You-pick operation features 50 varieties
ATLANTIC CITY — “We try to make our customers feel loved right from the very first minute they land on our farm.”
That’s the goal of Lisa Specca and crew at Specca Farms, a pick-your-own farm in Burlington County.
Specca and Wendy Byar, who’s been part of the farm for about 35 years, offered their thoughts on managing farm stand customers while speaking at the New Jersey Agriculture Convention and Trade Show in February.
Lisa Specca explained a bit of the history of Specca Farm, which started after the family abandoned a dairy farm across the street from their current site.
She and her husband David Specca, and their son are fourth- and fifth-generation farmers.
The Specca’s grow more than 50 varieties of fruit and vegetables for their you-pick operation and retail farm stand.
“Nowadays when people come to our farm stand, there’s a wall with 50 country flags on it, and our customers come from all over these countries,” Specca said, adding their customers from Haiti, Russia, Central Europe and various African nations feel more at home at the farm stand.
On weekends, many of these people are wearing religious garb, she noted, “so we make sure they feel welcome at our farm.”
Specca related the six-second rule to farmers in the audience while noting, “most people make decisions about whether they like you or not within six seconds, so you want them to like you, trust you and buy your products.
“First impressions are really important.”
Specca and Byar then showed a slide of a teenage girl at a farm stand staring at her cell phone while seated.
“That’s not what you want your customers to see first, so the very first thing I tell them in training is put your cell phones away!”
Specca Farms is often open to pick-your-own customers, so the retail farm stand workers keep their eyes on the number of people entering and exiting the growing fields, they declared.
Byar pointed out that one customer came in from the fields with a basket full of beets, complaining about their less-than-stellar quality.
“So then why did you pick them all?” was Byar’s response.
They both stressed they and their farmstand workers do everything they can to encourage potential repeat customers, particularly if they know these customers live or work in the area.
“People do feel like the farm is part of their experience,” Specca said, adding they learned about ethnic crops that they may not have heard of before from customers and they responded by growing them.
Specca’s also make good use of a thorough Facebook page website and they post frequently there. During the season, they said, they post something on the FaceBook website every day “as a way to alert the loyal repeating customers what’s ready for harvest and what will be sold today, later this week the following week.”
“People want local and that means a lot to people,” Specca said, and both women cautioned how one should respond to the “organic question.”
Rather than say “no, we’re not organic,” it’s better to say, “we do all of the things organic farmers do, and if we have to spray something for a bad disease, we’ll spray it” minimally, Specca said.
“Listen to your customers, ask them questions, respond to your customers, ask them what they want,” Specca stressed, “I know that sounds so simple and obvious,” she added. “If some customers hadn’t complained about a certain root vegetable we grow at Specca Farms, we never would have known about the difference in taste this year because of weather-related troubles.”
When negative comments about produce are posted on social media, respond to them right away, both women urged, because there often is a weather or pest-related reason why the mid-season or late season crop wasn’t like last year’s variety.
Regarding customers coming in looking to negotiate prices down [in some cases because it’s part of their culture back home, Byar and Specca told farmers they can always have their staff say, “the prices are as marked.
“This is what my boss expects you to pay.”
Sharing recipes for various types of fruit and vegetables and different ways of preparing them are also great ways to connect with new and regular farm stand patrons, they said.
“If you can get your ethnic customers to start talking about their foods and how they prepare them, that will help, too,” the women pointed out.
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