[Market-farming] RE: selling tomatoes/prices

road's end farm organic101 at linkny.com
Sun May 8 10:56:14 EDT 2005

On May 4, 2005, at 12:19 AM, Stephanie Nosacek wrote:

> Instead of selling plants at the farmers/flea market I decided to try 
> growing produce to sell. Since most of what I will have are a variety 
> of different tomatoes and there are a lot of canners around and a ton 
> of bell peppers i thought I might either sell them off the truck 
> (which is done quite successfully here) or sell them wholesale to the 
> farmers market stand.
> Either way, how do you price your stuff? Do you price it according to 
> market prices from USDA or just what the market will bear? I figure on 
> offering 1/2 bushel boxes of tomatoes for canners and those little 
> square boxes for the salad tomatoes and slicers. On the little boxes, 
> I'll display them in the box and put them in the bag and keep the box 
> unless the customer makes a deal out of it.

USDA market prices, if you mean the ones I think, are wholesale 
large-scale market and run lower than you should be getting retail; 
though it's useful to know what they are. Look around and see what 
tomatoes go for retail in your area, including both other marketers and 
the grocery stores. (You may well see a huge range, depending on the 
type of pack, even in the same grocery.) Consider what your packaging 
is like both in type and quantity (as well as quality: are you selling 
firsts only, or also "canning quality" with some blemishes?). Consider 
that you're probably providing fresher product than the groceries. 
Local produce is beginning to be a selling point in itself, as indeed 
it should be. Also, do you have interesting varieties with more flavor?

In general, don't start your prices too low; you'll be doing neither 
yourself nor other growers any favors. Bear in mind that you can always 
lower prices later in the day or season, but you can't easily raise 
them midseason; also that it's possible to lose money selling more 
product too cheap, when you could have made money selling less product 
at a fair price. -- Remember, however, that you need to know where you 
are. What you can get in, for instance, downtown Manhattan isn't what 
you can get in Yates County. But more expensive markets often cost more 
to sell at, and depending where you are can cost you a lot more in both 
time and money to get to.

There's a really good article on this, as well as other subjects, 
available at:
Click on the link for the free special issue about selling at farmer's 

If you sell them wholesale to other people's farmers' market stands, 
you're going to get a percentage of what they can sell them for. Ask 
them what their usual markup is. Again, if you're providing better 
quality than other possible sources, you should get paid more for it; 
as they can charge more, and as they should have less waste. But 
(whether direct or wholesale) you really do need the better quality to 
charge the extra price.

> Does anybody ever sell green tomatoes for slicing? Do you charge more 
> or the same?

I sell some; not lots, but a few customers like them. They want nice 
big ones, usually, for sliced fried green tomatoes; some people want 
them for green tomato relish, too. They should be close to mature. I 
price them a little bit less than the same quantity of red ones, but 
not much less; you know they won't be lost in the last ripening stages 
to insects, deer, or whatever, and by removing them from the plant 
early you increase its ability to ripen others; but you've still got 
almost the same amount of work in them, and you're losing the chance to 
sell those particular ones as ripe ones.

-- Rivka; Finger Lakes NY, Zone 5 mostly
Fresh-market organic produce, small scale

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