What is in this article?:
- Farmers learning lessons in value-added fruit production
- Unique marketing approach
• Growers have learned another lesson in recent years: Don't assume a by-product has no value.
A SELLING STATION at a large farmers' market, like this one in Raleigh, N.C., can offer many more consumers than a stand in the country.
Greg Hyman learned a lesson about direct marketing farm products in the last few years: If the consumer won't come to you, you'd better go to the consumer.
Hyman has a muscadine vineyard near Conway, S.C., and he tried for several years to sell value-added products at a farm store, along with agritourism activities like weddings and special events.
There was one major problem: a shortage of customers.
“The location is just too remote, and we weren't getting a lot of traffic,” said Hyman. “Our efforts to bring people just weren't getting the job done.”
So he took a bold step three years ago — he decided to start selling some of his products at the Pee Dee state farmers market in Florence, about 50 miles away. He obtained a stand in the farmers' area and had immediate success, selling both fruit and wine, but also value-added products.
It is a long commute, but Hyman said it's worth it. “We have to drive an hour each way, and there is a definite cost to doing that,” he said. “There are other increased costs too. But we feel we more than offset it by the increased customer traffic that has led to increased business.”
The farmers market — halfway between Florence and Darlington — is situated on one major traffic artery, U.S. Hwy. 52, and is one and half miles from Interstate-95 and three miles from Interstate-20.
Having that much vehicular traffic predisposes the market to heavy foot traffic, and Hyman said that really contrasts with the shortage of visitors he had back in Conway.
Muscadine growers have learned another lesson in recent years: Don't assume a by-product has no value.
When muscadine grapes are pressed for juice to make wine, the residue of skin, pulp, and seedsthat is left over is called pomace.
Traditionally, pomace has been considered a waste product that had to be disposed of.
It accounts for most of the fruit, and for all practical purposes, it had no value.
But that has changed. In what has to be an inspiration to any farmers trying to make a go of it in the Southern fruit and vegetable industry, the pendulum for pomace has swung in the other direction.
Thanks to some imaginative manufacturers, a number of exciting new products have emerged in recent years that have turned pomace into a product that adds value above and beyond the juice of the grape itself.
MotherVine Neutraceuticals in Manteo, N.C., is one of those companies. It started with a 100 percent whole grape dietary supplement, made by grinding the pomace into a fine powder and inserting it in a vegetarian capsule.