Before you go about studying specific market opportunities in your area and making contact with potential buyers, you should have a clear idea of what’s required when scaling up to wholesale and whether it aligns with the overall direction you want to take your farm.
Like any major change you’re considering, you should make the decision to enter wholesale markets in the context of a broader business plan and an assessment of both your current financial situation and the one you anticipate should you scale up. If you haven’t done so already, start by defining your vision and mission as they relate to your farm, and identify your goals as they relate to you personally, your family, your finances, your community and your land.
A formalized vision, mission and goals provide a framework in order to keep your business in scope and to understand what’s realistically achievable. A vision, mission and goals provide guidance when making business decisions and help you make decisions that will positively impact you, your family, employees, partners and customers. Wholesale marketing will most likely change your operation and some aspects of your lifestyle. Do these expected changes align with your goals, and are relevant family members on board? A mission and vision also provide the basis of your marketing and branding efforts, helping you “tell your story” in a way that resonates with food buyers.
Goals should be “SMART”: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Having a clear sense of direction helps assess your options and manage both the risk and stress that can come with major changes. As you go further in your exploration of scaling up, make sure you’re convinced that the associated benefits of doing so will help you achieve your goals. If the risks, costs and potential drawbacks seem too daunting, maybe it’s not the right fit.
If you’re unsure of your current financial position, discuss your concerns with an accountant or an Extension specialist, and consult with a lawyer whenever contracts are involved. Many tools exist to help you with the financial planning you’ll need to conduct in order to understand whether a significant change to your operation will result in enough income to cover your new costs.
State Extension offices provide experts and educational resources that can help you with business, finance and market planning. SARE’s Building a Sustainable Business (www.sare.org/business) provides step-by-step guidance on creating a business plan that can help you assess new opportunities. Also, many business planning organizations exist that specialize in assisting farm businesses.