A guide to direct farm sales


11 August 2022
Special ‘On-Farm Processing and Marketing’ guide for potato growers.

ORGANISER of PotatoEurope 2022, DLG (German Agricultural Society), is putting the topic of direct farm sales into focus with with a special feature ‘On-Farm Processing and Marketing’.

The technical programme will be covering essential know-how for selling produce directly from the farm: Storage, cleaning, packaging, further processing and marketing. Innovative ideas for selling and marketing the farm’s own potatoes will be presented along with tips on branding and advertising. The 2022 special feature has already attracted numerous companies ready to present their farm solutions, from sorting and cleaning technology, packaging and processing technology to vending machines and online sales platforms.

“Once again, the last two years have shown how sales channels and markets can change as a result of external influences. It’s all the more important for potato growers to maintain control of partial areas of its marketing. For instance, many farms have chosen to sell directly to consumers and have been professionalising this sales channel for years and even decades. Solutions range from simple potato crates on the farm to highly specialised business segments that further process potatoes on the premises and get them onto the market either directly or via regional food retailers,” explains Dr Wilfried Wolf, PotatoEurope 2022 Project Manager.


Direct farm sales offer significant advantages

“Not only have direct farm sales played a traditional role for many years, but they also offer many farms significant advantages. Consumers would like alternatives to the anonymous origins of products and buy directly from the producer because they trust in the products and, moreover, the topics of 'health and nutrition' are assuming an increasingly important role in their lives. However, a change in the way that restaurant owners and food retailers are thinking is also becoming apparent. We are committed to securing farms’ income by means of regional marketing. We are also aiming to strengthen rural areas and enable local supply in the long run,” explains Julia Klöpper, Vereinigung Norddeutscher Direktvermarkter e. V. (VND) Branch Manager, the German organization representing farms engaged in farm retailing.


Farmers to explain how they got started with direct farm sales

DLG’s special feature at PotatoEurope 2022 will act as a face-to-face venue for expert dialogue among farmers engaged in farm retailing. The VND’s member farms will be on hand to provide interested visitors with advice.

Sina Severloh, a farm retailer from Celle and VND committee member, is ready to share her practical experience, including how she became involved in direct farm sales and how demand helped her grow the business.


Local enquiries lead to potato farm shop

“Potatoes have been part of the farm’s crop rotation for a number of decades. Around 25 years ago, in response to enquiries from the locals in the nearby villages, we began to sell potatoes to consumers directly on the farm in containers of various sizes. Demand gradually increased and selling took on the form of a self-service stall,” says Severloh.

“Later on, Instead of just selling one variety, we started to cultivate three varieties of potatoes. Around 15 years ago, we started to keep laying hens, selling their eggs from the farm shop. Over the years, what started with 50 hens and ‘a few rows of potatoes’ has transformed into three hectares of potatoes with over eight varieties and 1,200 laying hens, says Serverloh.

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More products added but potatoes perform best

In 2012, part of one building was converted into a farm shop. Since then, the range of self-produced products has been extended and placed on a professional footing. Direct farm sales have therefore become a separate source of income for the farm – and it has all developed solely from potatoes, which still make up a large share of  the farm’s retail turnover.

 “Value added is highest with direct farm sales. A whole separate source of income is maintained through this in combination with other products – including our own. Potatoes have always been the farm’s flagship, particularly because the other operational requirements such as technology, storage, irrigation, suitable soils and know-how had already been part of the farm for a long while,“ she adds.

“The investment threshold was therefore very low, and our direct farm sales didn’t develop over night, but was adapted according to demand. Potatoes are still one of the main reasons why customers come to our farm. We often benefit from them buying additional products in the farm shop as a result. The farm has therefore been able to grow thanks to potatoes and has been able to develop a stable business focus in farm retailing and the related products that we produce ourselves,” she comments.

“So far, cultivation and marketing have remained stable. So we’re hoping that ‘simply’ marketing potatoes as table potatoes in containers of various sizes will remain an important part of the farm," she adds.

Growing demand for processed potatoes in restaurant trade 

Restaurant owners often contact Severloh’s farm to enquire about the possible supply of whole peeled potatoes.

“However, so far, the hygiene requirements have been too extensive and complicated for us to implement. Otherwise, we’re thinking about attempting to integrate potatoes into the farm shop as processed products in the form of soups, salads for example,” she concludes.

An online shop supports the farm’s retail business with an order service offering crates of vegetables and other produce that is then packaged for collection with little or no direct contact.

More success stories and practical tips on getting the farm shop off to a good start await interested visitors at the DLG-Special ‘On-Farm Processing and Marketing’, tent hall Z, stand A24.

View details of PotatoEurope and other forthcoming events here.