"Running a PYO is like a dance…”
- Adam Hausmann of Adam’s Berry Farm in Charlotte, VT, discussing how a Pick-Your-Own (PYO) farm is a balance of maintaining your farm’s health and the customer experience.
This is the second Morning Briefing article in our Agritourism series. Check out our previous posting on turning your farm or ranch into a wedding venue.
Dem apples. And who's pickin' 'em.
Last week we talked about using your operation for event venues. Our next agritourism venture is pick-your-own (PYO) operation.
A farm where customers pick, cut or hand-select their own produce out of the field. Also known as "U-Pick," "Cut-Your-Own" or "Choose-Your-Own." If you're looking for a direct marketing choice for your farm, this is a good one - especially for all you berry, tree fruit, pumpkin and Christmas trees producers out there.
What's the catch?
Like any production system, there are pros and cons.
Advantages of POY farms:
Reduced labor for harvest and handling
Lower equipment costs
Opportunity for larger transactions per customer
Potential to sell "ugly food"
Getting to meet new people
Disadvantages of POY farms may include:
Location accessibility if your farm is far from a city or highway
Increased marketing and advertising budgeting
Liability and other risks of having customers on the farm
Increased staff for customer supervision and service
Increased potential for crop damage from improper product handling due to inexperienced patrons
Having to talk to people, if that's not your thing
I want this. What's my next step?
Our Farmer Success Team has heard strong interest from farmers, both aspiring farmers and veterans alike, about the possibility of implementing a PYO-style business on their land.
Like any major change in your operation, if you're interested in starting a PYO, carefully examine your resources and the market situation. Spend some time planning for the management and operation of the enterprise by developing thorough written business and marketing plans.
This week’s checklist offers a few tips for those interested in establishing a PYO.
Promote your farm year-round and especially during harvest season. Consider:
✅ Word of mouth
✅ Road signs
✅ Paying your 15 year-old nephew to set up a website or Tik Tok for you
✅ Get listed in a directory of PYOs (sometimes published by state Cooperative Extension offices and Tourism Boards)
✅ Offering field trip opportunities to local schools (make sure they sign waivers!)
It may seem obvious, but carefully picking your PYO crop is key. After all, these plants are your money maker. Non-farming citizens are more likely to think of PYOs in the spring and fall, so early and late season crops might be best for you.* Here are some favorites:
✅ Spring and early summer crops: Strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blueberries
✅ Fall crops: Concord grapes, apples, pumpkins, squash
*Shoutout to Georgia for those gorgeous summer peaches and all you Christmas tree farmers for your winter work!
Let’s talk money! How do you know what to charge customers? How much money do you need to cover your costs, such as outside help? For your pricing model, do you want to charge...
✅ By volume ($X/basket) - The simplest method for calculating prices.
✅ By weight ($X/lb.) - Can eliminate the problem of containers being over-filled by overzealous consumers.
✅ By count ($X/item) - Better for larger items like pumpkins or Christmas trees. The price per item should be rounded to the nearest nickel or dime to make pricing easier for everyone. Don’t worry about nickel and diming your patrons.
At the bare minimum, your PYO must have a parking lot and an area for payment collection. A general rule for structuring your parking lot space is:
✅ 20 cars can fit at a 60-degree angle or 30 cars at a 90-degree angle in a 1000 square foot area. You might need to hire someone to direct traffic.
✅ The checkout stand is the center of all transactions (including parking fees if you want to charge that) and should be situated so that it can easily be seen and accessed from the parking lot.
Want to learn about implementing a PYO business on your farm? Check out this “A Farmer’s Guide to a Pick-You-Own Operation” guide.
PYOs often sell fruits and vegetables that are designated as "specialty crops."
FarmRaise Premium Members receive weekly funding alerts that give you deadline reminders for grants like the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. To receive funding alerts and gain access our full library of federal, state and private grants, consider Picking-Your-Own FarmRaise subscription and upgrading to our Premium Membership.
Wow! So many of you have taken the step to diversify your income through PYO business models.
Just like using your farm as wedding venue, "Pick Your Own" is another avenue our farmers use to generate revenue! We would love to hear more about the history of your Pick Your Own enterprise!
With July 4th on the horizon, we want to wish you and your family a happy and safe holiday!
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