farmers market

Direct Marketing

Market tip sheets, niche products, customer relationships, product display, CSAs, restaurants, farm-to-school, insurance, food safety, Farm Market Federation, Smart Marketing

Direct Farm Marketing

Direct farm marketing can be activities where a farmer sells products grown on the farm to the consumer through U-pick, roadside stand or farmer’s market, community supported agriculture, rent-a-row, or mail order. Direct farm marketing can also be a process in which the farmer provides services normally offered by a middleman i.e. delivery, packaging, brokering, etc.

If you are a livestock producer, check out our Meat Suite page.  The Meat Suite can help you reach consumers looking for direct purchases from you, the farmer.  Selling by the whole, half or quarter may be your best way to market your livestock.

Niche and Specialty Products

Many growers, especially new ones, are inclined to start production without giving a second thought to the business of marketing. Good marketing is essential for a successful agricultural enterprise. Some would even argue that it ranks higher in importance than production itself. Direct Marketing is a resource with emphasis on niche, specialty, and value-added crops, featuring farm case studies and information on enterprise budgets and promotion/publicity.

Distinguishing Yourself in the Marketplace 

With more vendors at farmers markets and more roadside stands selling local produce it becomes necessary for direct farm marketers to distinguish themselves amongst the competition. Plain Language Guide to Selling at a Farmers Market will help farmers choose a market, design a market stand, set prices and make sales.

Building Customer Relationships

Part of the success of the local food movement is the desire for consumers to make connections with the farmers from which they make purchases. Selling Strategies for Local Food Producers provides information about cultivating these relationships

Produce Display 

How a farmer chooses to display the product for sale makes a difference on income derived at the farmstand. Only the best product should be sold. Product displays have to provide and abundance of choice for the customer. Market Sales Sizzle provides information about produce display.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is the selling of shares of the future crop. These shares provide income to the farmer to pay for startup costs at spring planting. Once the shares are purchased the farmer is obligated provide produce as it becomes available. In some cases the customer/shareholder comes to the farm to pick up their weekly share. In other circumstances the farmer delivers the shares, usually to a central location at a designated time to be picked up by the shareholder.

Local Harvest, A Multifarm CSA Handbook describes a collaborative approach to aggregating farm products to sell to shareholders.


Some local restaurants are catering to the desire of their customers to eat specially prepared dishes. Marketing to restaurants in terms of quantity needed and availability, delivery, and payment provide unique challenges and opportunities. The Effectiveness of Farm-to-Chef Marketing of Local Foods provides insights for farmers in accessing restaurant customers.

Farm to School 

Farm to school programs provide some unique opportunities and challenges to local farmers. School food service is required by law to follow USDA requirements. Inside of those requirements is some flexibility in where product can be sourced. School food service may also pay market rate for some of the products they prefer. In addition the quantity of product desired may be less than the farmer might expect.

The USDA Farm to School Team 2010 Summary Report provides background on the USDA Farm to School program that includes school food service infrastructure, procurement, food safety, and the farmer’s perspective in selling to schools.

The Farm to School: Case Studies and Resources for Success describes projects in 13 states including NYS.

How We Started A Farm-To-Cafeteria Program and How You Can Start One, Too focuses on an initiative in Ontario County, NY found that foodservice directors usually buy products without bidding or on special contract, usually 2-3 farms in close proximity to each cafeteria are able to deliver produce, most cafeterias have capacity to store short-term supplies of fresh produce, and cafeterias can be a good outlet for farmers as they can often use large quantities of in-season produce.

The National Farm to School Network is a program that connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers.


Good business practice requires that risks of the farm business be addressed through appropriate insurance coverage whether it is coverage for accidents or product liability and if hired labor, Workman’s Compensation. As the business evolves insurance needs will need to be updated. Navigating the Insurance Maze provides some basics on liability, forms of insurance and questions that you might ask your insurance provider.

Food Safety 

Good food handling practices is essential to maintain high quality product, reduce the potential for food borne illnesses, and reduce the potential for legal action. Food handling begins in the field before harvest and does not end until the product is consumed. While the industry acknowledges that there is no such thing as “zero” risk. There are management strategies to reduce the potential for microbial contamination. Good Agricultural Practices is a nationwide initiative to provide training in food safety on the farm.

Sanitary Regulations for Direct Marketing 

The NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets regulates direct farm markets with respect to compliance with food sanitation requirements contained in NYS Agriculture and Markets Law, Article 17. Sanitary Regulations for Direct Marketing provides basic information on what is and is not allowed when selling fruits, vegetables, eggs, grains, honey, maple syrup, prepared foods and baked goods.

Farmers Market Federation of New York 

The Farmers Market Federation of New York can assist members to secure Commercial General Liability Insurance and provide access to the NYS Wireless EBT program. The Federation also provides educational opportunities for its members.

Smart Marketing Newsletters 

Smart Marketing Newsletters is a series of newsletters published between 1988 and 2007 by Cornell researchers over a 10-year period. The newsletters address a multitude of products and ideas.

Additional Smart Marketing articles published between 2008 and 2010 are organized by topics including marketing basics, marketing strategies, consumer trends and markets, and marketing farm products.

Cornell Agricultural Marketing and Management PWT 

The Cornell Agricultural Marketing and Management Program Work Team is a group of Cornell researchers, farmers, and industry leaders that work together to develop science-based answers for the industry to derive a competitive advantage over the rest of the world by significantly improving the knowledge of marketing as well as improved general management capacities and skills.

Last updated March 27, 2020