Ray Tyler Lettuce Series 10 – Cashing In: How to Successfully Market Your Lettuce Crop

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Episode Summary

The Ray Tyler Lettuce Series is a new podcast mini-series hosted by Diego Footer and farmer Ray Tyler to take a deep dive into the technicalities of growing lettuce—from why lettuce is a farm staple to how to master growing the crop consistently to how to effectively market lettuce to maximize profits.

In this episode of The Lettuce Series, Ray and Diego conclude the 10-part lettuce growing series with how to market lettuce. They go into the importance of identifying the market you want to sell to, as well as how you can get creative with your product offerings to upsell to your current customers. 

This Episode’s Guest: Ray Tyler

Ray Tyler is the farmer and owner of Rosecreek Farms, a financially successful one-acre market garden nestled in Tennessee. Ray Tyler is also an educator who has helped many farms become more profitable through his coaching services. He also offers his services in the form of his three courses: The Living Farm Course, Caterpillar Tunnel Success, and of course, his Lettuce Masterclass.


Relevant Links

            The Farmer’s Guide To Growing Organic Lettuce by Ray Tyler

            Ray Tyler’s Lettuce Masterclass

            Paperpot Co.’s Kwik Hoops


In this episode of The Lettuce Series

  • Diego introduces the episode about marketing lettuce (00:24)
  • The value of putting labels on the packages (01:37)
  • Making $20,000 on a summer Saturday morning at the farmer’s market (05:53)
    • The level of marketing that goes into sales of $20,000 a day (06:43)
  • The decision to put all the lettuce in bags and label them (11:36)
  • Changing package sizes to give more people chances to buy the products (15:34)
  • Customers are looking at the price per item, not price per pound (18:47)
  • Where Ray Tyler wants to be on the lettuce price spectrum (21:41)
  • Higher prices and playing to people’s psychology (26:04)
  • A better decision to stay at the higher price point (29:14)
  • Looking at sales like it’s warfare (31:02)
  • Same business issues across all types of businesses (32:49)
  • Get creative and upsell new products to your existing customers (34:15)
  • Partnering with chefs to create value-added products and increase sales (38:33)
  • Is it possible to make a million dollars off a one-acre farm? (41:08)
  • Ray Tyler’s lettuce growing masterclass (43:40)

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Ray Tyler Lettuce Series - Episode 10 -Cashing In - How to Successfully Market Your Lettuce Crop

[00:00:00] Diego Footer: Welcome to Farm Small Farm Smart. I'm your host, Diego, DIEGO. Over the past 10 weeks, we've taken a deep dive into growing lettuce really well. We've had episodes one through nine in the Lettuce Grower series, and today, it's episode number 10, concluding that series. Today, we're talking marketing.

[00:00:27] You've done all the work to grow the lettuce. Now, you have to actually sell it. It's all about cashing in: how to successfully market your lettuce crop. Because after all, there's no point in growing it if you can't sell it. And one thing Ray is known for is his ability and knowledge on marketing vegetables. Ray's gonna discuss cashing in on all your hard work from your crop.

[00:00:54] In this episode, he's gonna share some tips to market lettuce successfully and how they've increased sales on their farm and how they've increased prices based upon the techniques that he's gonna talk about. This is really where the rubber hits the road. You can grow a great crop well, but if you can't sell it, you might as well not even grow it.

[00:01:17] So pay attention in this one. And if you wanna do more on marketing in the future episode, let me know. Shoot me an email diego@paperpot.co. Now, let's jump right into it. The 10th and final episode in the Lettuce Grower Series. It's all about marketing.

[00:01:37] You talked about your bags being labeled. This is a little bit into marketing, but how much do you think that labeling adds at a farmer's market. If you�re selling at retail, obviously, it's gotta be labeled right, but in a farmer's market or your on-farm store that you control the marketing of, you're the face. Do you get the value off putting that label on there?

[00:02:04] Ray Tyler: Yes, 100%. And I'll tell you why. One is, if you wanna increase your sales, most oftentimes, you have to increase the amount of varieties you want to grow. But people need to know what they're getting, right? So here's a good example. We were having a hard time selling Greenleaf during the summertime.

[00:02:28] This was in 2020. And it was labeled Greenleaf, and everybody was asking for lettuce for hamburgers this grilling season. No, we just have Greenleaf. I look at stuff for burgers. I said, well, it works for burgers. They still pass. So one week I said, you don't forget this. I'm gonna call this stuff burger lettuce.

[00:02:48] So I changed the name, put burger lettuce on the label and sold out. So this gives me the option to change names and really try to market these products. So in my market, it has been, it's been a game changer. I used to make $800 at this market. Now I can make 20,000 on a summer morning, so this is not small.

[00:03:11] We're talking big. We're talking about small changes that made massive changes for my farm. Bags, different types of bags, changing names. All those things was just massive. So one thing that happens is that people buy lettuce, they take it to their house, they invite someone over. There's my name on the bag.

[00:03:37] And they come see me the next Saturday or two Saturdays over. They say, Hey, I was at a friend's house and best lettuce I've ever had in my whole life, and I've been looking for you guys. And so they saw us because the name was on our bag. Anytime someone's, Hey, you have a business card? No, but you can buy head of lettuce, and there's our information.

[00:03:59] Okay, I'll do that. It's not free to do this. It does take time, and you're looking at this probably added two hours a week to our post-harvest work, but the return on that investment was 20-fold.

[00:04:19] Diego Footer: Building that brand equity, storytelling, all of it.

[00:04:22] Ray Tyler: Everything. Now, we're certified organic, so we have this massive organic word across there.

[00:04:28] So everyone, we would have organic signs, and they would still ask us if it's organic, but now they look at that, and it says organic. No one ask us that question anymore. Since I put this big word organic on our label, not one person has asked me for organic, so this was a massive scheme that has yield�just, yeah, the returns are just�I could not imagine going back to no labels.

[00:05:01] Diego Footer: So little things that sometimes make a huge difference.

[00:05:04] Ray Tyler: It's, and I'm telling you, it's the little step by a thousand cuts. It's the little things that makes the biggest impacts, and this is what gets overwhelming to farmers is all the small things.

[00:05:17] But if you get 'em established, once they're set in place, then they just, the rest will just take care of itself. But when it comes to sales, this has been a massive driver. I can't begin to explain changing bag sizes, weights and labeling has changed the game.

[00:05:38] Diego Footer: It's just one of those things. Also, don't get caught up on obsessing on it. Right. Somebody I could see spending hours and hours on the perfect label at the beginning. It's okay. Learn to grow great lettuce first, and then a lot of these things you can refine later on.

[00:05:50] Ray Tyler: That's right. That's right. Yep.

[00:05:53] Diego Footer: How much did you say you make in a morning at the farmer's market?

[00:05:56] Ray Tyler: 20,000.

[00:05:57] Diego Footer: 20,000?

[00:05:58] Ray Tyler: In the summertime. That's our market demand, 16,000. This past summer we did 16,000. So this is the problem that I'm making, is that I had so many sales outlets that are wholesale, and they are paying me 50% less than market, and I wanna make $16,000 in two or three hours. I had two or three hours left to go, and I'm out of produce.

[00:06:23] And I'm sending the rest of this to a wholesale account that's year-round, so there's benefits to that. So forget this. So this year, instead of being short, and there with nothing to sell for two hours, I've decided to cut off wholesale and just go all markets. I'm going hard.

[00:06:43] Diego Footer: I love the way of thinking about that, right? I think people look at wholesale, whether that's retail or to some sort of distributor as like a great outlet. And it can be, but you are taking a lot less margin. Now, there's less work that potentially goes into that �cause if you're packing a 15-pound box of lettuce versus a bunch of one third pound bags, you're saving on that labor.

[00:07:12] But if you can make�if you can move it all at the farmer's market, for call it, one, why am I gonna sell anything less for 0.5 when farmer's market can absorb everything I can? And $20,000 at a peak morning in the summer�s pretty insane. When you look at that, what's going into developing that market to get that level of sales?

[00:07:40] Ray Tyler: A lot of work. So when I started at this market, I was told Ashley, if it's not gonna be a thousand dollars, it's not worth going to a farmer's market. I still believe that. This market, we struggled for about a year or two, but I saw that there was other growers, lots of other organic growers, but it was a well-established market.

[00:08:03] It's been there for 20 years, and it was a year round, which is important for our farmer's market, I think, is having a year-round market. It's outdoor. So, it can be brutal if it's cold or rainy, but I saw that there was potential. I just needed to learn what they wanted. So we would get a lot of people interested in what we're doing.

[00:08:25] They thought that was cool, but they just weren't interested in what we were having. So I started to pay attention to just what other vendors were doing, what customers were buying. So after that first year, it was definitely not as good as I hoped, and this is a far-away market. Like I'm driving two and a half hours.

[00:08:53] So we're not talking about down the road here. This is an investment in time. And so, I saw this popcorn vendor, and he was selling corn, popcorn, in these long, tube bags. They're about 18 inches, 20 inches tall. They looked really cool, man. Wouldn't that be cool if that was filled with lettuce? Now, previously, I was selling all my salad mix in clam shells, right, quarter, third pound box of clam shelves, and I was selling a few pounds that way on morning, but I just lost a hundred pound wholesale contract of salad mix.

[00:09:33] So I'm sitting on a bunch of salad mix, not just a few pounds. I need to move volume. So I found some bags that look similar, filled them with one pound, offered 'em for 10 bucks a bag, ten dollars a pound and sold out. Man, this is amazing. So I just kept doubling, doubling, doubling. Now I was doing like these small like salad mix label.

[00:10:02] And then when we created this whole Rosecreek Farm salad mix information, we put a little bit more care into that label. It just, again, as we went from selling over the course of the few years, it built up to the point to where we were selling 25 heads of lettuce to 400 to few pounds of salad mix to�

[00:10:26] I've never grown enough for it. Like hundreds of pounds of salads mix and most of our sales happen within an hour and a half. So literally, we need three checkout. Like my girls do the market, and this is their market, too. So like part of it is these people have grown with my girls. They like it.

[00:10:47] And so that definitely has a part to play of we've built up a relationship, and we went through Covid. We never missed a week. We went hard. We were there for 'em. I told 'em, we aren�t gonna go anywhere. And so I think there's been this level of trust. Okay, these guys, we never missed a day. If it's negative two degrees, we're there.

[00:11:08] They may not show up, but they know that they can count on us to be there every single week no matter what. And then we've really paid attention to just, okay, let's have different products. Let's change the size. Putting head lettuce in bags was a big move. And I think for them, they didn't like the idea of like other people touching the head lettuce. You know, just like this. I think that was part of it, too.

[00:11:36] Diego Footer: How'd you find that out? Were they just not buying it?

[00:11:39] Ray Tyler: They weren't buying it. Like, this is insane. And then they were�they kept asking about, what is this, what is this? And what I wanted to talk to 'em about was my farm. So like I would end up engaged in long conversations about what we do.

[00:11:52] �Cause like when I go there, I'm restocking, moving things around, and I'm talking to people about what I do. Just, that's all I do all day. Just talk to people. But I was getting tired of telling people what Greenleaf lettuce was. This is driving me absolutely crazy. How do you not know what greenleaf lettuce looks like?

[00:12:15] So part of it was like, oh hey, I want to do this bag thing �cause people aren't buying it. So what if I were to put it in bags? �Cause we're doing that for Shopify already. And we'll put the label on it. Let's see what happens. And I'm telling you, like the next week, it was just like, sell out within an hour, so they can look at it, it says Greenleaf, or it says panisse, romaine, redleaf.

[00:12:41] And it's just completely cleaned out. And so we've been struggling to keep up with demand ever since. Even like right now, I just cannot grow enough head lettuce to meet the demand. So those few kind of key changes, again, that was what our new market wanted, and I had just to pay attention of, and like we would change names of things.

[00:13:03] So like I found that it was better like Adriana, instead of calling the Adriana by its name, it was better just to call it butter lettuce. We would just try, Hey, I've got a lot more butter lettuce, they�re ignoring Adriana, let's try butter. Same thing with the greenleaf. So in the summertime, it's burger lettuce, and the wintertime, it�s greenleaf.

[00:13:23] Like I have to make those two changes. Like when we get past the summertime, they're not gonna buy burger lettuce �cause they're not making hamburgers. They just want regular greenleaf lettuce for the salad. For the summertime, it's the opposite. And when that week happens, generally is determined by my sales.

[00:13:41] So if I see sales slump, then I'll try and change the name. We did this with recently, a big change we made this past fall was this market will not buy kale, chard, or bok choi. Bok choi, especially because I plant bok choi in my lettuce spacing. It's like it has the same kind of growth patterns. It's the same thing.

[00:14:10] And so I decided to put all that stuff in a stir fry bag. And it exploded. I think I sold 80 bags of that stuff, 10 bucks a pop, and it has two stems of kale in it, a stem of chard, one them of celery, one leaf to two leaves of box choi in there. So that really helped us sell a lot more of our bok choi that was planted as our like head lettuce of spacing kind of regimen.

[00:14:40] Diego Footer: And hearing that, because it's, yeah, I've interviewed people and they struggle with sales.

[00:14:46] Ray Tyler: Yes. Farms live and die by sales.

[00:14:52] Diego Footer: Yeah. I think some people, the approach is I have my booth, I put the stuff out, and I just say, okay, come buy it. And if nobody comes and buys it, it's, this market sucks, whatever.

[00:15:05] But there's the layers of, did you make the booth look nice? Are you growing what the market wants? Are you doing like what you're saying, getting creative, Hey, I know the market wants this product, but maybe not in its current form that I put it up. I need to rebundle this, I need to rename it.

[00:15:29] I need to do something to get the message through of what this is and make it appealing and, and I love that creativity that you're exhibiting. On the sizes, the one pound and third pound bags, have you tweaked those sizes at all over the years, or is that always just what's worked?

[00:15:41] Ray Tyler: No, it was originally, the one pound is all I switched to, and then I was usually in the wintertime is when I change up sizes, so I would just selling way too much or I would just sell it out.

[00:15:59] Like literally 30 minutes, a hundred pounds gone, just gone and people were like, They're long. They're a 24-inch bag. So they would have six of these suckers like logs, firewood. In 30 minutes, I'm sold out. Okay, I'm gonna put it into this. So what I would do, and people would drive 30 minutes to get our salad mix, they say it's the best they've ever had. Just amazing flavor.

[00:16:22] We put a lot of attention into growing nutrient, flavorful lettuce. We're very intentional about what we're doing. It's the first cut, like people drive to get this stuff. So I said, well, I'm gonna break this into three third pound bags. Sell that for $5 a pound, and that'll get my price increase at $15 a pound.

[00:16:46] Now I do have the labor invested in that. The label is a few cents, bags�s a few cents as well. But I found that helped us attract more customers because the problem if you sell out two hours before Market Day ends, you've lost a lot of future customers. So I'm playing a game every single time. Like literally it's a game.

[00:17:11] And the game is how do I keep the product from stretching, say 45 minutes before closing day? Because usually 45 minutes before, it's pretty slow. So right now, my market's between nine and 12. I want to keep that booth going between nine and 11 o'clock. Like I want to act. So the game I'm playing is because what's happening, especially right now as we're get into warmer, is that people, they took off the fall.

[00:17:43] �Cause fall is really slow for us for some reason. Just school starts, holidays, it's always down. Right now, it's like literally double of what fall is. So people are coming back to the market. And so I want to capture as many new people as possible before everybody else has spring mix, head lettuce, et cetera.

[00:18:03] So I wanna capture them now. Now is the time to capture people �cause nobody else has stuff. So I'm want to extend it. So if I'm selling out one pounders, I would rather sell quarter pound packages, smaller. I'm not gonna sell out as fast, but I'm gonna keep that product on the shelf a lot longer.

[00:18:25] Diego Footer: So give more people a chance to buy.

[00:18:27] Ray Tyler: Give more people a chance to buy it. I feel bad. I mean, it's not my fault, but I feel bad for the lady who drove 45 minutes away to get my salad mix, and it sold out. Think I got here earlier this week, so I'm sorry. So I think that's the balance of, and I can use that to my advantage, right? So here's a real practical example, arugula. We don't grow a lot of it.

[00:18:51] It's not a heavy yielder, and it's not a big, massive seller, and not everybody can eat a lot of it. So we used to sell it by the one pound bag, but problem is people just waste it. Even the third pound is a lot, we would eat. So I don't want to raise prices if I can per unit, right? So I don't want to go right now I'm at five, I'm at this 5, 10, 15, $20 price point in all my stuff for the most part.

[00:19:18] So I don't want to bump it up to seven. So what I did with the arugula is that they were in third pound bags, and I told Sarah, I said, Sarah, we were only gonna have 20 pounds of arugula this whole winter. I sell out in 30 minutes, so we're gonna put two ounces in a 48-ounce clam shell and sell them for five.

[00:19:42] Just the same price per unit. It's probably all that we�re gonna eat anyways. The rest of it usually gets wasted, and we'll see if it sells. People may push back, but we need to start raising prices anyway �cause we haven't done it in almost two years. And so, I normally bring 40, the third pound bags to Franklin.

[00:20:06] I took 80, and I sold out. So what I found is, it's not the price per pound that people are looking at, it's the price per item. So that's the, I think you're right on that. Yeah. Does that make sense? Yeah, totally. That's the game I'm playing every single week.

[00:20:28] Diego Footer: You know, it's if I see whatever, hummus, right? I could get a gallon for $15, but I don't want a gallon, or I don't wanna spend $15 on hummus.

[00:20:37] But if a pint is eight, all right. That's more affordable, at least eight to 15. And it's also a size that you probably want to consume, so yeah, that's one thing I did wanna hit on pricing, and you beat me there of, you can play around with unit size to effectively raise the price.

[00:20:58] Ray Tyler: That's what, that's the game I'm doing.

[00:20:59] Diego Footer: What are your thoughts on pricing for somebody new? Obviously, you can look around the market, you can see what other people are pricing. That gives you one data point. I don't ever advise anybody price against their competitors, �cause a lot of people, I know this for a fact, have zero idea what their costs are.

[00:21:20] So they're like, pulling a price out of the air and saying, I'm selling it for this. So there is a lot of danger in just saying, oh, John, next door is selling it for $5 a pound. Whoa, this market must be at $5 a pound, and I gotta be there, where John might have no clue, his cost might be at six.

[00:21:41] When you look at your market, obviously, you know your costs, you're dialed in on that. Where do you wanna be in terms of the price hierarchy? So let's say there's, on lettuce, there's the least expensive lettuce at the market, there's the most expensive on the market. Where do you wanna be on that spectrum?

[00:21:59] Ray Tyler: I wanna be the most expensive guy there by far because�

[00:22:06] Diego Footer: That freaks some people out. That will freak some people outside.

[00:22:09] Ray Tyler: Yeah, but what that does is, so there's, yes, so there's a reason for that. One is I'm landlocked. I have one acre, that's it. I have no option to expand, to grow more. I'm not worried about losing half my people by raising the prices.

[00:22:31] Now, within reason, right. So I'm not talking about like a tripling pricing. That would be�people would definitely freak out about that. But so a little context on this particular market is that, so I'm kind of like the new guy. A lot of these farmers have been there since year one, and I skipped the line.

[00:22:51] So short story is, there's a three-year waiting list, you can't get in this market. The governor, there's this farmer, he's been going there since year one. He got elected governor of Tennessee. His spot became available in November. I called him in November, like that month. I didn't realize this at the time, and I just lost a massive wholesale account �cause the restaurant went outta business, said, Hey, I'm loaded.

[00:23:17] Would you guys have room? I know all the Tennessee farmers and who's going there. I said, I don't think I would compete. I think I would add. I said, sure, you can be here till April. Come April, they beg us to stay, and I came in, making sure that I was higher. I was either at or higher than everyone else �cause I wanted to not be a threat to any vendor.

[00:23:44] I wanted them to go, Hey, I'm glad Ray's here �cause he's making us look like we have a sale. Does that make sense? Yeah. So what would happen is that vendors, they would say, Hey, so when they were out of salad mix, they would say, Hey, we don't have it, but Ray does. And so I just try to become friends, and I try to let those people, Hey, I'm on your team, so any questions you have, if you're having a problem, I'll help you.

[00:24:10] I just have a very much of a�I like to have a mindset of we live in a world of plenty, and there's enough to go around for all of us. Right? If we're in our lane and doing the best that we can.

[00:24:28] Diego Footer: Hey, sorry to interrupt this episode. It's Diego from Paperpot and host of Farm Small Farm Smart.

[00:24:35] This is the 10th and final episode of the Lettuce Grower Series, and I wanted to interrupt to see if I could get your help for some future episodes. This 10-part series is focused on lettuce, and it wouldn't have been possible without the help of Farmer Ray Tyler. Here's where you come in. Is there a future topic that you wanna hear about, a mini-series?

[00:24:57] And if so, who would be a great presenter for that series? Secondly, would you be interested in participating in helping to create a future mini-series for this show? If you have one area of expertise when it comes to market farming: marketing, soils, crop rotation, tomatoes, you name it, and you wanna participate in a future show, hit me up: diego@paperpot.co.

[00:25:26] Shows like this, series like this, are only possible through the generosity of the farming community. Ray put a lot of time into the series, and it will end up benefiting hundreds, and if not thousands, of farmers. If you wanna make that same impact and pay it forward to your peers, hit me up: diego@paperpot.co.

[00:25:58] Now let's jump right back into the episode, Ray Tyler on Marketing Lettuce.

[00:26:04] What do you say to the person who squawks on price? They�re like, Ray, you're the most expensive one here.

[00:26:09] Ray Tyler: I do get that, but it's okay �cause they have no idea, no clue what it took for me to build up my business the way it is and how much it costs a day.

[00:26:22] So that person has no clue. It's like, you show up on a winter day in Franklin, me and my girls woke up at 2:00 AM. We load the trailer, we drive two and a half hours. A guy comes and says, did you harvest this morning before you left? And we say no. And he walks away. He's not my customer. He has no idea that it took us a few days to get this harvested.

[00:26:48] Like they're just so outta tune. Yeah. There's probably one or two people out of 400 customers a Saturday that says y'all's surprises are insane. But we're actually, so like when we started, prices of our salad mix was $10 a pound. That's what everyone else was selling their conventional, pesticide, normal produce was.

[00:27:11] So we were at the same level. I don't wanna be cheaper. I wanted to be at, and that was a $2 price increase �cause I was charging $8 a pound previously. So I think it's more of like kind of understanding, and this is why it's okay to be small. If I had 2000 pounds a week that I was trying to sell, there's no way I could sell that at this price point.

[00:27:34] So there is economies with scale, like how much are you wanting to sell, do you need to sell? And then all we did was sell at the one-pound bags for the first year or two until the demand got so where it's like, Hey, we're selling out early, this is becoming a problem. What if I take 10% of the one bags, and split into the third pound bags and see what would happen?

[00:27:55] And a lot of people actually like that, Hey, I would rather spend a little bit of extra on the units so I'm not gonna waste it. And it's cheaper. Five is less than 10. So it's a�it's a mind game. You're trying to play to people's psychology, whether they know it or not. Right. So people feel better about themselves if they spend less money.

[00:28:21] This is where this�if you think about the stir fry. Folks stir fry, so they gotta buy a bunch of each. They gotta buy a bunch of celery. Even though they only need one or two, they gotta buy a bunch of chard, even though they only need one stem. They gotta buy a bunch of scallions. Before, they spent 40 bucks, and they're gonna throw half of it away.

[00:28:44] Sell it into a $10 bag. Yeah, they're paying in the same amount of money per pound if you wanna break it down, but in their mind they're like, I spent 10 bucks. I only bought what I need. There's a recipe QR code on there. It tells me exactly what to do with it. I'm gonna have zero waste. We're gonna have a great meal that was grown by a certified small family farm in Tennessee with no waste. Sold. I'll take four.

[00:29:14] Diego Footer: Yeah, I think it's brilliant. I could be wrong on this, but I don't think the value shopper is the person at the farmer's market. Obviously, some people at the farmer's market are price conscious, but if somebody really wants to save, they're going to whatever, Walmart or Aldi or something like that. They're not at the farmer's market to start.

[00:29:31] And people get hooked on this. Let's just say people get hooked on this price per pound, but if you think about it, $10 per pound for lettuce. All right? If you change it to nine, is that $1 gonna convert a non-buyer to a buyer? If you go to eight, is that gonna convert it? No, you probably gotta go down to�somebody thinks it's expensive.

[00:29:48] You have 10 to five, right? So you're so far off to begin with. You might as well leave it at 10. And be on the high side because either somebody's gonna buy it and hit, or they're not. And if they're not, you'd have to go way lower. And that's probably below your cost. So, there is a lot of this playing around.

[00:30:09] I think people have to be conscious of what their costs are, as I said before, what their market prices are. And then I'm with you. I think you price at the higher end and let the market dictate. If you were left with 90% of your stuff at the end of the day, maybe you're too high for your market or something else is dramatically wrong.

[00:30:32] Ray Tyler: Or maybe you had the wrong packaging.

[00:30:34] Diego Footer: There you go now, right?

[00:30:36] Ray Tyler: So again, this goes to head lettuce. It wasn't �cause my price was too high. It was �cause I had the wrong package. So I added�so I raised the price and sold a lot more by raising the price and giving them a different package that they go. Okay, that's what this is. Also with the package, it did help the lettuce from wilting in our really hot summer days.

[00:31:02] So here is my one principle I look at sales. Sales is warfare. If you're not going to war every single day with sales, you're gonna be outta business �cause there's someone out there who's going to war. I guarantee you. And war is a lot of it is internally, it's okay, how being on your toes, not complacent, being creative, looking ahead of, okay, inflation's coming.

[00:31:29] All right. How do I navigate this without projecting more pain on my customers? Can my customers handle it? Can they not handle it? Am I at the right market? I wish I would've had this market 10 years ago. It took me a long time to be able to get�even when I found this market, it took a year or two to build that trust with my customers.

[00:31:53] A lot of folks want instant success and just, it just doesn't happen that way. We've been grinding at this for a very long time, and it took us two years of grinding at this mark that we're at now before there was any sense of hope of, I almost stopped, but I saw that these little changes I was making was having big effects.

[00:32:14] So it's just a matter of a time game. Okay. I just need, I need for these other growers to not have lettuce for a few months, which ended up happening. And then I just, that's another thing, like if you're consistent, reliable, and you go with another market with other producers who have lettuce, some of it's who is the most consistent, who shows up and who has it week after week, and we won that game. So it's just simply more of, you show up long enough, it'll happen.

[00:32:49] Diego Footer: I think that's an understated point. You're at this for 10 years. You didn't just figure this all out two weeks after you started. So a lot of these things that you've discovered, tried, there's a massive amount of time in trials that have gone into this.

[00:33:04] So if somebody's just starting, lots of failure, likely starting from a much lower experience level. Less sales. It�s a process here of grinding it out.

[00:33:14] Ray Tyler: And this is not just for farming, right. I have quite a few business friends. They have to have the same mindset. Their business, whether they have a gym or they have a painting business or a construction business. I hear a lot of the similar things that they complain about that farmers do. We're not this unusual, rare outlier. It's pretty normal, I think.

[00:33:38] Diego Footer: I'm with you. Totally agree. This is anything, any business. It's, how do I sell it? What are my costs? I need to make money, and if I'm not selling it well, what can I do to change it? The product. The packaging, like you said, the message. Maybe it's the message. The story. You're not getting the story in the right way.

[00:33:56] Ray Tyler: Story, a hundred percent. Or the right people. I've had people at the market that were just grumpy and just not nice, not happy. And I'll get that said, Hey man, you have that lady you had working for you, man. She was not good. Not nice.

[00:34:15] One thing I wanted to add before we kind of slip away is the one thing I've looked at, and you're right, so you touched on wholesale, which honestly is a fantastic way to get started because if you can get a restaurant that will take 50 pounds of salad mix or five cases of romaine each week, that's a really good way to get your teeth cut in on this.

[00:34:47] But once you go to a market or any kind of store, I think any grocery store will tell you it's like it's easier to sell more product to an existing customer to get another customer. So I've been, what I've been doing is go, okay, we have 400 customers in the morning.

[00:35:07] How can I get them? And I use Square, this is a software app for collecting data and credit cards and all that stuff so I can see how many customers I have and how much money each one spent on average. And so, every year, I'm trying to increase that. Now ,a lot of these folks are only gonna buy a third pound of salad mix a week. That's it.

[00:35:34] I can't get 'em to buy more. But if I have a pre-made salad that I put some time into, or salad in a jar, like we've started doing this about a month ago, so we have these little mason jars filled with salad. It's got like the dressing in the bottom. It's done in a certified kitchen, and it's got, has roasted chickpeas in there and pomegranate and microgreens and some kale.

[00:36:04] And we set up for 15 bucks has like an altitude of greens and that's going insane. In the summertime when we make garden salads, people who will not buy our salad mix would buy five to six of these pre-made garden salads from 15 bucks a piece. Every single week. Salad dressings. So if you're in the business of salads, upsell them a salad dressing.

[00:36:36] We put on a salad dressing label. Elevate your salads. We're already buying it for a salad anyways. Upsell them with products. So when you get to the point where you feel like you're plateaued, okay, I can only grow so much salad mix. Now it's more of like, How can you increase value for yourself as a grower in terms of money here, and how can you add value to your customer?

[00:37:05] So what I'm noticing more and more, as I talk to people, is goes, I just, I love y'all stuff. I just don't know how to cook it, and I don't have the time cause this and that. Is it possible that you could pay a chef who has a small kitchen, certified kitchen, and on the side, could he take your raw product and turn that into a value added product that you then take to the market?

[00:37:30] Every state laws is gonna be different, but what we found is that people's pain point right now is the lack of time. And if they go and source all these ingredients from the market or the store, then they're gonna have some waste involved. And so, they would just assume, pay you to pre-make them salads, organic. They know where it came from, they feel good about it.

[00:38:03] And that has really helped save this from trying to go to a different market. So like last year, I was gonna go to a second market cause I needed one. This year I decided, hey, let's need some value outta stuff. Let's experiment with that. And that really paid off very well this past season and the people love it.

[00:38:22] Diego Footer: Like Trader Joe's, the section of pre-made salads is bigger than the section of just loose�

[00:38:29] Ray Tyler: It's insane, Diego. It is ridiculous. Listen. I think this is the next thing that farmers need to be thinking about: how can I make this happen? Right? And there's some, you don't have to be the one making the salad.

[00:38:46] Because I sure don't wanna make the salad, but I wouldn't mind getting paid $25 a pound in salad mix by simply going through some extra steps to making this happen. And the customers will love you for it. And while they're in line, they'll be like, you know what? I'll just grab 'em. One of these, maybe I'll have time to cook this. Maybe I won't.

[00:39:05] So I really see this kind of being the next level for growers is if you have a product and you're on a half-acre, like what you said, if a grower has a half-acre, and they're doing some various vegetables, what would happen if they partnered with a small business chef just getting started. He has the space, it's certified, he has the knowledge.

[00:39:33] And what if you partner with him and have him help you develop some items that you can now sell at your market. Now, all of a sudden, you will get a whole nother kind of level of client. We did these party veggie�these party trays, sliced turnips, radishes, celery, carrots with some ranch, 20 bucks, has $5 worth of produce in there.

[00:40:01] Some time you can really�and people love those things. So Saturday, they're looking for something to bring to their party and have something to�a story to tell where this came from. It tastes great. It's good. Now all of a sudden, you're getting people coming by every single Saturday that you never saw before, and they're telling their friends, this is the next thing where I think instead of growing more, we can really think about how do we add value to our farm and to our clients.

[00:40:36] And so I think this is what I'm really thinking about now is I'm looking at, if I wanna be at a farmer's market or have an on-farm store, you need to have as much things as possible. That's the game that we're gonna have to start playing. The more years of experience you have, the easier this becomes.

[00:40:58] Especially if you can bring on a team, and they can do these things like seeding and planting and harvesting, like those are easy tasks to do. And then you can start thinking long term of, Hey, is it possible to have a million dollar farm on one acre? Yeah, I think it's possible, but you're gonna have to get really creative about how and who are you gonna sell to and what kind of value can you bring to the table.

[00:41:26] I think once you open up your mind to the possibilities to other folks helping, it's pretty exciting. So I'm more excited about agriculture than I've ever been before �cause the opportunities aren't insane. Like we started bringing, we brought a pepper roaster to the market on every market will let you do this, ours did.

[00:41:49] And we were, my boy was roasting peppers. Other kids wanted to like turn the crank. And those things will just bring people, like people are looking for an experience. So you can either do that by going to a market or having that on your farm, either case, if you give people an experience, a taste of who you are, what you've done, what you're doing, and have this thing they've never seen before, people will show up every single week. They'll show up.

[00:42:23] But it won't happen in your first year. And so I think this is where knowing your options, knowing where you wanna be and just�this is why having consistent production is so important �cause if you don't have that consistency, you won't have the mental space to be creative and think about what's possible.

[00:42:43] Diego Footer: Yeah. That really brings us full circle, the Farmer's Guide to Growing Organic Lettuce, and we started out defining that. Why do you wanna do this? Where do you wanna go? And if you want a farm that produces a lot of revenue, and I don't think people necessarily want that just because, Hey, I wanna make a bunch.

[00:43:01] It's, that can provide for a bunch of people. You and employees. So, inherently, like that's just how the math works. This is one way to get there. And it's sequentially building. Get consistent production. Get a quality product. Build a customer base, and then you end up where we're at like where you can get cutesy and you really look to optimize and dial it up even more.

[00:43:22] But none of it works if you can't grow it week after week, your book helps with that. You have the lettuce masterclass. For people that wanna know more about the class, tell 'em a little bit about it and where they can go.

[00:43:45] Ray Tyler: If you go to Small Farms, Big Change, which is my educational company, really passionate about helping small farms make massive change like what we've talked about in this series here, and you go there and you can take this, lettuce masterclass course. This is something that I am confident. If you know why you want to do this, you take this thing and you can take action and do it and put these principles in place, it'll pay back 50fold.

[00:44:23] This is a very, very comprehensive, no stone unturned. One thing about this course is that once you've mastered one crop like this, you can apply the same principles that I outlined in this course towards other crops. And again, once you get an understanding of what consistent success feels and looks like, it's a lot easier to have a lot more success later on down the road.

[00:44:51] So this is really, it's a practical�the reason why it's not a farm course is because if you focus on the whole farm, it can get overwhelming. I do have a whole farm course, but I really believe, from my own experience, that if you focus on one crop, master production and sales, it will make farming much easier in the future.

[00:45:15] Diego Footer: Yeah, so people again can check that out. SmallFarmsBigChange.com. You can get the book there. I'll also link to it below. And I wanna thank you, Ray, for taking the time to do this whole series. Been amazing.

[00:45:28] Ray Tyler: This has been a blast, Diego. Always great to talk to you.

[00:45:33] Diego Footer: There you have it, episode 10, marketing lettuce. That concludes our 10-part series on lettuce. What did you think about it? I would love to get your feedback. You can hit me up two different ways. You can shoot me an email, Diego@paperpot.co, or on Instagram @DiegoFooter. I really, really would love to know what you thought about this 10-part series.

[00:46:03] This series took a lot of work, not both just from me, but also from Ray. If it was helpful, it would really make a difference if you let us know how helpful it was. Because sometimes, you know, you make these things and you're not quite sure what people think about 'em. So what did you think about it? Did you benefit from this series?

[00:46:27] Another thing I want to ask is, is there another crop or subject that you'd like to do a deep dive into, 10 parts or five part series into one specific topic? Maybe it's something like tools or no-till or tomatoes. If there's a subject you wanna take a deep dive into, let me know. But one other thing, suggest who would be a great person to talk about that topic.

[00:46:53] It's one thing to say, Hey, I wanna learn about tomatoes, but who's the tomato person you want to talk about? And maybe that person is you. So, if you are somebody who has a deep area of expertise on one particular subject when it comes to market farming and you wanna do an in-depth mini-series just like this, let me know. Diego@paperpot.co.

[00:47:21] That's all for this one. I really, really hope you enjoyed it. If you did and you benefited, share it with a friend. Leave a review on iTunes and stay tuned for more episodes of Farm Small Farm Smart coming up same place every week. Thanks for listening. Until next time, be nice. Be thankful, and do the work.

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