Start Farming: Finding Our Customers

Ultimately, good sales is about listening and solving problems for our customers and, like everyone else, our customers have problems.
Start Farming: Finding Our Customers - News


Home sales in Lehigh County, PA from

Some retail farm markets would like everyone to be their customer, but that is not likely or even practical. Even grocery stores know the community they serve and stock their shelves accordingly. Retail stores use demographic information to determine what inventory to stock their stores with and retail farm markets can use it as well. We need to know who our customer is so we can make sure we are producing the products they want. There are some tools we can use to determine just who those potential customers are in the community we are trying to serve.

Demographic is “The characteristics of human populations and population segments, especially when used to identify consumer markets." Demographic information will help you understand the makeup of the community. We need to know their age, income, ethnicity, and household information to help us determine what they might buy.

There are online tools we can use such as the U.S. Census, Nielsen has some demographic information, and are easy to understand and get around on. You can drill down to individual towns by zip code. In this example, I’ll use the county where I work, Lehigh County, PA.

This county is 71.6% white non-Hispanic and 18.8% Hispanic or Latino. The mean resident age is 39 and 51.6% female. The average number of people in a household is 2, and the average value of a house is $196,800. 92% of the population of the county is urban and 8% rural. The median household income is $56,452. In the last month, 76% of residents said they had exercised, and 98% drank alcohol.

The food environment for the county has 64 grocery stores and three supercenters. There are 116 convenience stores and 253 restaurants. One-quarter of the population work in the healthcare industry.

So what is all this telling us? The population is made up of mostly white generation Xers with a middle-class income close to the national average. There are plenty of places to buy food so what will make us different or stand out from the usual offerings? What aren’t they finding in those 64 grocery stores? Is it a unique product(s)? This generation along with the millennial generation is also looking for an experience when they shop. Does adding some agritourism to our retail business like hay rides or pumpkin patch meet that need? The average number of people in the household is two so maybe not family entertainment. It might be events like farm-to-table.

Now that we know a little something about our community, we need to know where they get their information so we can reach them. Given that the mean age is 39, chances are they gather their news online and through social media so we will need someone within our organization with those skills.

Paying attention to the demographics of our community and how they might be changing means we can adapt our business to meet the needs of our neighbors and provide them with the food they will want to buy. If we continue to guess at what the public wants or just do what we’ve always done, we risk becoming irrelevant and quickly become nostalgic.