Farmer's Market Wisdom

Thanks to Seth Godin for writing about the farmer's market. I've started many a blog post about lesson's learned at the farmer's market, but, for some reason, never published my thoughts. Now I feel empowered!

My wife and I go to the North Carolina Farmer's Market in Raleigh just about every weekend. We buy fruits, veggies, and plants and spend our weekend eating well and tending to our gardens.

Thing is - we have both a produce stand and a nursery within one mile of our home. The people there are nice, the prices are reasonable, and they sell more or less the same produce that we buy in Raleigh. So why do we drive 20 miles down the interstate for our green beans and coreopsis?

Because of the lovely farmers from Johnston County that sell me their corn, peaches, strawberries, and whatever else. (Spoken in my best Southern accent - "Ya'll want some corn? Hand-pulled this morning from Johnston County!")

There is something elemental and timeless about buying corn from the farmer that sowed it in his fields, cultivated it, harvested it, and then loaded it into his truck and drove it to the market in Raleigh.

Yes - the produce is fresh, delicious, and usually pretty cheap. For Kelly and me, however, it is the authenticity of the exchange that attracts us to Raleigh every weekend. No slick sales pitches. No elaborate distribution channels. Just real people trying to make a buck.

I share an odd sense of similarity with these folks because of my sales experience at Bronto. I was with the company early enough to feel as though I had helped cultivate the fields, harvest the crop, and take it to market.

Like the Johnston County farmers, we had a home grown "product", a handful of customers, and a few employees. Given the size of our operation and my familiarity with everything that was going on around me, it was easy to convey authenticity with a sales pitch strangely similar to those that we hear in Raleigh on Saturdays:

  • "home grown"

  • "organically grown"

  • "Tell your friends about us!"

  • "We added this new feature today! We're adding this feature tomorrow!"

  • "Ya'll come back!" (Yes - sometimes I'd pull out the Gaston County charm if I thought the angle would help me hook a fellow Southerner.)

Simpler times, of course. Now were a larger company - still an "organic" company with a home grown application, but with many more customers and employees.

Do we carry the same authenticity of the past? Of course - even though it gets harder to do as our company and customer list grows.

How do we insure that this authenticity continues? By insuring that everyone has an intimate understanding of and a personal investment in the product that they're selling, supporting, developing, or marketing. Everyone needs to harvest the corn from time to time.