Friday, 13 June 2014

Growing to make a (small) profit

The other day Dawn asked  how we work out the prices to sell things and a while back Kev asked if I could do a post about growing to make a profit on a smallholding. So this post is the answer to both.

 Just to explain that we've never wanted to be a nursery  business so we only grow what we can sell at the gate and we also don't want to spend every minute of the day growing to sell either.
So I can only tell you what we do. Mainly we grow for ourselves with just a bit extra of things we know will be easy to pick, pack and sell. We are also not young anymore! so don't have the energy to do growing on the field on a big scale.

First, if you live on a very busy  road don't try and sell at the gate or the council will call it a traffic obstruction.
Secondly if you've got neighbours who you don't get on with they'll probably object!
You could try selling at a Country( formerly WI ) market if you are unable to sell at the gate.
In our area as long as the selling is only on a small scale the council seem to ignore it. I wouldn't advise selling anything you haven't grown yourself as that is a different thing altogether and has all sorts of legal and safety regulations.

I would advise buying in some decent packaging to sell things in. People are not likely to want to buy things in old carrier bags and if your stall is right by the road it offers a bit of extra protection from traffic fumes. We have a local company in Suffolk we collect from but there are lots of online places. I buy large brown paper bags for potatoes and cooking apples. Small perforated clear plastic bags for tomatoes and peppers. Large perforated clear plastic bags for anything bigger and 250g and 500g punnets.

Whatever you sell has to be good quality. NOT mouldy tomatoes or green potatoes! Don't give anyone cause to complain.

If your sell by weight you have to have proper scales tested by  Council Trading Standards.  We sell by the punnet, bunch or bag. For instance I'm selling new potatoes, I weigh them so there is a good 500g in the bag but then write on the paper bags ' Fresh Dug Potatoes 50p bag'
Make sure you have the prices of things labelled clearly or people will be put off buying or they will be constantly knocking on the door to ask.

If you live in a village or town where people can walk to buy from you then you will probably be able to sell more and at a better price. We are on a quiet back road used by people going to and from work or to and from town for shopping, so it has to be worth their while  to stop. That's why we sell eggs all year round so that folk are used to looking  and stopping.

I price things to sell and to make a small profit, I don't want to be left with stuff and the end of the day. I often have a look on supermarket comparison sites to find out what things are going for. I also try and sell for 50p or £1 which people put through the letterbox in our front door. It keeps things simple and avoids people knocking on the door for change.

It's probably best to start small, to see what will sell in your area and a good idea is to find things to spread selling throughout the season.

This is what we grow to sell

Daffodils and Alstroemeria - Just a few. Daffs are the first things we sell each year. Not a huge profit if you take into account the cutting, bunching, elastic bands, a pail of water to stand them in. But they add a bit of colour.

Early Potatoes - We grow just a few beds of early potatoes in the garden to have enough for us and to sell, usually at the same time as gooseberries. We don't sell maincrop potatoes, they take up too much space and there are lots of places locally to buy by the sack.

Gooseberries - On a profit per square foot these give us the best return. We have gradually increased to 20+ bushes. Many grown from cuttings. These sell really well as they are not easily available elsewhere. Not much fun to pick though! I pick and sell for about 3 or 4 weeks until they are finished.

Raspberries - Another good seller and they follow on from the gooseberries. They take ages to pick but good profit per space.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, aubergines. Now we have 3 poly tunnels we grow around 75 tomato plants, which will give about 3 - 6 bags of tomatoes everyday for several weeks.  8 cucumber plants should give 2 - 4 cucumbers per day. I put lots of peppers in the freezer so sell whatever we don't need. There are around 15 sweet  pepper plants and a few chilli pepper plants. 10 Aubergine plants this year.
Of these tomatoes are the best sellers.

Courgettes We grow about 2 beds of courgettes, so only double what we would use. Some years they sell well and other years not so well in which case the chickens get any we don't use or sell.

Runner and Climbing French beans.  Really good profit per square foot especially the lovely pencil thin Climbing French beans. I was able to sell for £1 a small bag last year.

Onions These sell well but we only have the space to grow two beds ( double what we ourselves would use) We sell by the bunch. People don't mind them tied up with baler twine!

Squash and pumpkins. We grow to sell because we have the space on part of our field and because they come right at the end of the season when everything else has finished. Not viable otherwise as they take up so much room.

Brassica crops We grow just a bit more than we need in early summer and then autumn , just to add a bit of interest to the stall. I don't grow any to sell over winter as they would need more space( and energy) than we have. We protect with enviromesh to avoid caterpillers. I wouldn't recommend selling anything that is pest damaged.


Cooking apples - We sell only if we have enough from our two trees.


We don't sell root crops as they are not good enough quality here. ( Except for a few beetroot if we have enough ) Lettuce doesn't sell here for some reason ( plus they have a very short life once cut and bagged). We also don't sell leeks or sweetcorn as we use all we can grow.

Other things we sometimes sell.
If we have enough of decent quality we sell Broad beans, Strawberries, Cherries.

I think that has just about covered everything and I hope this is useful to someone!

Back tomorrow ( library book photo)
Sue