we believe knowing as much about the food you put into your body is almost or as important as choosing your medical doctor and dentist! Use the 2BuyAg community and marketplace to get to know the folks that grow and raise your food. Message them! Ask questions! Get comfortable with their practices and procedures.
- If you’re a chef, institutional food purveyor, grocery purchaser, or distributor, the more you know about your farmer vendors, the better. This helps you plan menus, stock shelves, and serve customers in a methodical, organized manner instead in an unproductive crisis mode.
- As a wholesale buyer, doing your due diligence research on your farmer vendors, some very reasonable questions to ask are: Do you have season extension capacity? How many months out of the year do you produce—6, 8, 10, or 12? Do you have a food safety plan? Are you Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP) certified? How do you meet increased labor needs during peak harvest times? What growing, production, harvesting risks have you identified and how do you plan to minimize these risks (mitigate your risks)? How do you handle your product/produce waste? These questions should be asked every year to stay updated on your farmer vendors scalability!
Getting to know one another is the best first step in a farmer-food buyer relationship. 2BuyAg makes relationship building easy! Please join our community and marketplace today. There is no better time than now for farmers and food buyers to get connected! How can we help you? How can we help you set up your 2BuyAg account or profile? Or create a product post?