Truck farming refers to the traditional practice of hauling produce and other farm products to a local market and selling directly to consumers without any help from retail markets or middlemen. And today, truck farming is more popular than ever. The growing consumer awareness of the value of organic or chemical-free produce and the benefits of eating locally produced foods have triggered an explosion of farmers markets around the country. Opportunities now exist for farms of all sizes to compete on a level playing field for quality-minded customers.
Launching a Truck Farming Business
Investigate the farmers markets in your area. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 6,132 farmers were operating throughout the U.S. in 2010. The agency has an online directory of markets that users can search by region. However, not all farmers markets are created equal, and it’s a good idea to visit a market while it’s up and running to see if it’s a good fit. Some markets are casual collections of outdoor tables, others are tightly organized operations with specific themes and goals and others are weekly community festivals with music and kids’ games.
Choose three or four markets and review the schedules, rules and eligibility requirements. Many farmers markets set up shop once a week. Vendors usually sell their products at several different markets, so some scheduling is needed. Some markets emphasize the local in locally grown, and vendors are required to raise their products within 25 to 40 miles of the market. Other markets are open to producers only, which means vendors must grow whatever they sell while other markets allow carrying, or selling other fresh products from a variety of regional growers.
Create a truck farming business plan. Farmers markets feature different fruits and vegetables as they are harvested throughout the season. Estimate how much a truck farming operation will harvest each week throughout the summer and fall, and how much can be offered for sale at each market. Some markets have operating expenses such as membership or vendors fees, required liability insurance and utility fees for vendors that require refrigeration for their products. Balance any expenses against the potential earning from sale to decide if a particular farmers market is a good match.
Check the USDA’s website for its “Know your Farmer, Know your Food” initiative. Many farmers markets showcase artisanal or niche farms that raise specialty products such as heirloom tomatoes grown for generations in one spot, highly nutritious elderberries or herbs with specific health benefits. The USDA is now rolling out education programs on growing new products to meet consumer demand. The agency is also offering a wide range of grants for new equipment and technology as well as financial assistance programs to purchase new farmland.