The UK pumpkin market has seen impressive growth in recent years, with a trip to a farm to pick out a pumpkin now a popular annual outing for many families.
Whether you have an existing pumpkin diversification or are thinking about establishing one, here are some tips for establishing and running a successful enterprise.
1. Site selection
Picking the right location is crucial. The ideal site is one close to a number of large conurbations and with good vehicular access – preferably located off an arterial road and with an easy-to-find entrance.
Some people will be happy to choose a ready-picked pumpkin from a farm shop or display. However, increasingly customers will be after the full pick-your-own experience where they can don their wellies and choose their pumpkin direct from the field or ‘pumpkin patch’. Where this is being offered, easy field access is a must.
For anyone planning a large-scale venture then a hard standing parking area is likely to be required, otherwise you could end up with significant issues with vehicles being stranded or stuck. It is also worth considering shoring up any access tracks and laying track matting on any grass areas to prevent the same issues.
Toilets are likely to be needed on-site and many people will be expecting food and drink to be available. These are the sort of extras which will help draw customers in and encourage them to spend more while they are with you.
Wheelbarrows or carts are often provided to help customers move their pumpkins around.
3. Standing out from the crowd
Do your market research to see what farms in your local area and beyond are already offering. This should give you a good idea of what customers might expect, but also enable you to identify points of differentiation, in what is an increasingly saturated market.
If neighbouring/nearby farmers are already operating established ventures then it may be best to consider other forms of diversification, to ensure there is healthy market share available and to keep up relations.
Some people like to keep things simple, whereas others choose to stage mini festivals or offer added extras like a maize maze, face painting, tractor and trailer rides or even moonlit pumpkin picking.
A popular tactic is to create interesting photo opportunities on site, which are fun and work as a marketing tool when people share their photos online. A selection of pumpkins, gourds and squashes or different sizes, shapes and colours will add visual interest and help draw in customers keen to buy something a bit different.
Dressing up staff can add to the atmosphere. Remember, customers are after an experience as much as a commodity, so customer service and making sure people enjoy their visit, is as important as the quality of the pumpkins themselves.
4. Pricing strategy
There are a variety of ways to approach pricing. Typically, pricing is based on a price per kg or on the general size of the pumpkins and consideration can be given to charging entrance fees which are sometimes deductible from the price of the pumpkins.
Pre-booking tickets so visitors are given a slot in which to come and pick pumpkins is another consideration. While it will require an online ticketing system it can assist in managing numbers of customers and staff, as you can better predict and manage numbers onsite.
Social media is key to advertising and can be an incredibly powerful tool – especially Facebook and Instagram.
Encourage your customers to tag you into any photographs they take and engage with anyone who contacts you in a friendly and timely manner.