Tuesday, March 17, 2009

No Right Answers?

The hardest part about running your own business (in this case - our CSA/veg farm) is the simple fact that there is no guarantee that your choices are going to be the best choices. And, with a young(ish) business, there is no history to fall back on in order to inform those choices. Of course, you can do alot of reading, look at various models and crunch a bunch of numbers. But, when it comes down to the final decisions you make, there is still a good deal of trepidation as to whether or not the course of action that was chosen will work.

For example, we made a choice last spring to planfully grow up more than twice as many tomato and pepper seedlings as we would need for our own production. In the past, we would grow extra plants as a buffer in case something failed. As a result, we would sell extra plants at farmers' market. But, this was more a case of trying to make something out of an asset we had in hand and weren't going to use.

Last year's choice was to actually grow extra plants with the expressed purpose of selling them. Our niche is in the heirloom/open pollinated plants - so we weren't trying to nose into a filled market for our area. People who had used our plants in the past seemed to like them. So... We gave it a try - and found that we did well enough. In fact, plant sales were part of the reason last year wasn't a big bust for farmers' markets in general (that's another story - see last year's weather pattern to learn more).

So, of course, we are going to continue with the plant sales. Here's the problem. Do we stay the course with the same (or similar) number of plants? Do we try to expand the numbers of plants we did? Or do we expand into other types of plants (broccoli, for example?). Do we take pre-orders in an effort to find out what the demand is so we can respond to it while there is still time to start them? Do the prices stay the same as last year? Will these questions ever cease?

The answers, in order, appear to be: probably, probably not, we'll try a sampling, we'll dabble in this idea, probably and no.

How's that for definitive? Ok, I'm working on it.

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