U-Pick also called, Pick-Your-Own, and Cut or Choose-Your-Own operations allow consumers to visit the farm where a product is grown and go to the field to pick, cut or choose their own product.
There’s a certain allure to the outdoors and to farms in general, which explains, in part, why some want to visit local farms. Of course, the fresh produce is appealing, too.
“Berries, tree fruit, pumpkins and Christmas trees are commonly marketed using this method,” said Megan Leffew, marketing specialist with the University of Tennessee Center for Profitable Agriculture.
According to Leffew, advantages to U-Pick operations include reduced need for labor, lower equipment costs and the potential for selling larger quantities of product. “Tennessee producers have found inviting the consumer onto the farm to pick their own product can especially reduce labor costs,” said Leffew. Although farms will still need some workers to oversee customers and to pick fruit that may have been missed.
U-Pick can also help reduce or delay equipment costs. Some producers develop a U-Pick market in the early years of a perennial fruit crop to delay purchasing cold storage equipment until the plants have reached full-bearing age.
Disadvantages of U-Pick operations may include the need for an excellent location or superior advertising, liability risk of having customers on the farm, the need for customer supervision and the potential for crop damage. A location that is easily accessible is very important. “Many consumers value convenience, even when it comes to going out to pick fruit or pumpkins at a farm,” said Leffew.
Farm owners also may incur increased liability risk when customers visit the farm. U-Pick operators should consult with their insurance agent to determine if additional coverage is needed and learn more about Tennessee’s agritourism liability law. Leffew cited a practical example of how many pumpkin farmers manage potential liability risk – they cut the pumpkins from the vine prior to allowing customers into the field to choose their pumpkins.
For more information see UT Extension publication “Choosing Direct Marketing Channels for Agricultural Products” (PB1796). The document is available free at your local county UT Extension office or online at the UT Extension publications website: extension.tennessee.edu/publications. Enter “PB1796” into the search engine. For additional publications on direct marketing, enter that term into the search engine.
More information about the CPA and its services are available online at the center’s website: ag.tennessee.edu/cpa
Photo courtesy UTIA.