Fresh-food trend feeds farm business

Farm sales are flourishing this fall whether farmers are selling on site at their own fall festival, at roadside stands or at weekly markets.

 

More and more consumers want to buy fresh foods, a desire that is prompting them to attend fall farm festivals, stop by their neighboring farm’s local stand or attend a weekly market. But they still want the convenience of electronic transfers rather than cash, when possible.

Brian F. Moyer, program assistant with Penn State extension, has noticed these trends over the past year as he is also director of PA Farm Markets LLC, a new initiative focused on helping farmers survive and thrive.

“They are partnering with other farms to offer more products and great convenience to their customers,” he said.

Hausman’s Fruit Farm in Coopersburg has been in full fall-festival swing, complete with pumpkin picking, hayrides, baked goods, fruits and a corn maze. The farm opts out of the market scene as it has been able to sustain itself independently with seasonal events.

“Our farm would rather see the customers come directly to the farm,” said owner April Hausman. “The prices are cheaper at the farm.” Hausman said she had to increase her prices when attending markets to cover fees and travel expenses.

Still, markets are enjoying business. For instance, The Saucon Valley Farmers Market in Hellertown has over 30 farms on its roster, according to Angela Reese, committee member and spokeswoman. The market takes place on Sundays at Water Street Park and has enjoyed more customers this year than in previous years.

According to Reese, some members of the Saucon Valley Farmers Market also still operate roadside stands, but consider them a source of surplus income. Most business comes from regular customers who leave cash when they pick up their goods, as many of the farms don’t keep staff at the stand at all times.

But when it is time to go to market, the farmers are tech savvy. Reese said that about three quarters of her vendors can accept credit cards.

Hausman’s Fruit Farm can accept credit cards at its festivals, but relies on cash and checks at its roadside stand. Hausman said she also makes herself available at the stand when customers make advance notice for large purchases.

No matter what the method, farms continue to evolve to meet the needs of the consumer. Another way to do so is to accept Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefits, like other retailers do.

“It’s one more place where farmers have had to invest in technology to keep up with changing consumer tastes,” said Shannon Powers, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. But, she added, “That investment is getting smaller as the cost decreases and the technology becomes more accessible.”

By KIM SODENSpecial to Lehigh Valley Business JournalFarm sales are flourishing this fall whether farmers are selling on site at their own fall festival, at roadside stands or at weekly markets. More and more consumers want to buy fresh foods, a desire that is prompting them to attend fall farm festivals, stop by their neighboring farm’s local stand or attend a weekly market. But they still want the convenience of electronic transfers rather than cash, when possible. Brian F. Moyer, program assistant with Penn State extension, has noticed these trends over the past year as he is also director of PA Farm Markets LLC, a new initiative focused on helping farmers survive and thrive. “They are partnering with other farms to offer more products and great convenience to their customers,” he said.Hausman’s Fruit Farm in Coopersburg has been in full fall-festival swing, complete with pumpkin picking, hayrides, baked goods, fruits and a corn maze. The farm opts out of the market scene as it has been able to sustain itself independently with seasonal events. “Our farm would rather see the customers come directly to the farm,” said owner April Hausman. “The prices are cheaper at the farm.” Hausman said she had to increase her prices when attending markets to cover fees and travel expenses. Still, markets are enjoying business. For instance, The Saucon Valley Farmers Market in Hellertown has over 30 farms on its roster, according to Angela Reese, committee member and spokeswoman. The market takes place on Sundays at Water Street Park and has enjoyed more customers this year than in previous years. According to Reese, some members of the Saucon Valley Farmers Market also still operate roadside stands, but consider them a source of surplus income. Most business comes from regular customers who leave cash when they pick up their goods, as many of the farms don’t keep staff at the stand at all times. But when it is time to go to market, the farmers are tech savvy. Reese said that about three quarters of her vendors can accept credit cards. Hausman’s Fruit Farm can accept credit cards at its festivals, but relies on cash and checks at its roadside stand. Hausman said she also makes herself available at the stand when customers make advance notice for large purchases. No matter what the method, farms continue to evolve to meet the needs of the consumer. Another way to do so is to accept Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefits, like other retailers do. “It’s one more place where farmers have had to invest in technology to keep up with changing consumer tastes,” said Shannon Powers, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. But, she added, “That investment is getting smaller as the cost decreases and the technology becomes more accessible.”

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