December 1994 // Volume 32 // Number 4 // Tools of the Trade // 4TOT3

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"Sell What You Sow!"

"Sell What You Sow! The Growers Guide to Successful Produce Marketing," is a very informative book appropriate for helping farms or gardening enthusiasts choose better produce varieties, be award of regulatory conditions, pricing, and diversifying. The book offers a wealth of knowledge to achieve greater marketing ability by listing addresses for services, suppliers, books, periodicals, associations, conferences, and databanks. It also offers tips on post harvest technology, selling to restaurants and retail markets, mail order, subscription selling, and more.

Craig Kolodge, Ph.D.
Farm Advisor/County Director
Cooperative Extension
University of California
Santa Clara County
San Jose, California

Eric Gibson. "Sell What You Sow! The Grower's Guide to Successful Produce Marketing". 1994. New World Publishing, 3701 Clair Drive, Carmichael, California 95608, phone 916-944-7932. 304 pp., $22.50 + $2.50 shipping.

To compete successfully in today's markets, knowledge is a necessity. A farmer who grows perfect produce may not be able to sell that produce as well as another farmer, who may not have a perfect specimen, but has gone to the trouble of learning the origin, nutritional aspects, recipes, preparation, and a wide spectrum of tips that help customers select and enjoy their purchases. A tomato is not just a tomato anymore. There are heirloom tomatoes, paste tomatoes, stuffing, slicing, and juice tomatoes. The next generation of successful farmers will have to become successful marketers.

Whether you're new to farming or looking for ways to diversify, this is a very informative book on marketing produce. "Sell What you Sow!" takes you from choosing crops, through rules and regulations, pricing, and adding value to the commodity. The resources section is worth the price of the book. It gives addresses for services, suppliers, books, periodicals, associations, conferences, and even databanks. If you have ever spent a day in the library trying to put together a list of names and addresses, you'll truly appreciate this source list.

For the farmer who has been direct marketing in pick-your- own operations and farmers' markets and is ready to move on, this book offers some terrific tips on getting started selling to restaurants and retail markets, mail order, subscription selling, and more.

Be sure to read the section on Produce and Handling. Many farmers who do a great job planting and harvesting really fall down in the area of post harvest technology. This section is a real eye opener. For example, carrots and celery should not be put in long term storage together. Ethylene produced from celery causes bitterness in carrots. This section contains information in easy to read charts on how produce should be stored.

Not all the information is presented in charts. Regarding proper storage for potatoes, Tom Willey encloses the following PID (Public Information Document) in each of his boxes of potatoes: "There's a lot of ugliness in this world that a potato's eyes were never meant to see. So keep these things in the dark, and you'll both rest easier."

In the next edition, it would be more informative to see sections like the Break-Even Analysis appear in a more workbook type form so growers could use their own numbers. This type of approach would work well in the farmers' market section in a market checklist.

In criticism of the book, Bud Kerr's surfer analogy in the introduction was a very poor one. Anyone who has lived with or around surfers knows they live only to follow the next wave; a vagabond type lifestyle. This contrasts with the life of the farmer, who must be grounded to one piece of land, tied to its fertility, its flaws, its seasons of harvest and loss.

As a farm advisor, I know that every farmer is a risk taker and a gambler. A late rain, an early frost, an over abundance of any certain crop can spell disaster for a farmer. I have seen too many farmers suffer loss, not because they were poor farmers, but because the one piece of the puzzle--nature itself--is always the one risk every farmer takes.