Where do we go from here? marketing

Taking the direct sales approach and diversifying products can have benefits and challenges.

By Gary Strachan D

uring the past 40 years I’ve seen a lot of changes in the wine industry. Forty years ago, 40 per cent of B.C. wineries (two wineries) were located in Greater Vancouver. The other three were in the Okanagan Valley. The rules changed a few years after that to allow “cottage” wineries, and the number of wineries doubled. About 30 years ago, the wine industry was expected to die when the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed, but when the provincial government responded under pressure to relax the licensing rules, the industry began growth toward the hundreds of small wineries that we have now. Always keep in mind that an industry can flourish or fail with the stroke of a pen, prosper or perish from press or politics.

The secret of growth for vineyard owners was permission to market directly, even though the farmer didn’t own a large vineyard. Any small vineyard owner with two acres or more of grapes could add value to his or her farm production by making wine and selling it to the public. Since then, winery regulations have been relaxed further to include farm-to-table sales of wine produced from other fruits, and from apiculture.

Are there other direct marketing opportunities still out there? It’s a gamble. For a fruit grower, the stereotypical image is the fruit stand at the end of the driveway. Perhaps it’s only a table with an “honour” cash box. The more aggressive marketers expand this idea to a full fruit market with a wide selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables for three seasons. In some areas the fruit and vegetable market can be operated year-round, especially with a stall in a farmers’ market, or subscribed neighbourhood delivery of seasonal produce hampers.

14 British Columbia Berry Grower • Summer 2017

Regional farmers’ markets that open on complementary days can extend selling to several days per week.

Regional farmers’ markets that open on complementary days can enable your selling days to be extended to several days per week.

Farm-to-table sales are more worthwhile if you can sell during times beyond the harvest of your main crop. Apples or onions are easy because they store so well, but the season is short for berries.

Strawberries have promise with everbearing varieties. Individually quick- frozen (IQF) fruits such as blueberries, blackberries or raspberries can be sold year-round if you throw a freezer into

the back of your pickup. Perhaps frozen berries could be complemented with preserves?

An area that is under-represented is freeze-dried fruit. Freeze-dried berries are stable at room temperature, rehydrate to a tasty, attractive product and are produced and packaged easily on a small scale.

Farm-to-table bears the caveat that it is dependent on direct marketing. To achieve repeat business you must establish a continuing bond between yourself and your customers. The customer must want to seek out

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