Making a living from direct selling is key for profit. This is according to Liam Ryan, owner of Moyleabbey Organic Farm, who was speaking at today’s Organic Irish Farmers and Growers Association in Birr, Co Offaly.

Ryan explained key elements that work on his organic vegetable and fruit farm. He said he started growing fruit and vegetables in 2004, with the ambition of selling direct. Along with his wife he currently farms 13 acres in South Kildare.

He outlined the farm shop element of his business, which has been open since 2005 on Fridays between 1 and 7pm. “The shop makes up 20 per cent of the total direct sales of the business. It has taken many years to get people through the door. There are far quicker sales increases at farmers markets,” he explained in his presentation.

The South Kildare farmer also said time management was crucial to the producer, who can’t be selling all the time. He cited that a farm shop is a slow burner and good urban centres have the greatest potential.

He highlighted that farmers markets are a key part of their business and they have been attending them since 2005. He noted there are ups and downs to farmers markets and also there was a luck factor.

Ryan said there are numerous advantages including quick cash return, less packaging required and feedback, which is important for start-ups.

“We provide a very personal service. We are there to give advice and answer questions. A trusting face direct from producer to consumer, which is totally cut off in the supermarket situation.”

He also noted there are challenges in trading at farmers market. He said one of the most important is having wide and varied producers working together.

“With the weather it is important to have a good set-up. It suits a robust person, be they producer or grower,” Ryan said. “It is difficult to stop for three months say and start again. It’s important to keep customers and differentiate products. We found a need for a second full-time person to do additional markets.”

Ryan recommended key equipment for trading at farmers’ market, – a trailer, especially for outdoor markets, scales and a till.

He noted his company’s product mix is made up of: own produce 35 per cent; Irish produce 10 per cent; and European produce 55 per cent.

“We don’t buy-in produce from outside Europe apart from ginger and apples for June to August approximately.”

Ryan concluded by stating direct selling is a key element of the business accounting for 54 per cent on its income. “You don’t have to be original, just try to do a good job, enjoy life and promote health.”

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