How can I be sure I will be able to market my produce and make my Aquaponics business profitable? Why do I need a website . Do I really have to go to all that trouble, after all I am just going to be growing some vegetables .
These are some of the areas explored by Murray Hallam and Sylvia Bernstein in a recent conversation about the Green Acres Farm training course coming up in April at Gina's farm, Florida.
Listen to the Podcast .
Hello, I’m Murray Hallam from Practical Aquaponics, and talking today to Sylvia Bernstein from The Aquaponic Source. Hi Sylvia, how are you?
Sylvia Bernstein. Hey Murray, I’m doing great Murray, and how are you?
Murray Hallam. Fantastic, Sylvia, I just wanted to talk to you about this training that is coming up in Florida in April. I am getting really excited about it because I am coming over there with you to Gina’s place and I just wanted to ask you a few questions about what you're doing there. I notice that your section of it’s going to be, a lot of it's going to be about “Marketing” and “How do we sell the product that we grow” and, I was just wondering if you could tell me a bit, in a broad way, about what you’re going to be teaching.
Sylvia Bernstein. You bet Murray; So my emphasis is on really, taking the produce that we all know how to grow, and that you and Gina are going to take the class through how to grow optimally, and now we‘ve got to get it into the hands of our customers and we need to make the most money possible doing it …you know there is nothing wrong with making money and the way that your farm, (should you sign up for this class), the way that your farm is going to become successful and profitable, is for getting the most out of the produce that you’re going to work so hard to create, to grow. So, my whole emphasis is on the business side of Aquaponic farming.
Murray Hallam. You know what Sylvia, I think that's probably the most important side, because if the business doesn't sell their product in a sensible way, then you can grow the finest lettuce or tomatoes under the sun, but if you can't sell them for a good price it’s a waste of time isn’t it?
Sylvia Bernstein. Well, the bottom line is, you can think about lettuce and tomatoes as a commodity, right, you can think about it in terms of – it's just a head of lettuce, just like, I can just run down to the grocery store and pick up - or we can think about it as something that has been really specially raised organically and in an incredibly sustainable way by a local farmer, and this is the farmer, and this is their family, and this is how they’re growing food for your family and make that connection… and that connection is going to take what would otherwise be a commodity and really make it a valuable product.
Murray Hallam. It’s fantastic isn’t it? I really see that’s where it's got to go really, because there are so many people out there today that want clean chemical free food don’t they? They are sick of buying the supermarket rubbish. Look, I noticed in the list of subject matter you've got listed down there “Why do I need a website”. Now, why do you think we need a website?
Sylvia Bernstein. You know, the reality today is that we connect to each other in many ways through the internet. If somebody is going to find you, chances are they’re going to do it through the internet. Even if they go, let’s take the scenario, they go to the farmers market and they see you there at your table, and they think “wow, Aquaponics, what’s that? Maybe I want to learn more about these people” .They’re going to go home and they’re going to look for you on the internet.
So the internet has really become the common store front for all of us, and your website is very much the front door. It’s your business on line, and that is where people get an impression of you, and so, their impression is either going to be “ooh” or “these people don’t know what they’re doing” or “they sell too hard” or “they’re very amateurish. Gosh, I’m not sure that I want to trust them with my food “, which is a pretty important thing…..Or, you’re going to get the impression that these are people that I can really relate to and that I want to do business with them. I want to really support them as local farmers. And the difference between website number one and website number two can really be some very minor differences, and we’re going to go into some of that in this class.
Murray Hallam. Sylvia, I can really relate to what you're saying there because I know I do that, I tend to look at the website, you know, get the internet up when I’m looking for anything at all, even if I am about to go down the road to the Mall, I tend to look up the internet first, to get an idea of what I want…So true.
Sylvia Bernstein. You bet, and God forbid you can’t find them on the internet.
Murray Hallam. I think “What’s going on here?”
Sylvia Bernstein. Exactly; “What’s going on here? These people aren’t real. You know, they must be just slack, or whatever.” But all sorts of bad things happen!!! So, it’s very important. You know, it’s funny to think, that even as a farmer, you really do need to have a good internet presence that represents who you really are.
Murray Hallam. So Gina has got a good website I notice…Look, there is something else on the list I notice you have got there….SEO Basics. What in the world is SEO basics?
Sylvia Bernstein. Well, it’s one of those TLA’s or three letter acronyms. SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimisation”. So, it is essentially where you come up in Google or Bing or whatever search engine is out there, when somebody types in key words, into the search bar, where they might be looking for you. So let’s say that you have a farm in Kansas City Missouri, and you are growing aquaponically, and you specialise in Heirloom Tomatoes. You want to make sure that if somebody in Kansas City, types in “Heirloom Tomatoes Kansas City”, that you are going to come up on the first page of those results, because over 80% of the websites that will actually be clicked on, based on that search, are going to be the ones on that first page. So being on the first page for the searches that are critical to you, is extremely important. You can have the best website in the world, but if you can’t be found, it doesn’t matter. So that is what SEO is about.
Murray Hallam. That is so true, that's good. I'm going to be listening very carefully to that part I can tell you. Now just stepping back a little bit, we were talking earlier about the need to have a website and selling our produce. What about pricing theory? How are we going to get more money for this produce, because my idea is that if this is a premium product,( which it is)…We are growing a premium product and how do we make sure we get a premium price for it?
Sylvia Bernstein Well, and I'm going to be going into this quite a bit in the class, so I won’t divulge the secrets too much now, but I will tell you that we will be dissecting , “what does that mean to be a premium product, and how do you know how to price within being a premium product? Again it gets back to, “you’re not a commodity”. This is not about looking at every other head of lettuce that is being sold around you. How do you get into channels, meaning, how do you get into farmer’s markets, or restaurants, or places where you can distribute or sell your product, where they truly appreciate the premium nature of what you’re selling. You can have the best, most premium product in the world out there, and if you’re just selling it to a produce distributor, they’re not going to care. They’re going to look at you and say “What’s the price?”
Murray Hallam. It’s just another lettuce.
Sylvia Bernstein. It’s just another lettuce…exactly! They don’t have buyers that are really worried about that premium nature. Now you take it to all the way to the other end of the spectrum and where you’re selling directly to the consumer. The consumer cares a whole lot about that lettuce because they’re about to eat it. So it is about the quality of the lettuce. It’s about how it was raised, it’s about the people who raised it, it’s about the sustainability of the techniques that were used to raise it, you know. Did it harm the earth in the process, and all of those are things that can be bundled into the premium-ness of your head of lettuce.,
Murray Hallam. Fantastic; hey listen, when we were over at Gina’s farm back in September, I was talking to her and she sells to restaurants doesn’t she, and hasn’t she got something called a “buying club”?
Sylvia Bernstein. She does, yes.
Murray Hallam. Are you going to be covering that and how that can be done and how that can be formulated?
Sylvia Bernstein. I am, and definitely in partnership with Gina because, she is the uh, queen or the goddess of the buying club. Boy, I am so impressed with what she does with her buying club. It’s just incredible. She has gotten together with other local farms, local organic farms in her community, and she has become the defacto organic distribution centre for her area. People, customers, end customers, are actually buying baskets of produce and every week they are able to say what they want in their basket and those get delivered. So Gina, you know, she makes a nice profit on this and so, the key to that is that she very much has her ear to the ground on what her market is looking for. And that is one of the keys to making money as a farmer, is really understanding your market and what they are looking for, and that is what Gina does so well.
Murray Hallam. Fantastic.Anyway we better cut this off now I guess and speak again a bit later on Sylvia, but I just want to end cap for people, that we are going to be running this training program at Gina’s farm in Florida in April 21 – 24. We will be having two sessions 21 – 24 and 26 - 29 and Sylvia, you might like to tell them the address where they can go to see all the details.
Sylvia Bernstein. You bet. Actually Murray, any one of our websites has the details, yours at www.practicalaquaponics.com.
Murray Hallam. Fantastic. Thanks Sylvia.
Sylvia Bernstein. Thanks so much Murray. It was fun!
Murray Hallam.See you. ‘Bye.