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arnbev959's avatar

How can I sell my corn crop for a profit?

Asked by arnbev959 (10841 points ) August 13th, 2009

I planted three thousand corn seeds in May. Now I have something like 2,000 corn plants (conservative estimate), which will probably all mature sometime next week. The variety I planted only gets one ear per stalk.

I paid about $30 USD for the seed, and something like $35 for fertilizer. I’ve also gone through several tanks of gas going to and from the garden, but I’m not as concerned about that, because most of the trips I would have taken anyway.

I have seen corn selling at $4/dozen, and some at $5/dozen. So theoretically, if I were able to sell all of it at this price, I could make a little bit of money.

But, that’s assuming that I’m able to sell all of it on a small scale. If I were to sell the bulk of it to one buyer, which would probably be possible, I would get much less for it. If possible, I want to sell it in smaller quantities.

Also, since I planted it all at the same time, and it is all developing uniformly, it will all be ripe at the same time. Corn does not last very long. I may only have a window of a few days to get rid of all of it.

So, Fluther, how do you suggest I get rid of this corn?

Currently I’m looking into local farmer’s markets, but it seems like it would be quite a hassle signing up for just a one time thing.

As far as I can tell from my town’s code, garage sales are perfectly legal, and do not require any kind of permit. Food items are tax-free in New Jersey. I’m thinking of putting a stand in front of my house. Can anyone foresee any problems arising from that? My dad’s uncle used to sell fresh produce in front of his home, and at some point a neighbor complained, and the town wanted him to stop. Eventually they let him alone because he had been doing it his whole life, but I could see someone complaining around here. People can be real jerks in the suburbs about this kind of thing.

Additional questions:

The corn is growing in New York, and I live in New Jersey. Is there anything I should be aware of regarding the movement of produce over state lines? Honestly, 2,000 ears of corn is such a trivial amount, and I doubt anyone would care (especially considering that if I count gas money expenditures, I’m losing money no matter what,) but I just want to make sure I’m not breaking the law, stupid as the law may be.

Is it wrong to sell my corn for significantly less than other farmers? Let’s say I were to sell at a farmer’s market, and there were two other people selling corn, both for $5/doz. Would I be breaking a farmer’s code of ethics if I undercut them and charged $2/doz.?

What I can’t sell, I’m going to blanch and keep in the freezer, and what doesn’t fit in the freezer I’m going to bring down to the food bank. I’m really just hoping to cover my basic costs so I’m not losing too much money overall.

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18 Answers

marinelife's avatar

I was going to suggest the stand at the end of the driveway.

Also, go to the farmer’s market ahead of time, and find someone who has a compatible booth. See if they will sell your corn a small split.

Mamradpivo's avatar

Is there a farmers co-op near you that you can sell it all to? You won’t make as much as you potentially could if you sold it by the ear, but it could all be gone in one delivery.

augustlan's avatar

I suggest parking your truck at the entrance to your neighborhood, rather than in front of your house. You’ll be seen by far more people that way. It’s pretty common practice around here. Also, you could ask a local business if they’d let you park in their parking lot to sell the corn for a few days. I frequently see this in drug store parking lots. Wear sunscreen, and be sure you’re there for the evening rush hour. Good luck!

dynamicduo's avatar

This isn’t much advice for this year, but for next year’s easy selling maybe you could compile an email list based on this year’s customers, then batch email them next year and see how much you can sell for pretty much no effort.

I would advise a rolling scale price, so start on your first day at ~3–4/doz, then go down to 2–3 as you get close to the end. Then again, there’s a risk of hitting the wrong price. I’m not a corn seller (yet). I see tons of booths in parking lots nowadays for both corn and berries and there are three roadside booths for all veggies within a few kilometers of me, so they’ve gotta be making money. As long as your sign is bold enough to be seen 50 feet back and it’s a good price, you win.

Darwin's avatar

I was going to suggest opening up a temporary corn stand, but I see you thought of that. Otherwise, you can do what a lot of folks here do, They load the corn up in their pick up truck, make a couple of signs out of plywood, and then park along the road to the closest beach or other summertime attraction.

galileogirl's avatar

Before you undertake any business venture, you need to have a plan. The things addressed in that plan would include cost/income figures. Also you should have some idea of your customer base and specifics about your product,

What kind of corn is your crop? If it is the supersweet yellow corn that is sold in large grocery stores, forget the farmer’s markets. That kind of corn is grown on large acreage and will be priced more economically than anything you can do, If you grow a more unique kind of corn you will be able to get a premium price at an outdoor market where foodies will pay more for freshness and flavor. If you connect up with some of the leading restaurants in Manhatten, you may be able to presell a crop of a unique variety

Anyway how do you get rid of what you have right now, One way is the sell it out of your vehicle. You probably can’t get rid of 2000 ears by selling it from your yard unless you are on a really busy street so try and find a busier place like a strip mall or the corner of a gas station-get permission of course. Don’t just put up a Corn for sale sign, For the best flavor it needs to be picked that day, so each morning pick a couple of 100 ears. Also set up a portable grill and grill some ears too. The smell of cooking sweet corn will draw a bigger crowd and you can give a free cooked ear with every 10 fresh ears, Also print up a sheet with fresh corn recipes and cooking tips as a gift with purchase.

Even easier, give away your whole crop to a soup kitchen or nonprofit gleaners and get a receipt for upscale grocery (like Whole Earth) prices and deduct it as a charitable gift. Gleaners might even pick and transport. If you don’t itemize deductions, sell it to a friebd who does and donate it in his name.

whatthefluther's avatar

Set up shop somewhere where you will get lots of exposure. Maybe you know of a seasonal (fireworks) or abandoned booth you can “borrow” (I know a lady with a booth she uses a few weeks out of the year to sell figs, for example)? Or use a truck on a public road or an unobtrusive corner in a large shared parking lot (all the store owners will think the other owner will be reporting you). Make sure customers can easily park or pull over to get to you or they will pass you by (signs posted in advance with a distance designation, such as “Fresh Corn, ¼ mi. ahead,” will help). As long as you are not conspicuously infringing on someone’s property you probably won’t be bothered. Be prepared to move if someone complains and since its obvious you are just trying to sell some homegrown produce, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone who asked you to move gave you a recommendation on where you might relocate. Also, besides the local farmers market, perhaps you have a well traveled swap meet near by? The key is lots of exposure and ease of getting to you. Who wouldn’t want fresh local just-picked corn at a reasonable price? See ya….Gary aka wtf

YARNLADY's avatar

Our local farmer’s apparently have an arrangement with several small grocery stores. Every once in awhile I see a sign out front of my corner grocery that says “fresh sloughhouse corn”. Maybe you could make that kind of arrangement.

Buttonstc's avatar

What about the Green Market in Manhattan? It has a really loyal base of Foodies and chefs and if you can find out who runs it, maybe you can strike a deal for a short period of time They have several locations in the city and (I believe) are open on different days.

What I am sure of is that they have a great reputation and a large customer base. They are frequently featured on Food Network. Most discerning restaurant chefs shop there.

http://www.cenyc.org/greenmarket

http://www.ny.com/dining/green.html

http://www.cenyc.org/greenmarket

buster's avatar

The amish and other people here in Tennessee just post up on the side of the road, there driveway or front yard and in parking lots and fly a sign and hustle corn that way.

Garebo's avatar

Sorry, to dash you expectations, but we are in a depression. Old farmers are selliin their corn for 2 bucks around here. If you can get more get it, and keep as much as possible for the upcoming hyper inflation.

Garebo's avatar

I was wrong 2 bucks was the lowest I saw, now I am seeing a few $4.50 .

arnbev959's avatar

Update:

When I asked this question two weeks ago I thought it would be only a week until the corn would be ripe. I was mistaken.

I checked on the garden this past weekend, and only a few dozen ears were really ready to be picked. They were delicious. I’ll be going up again this weekend, and hopefully more will be ready.

However, I’m no longer expecting to have so many that I’ll have to worry about trying to sell them. The majority of the ears are yet too immature to be picked, and frankly I don’t expect that they will mature before the season is over. It has just been a bad year for farming. It’s been cold and wet. Nothing I planted grew well. The tomatoes and potatoes got the late blight and died. The potatoes that haven’t already rotted in the ground are small (last year they were huge) and rot quickly after being dug up. The pumpkins are rotting on the vine. The cucumber plants died prematurely. The corn fared the best of the lot, but, considering that as a 75 day variety, I should have been harvesting on August 8th, it’s nothing to brag about either.

On the bright side, I was a bit worried that, since I didn’t spray them with anything, every ear would have a worm in it, but I haven’t come across a single worm yet. The corn that I have been able to pick has been the sweetest, most delicious corn I have ever tasted.

I still have hope that I might end up with enough to set up a stand in front of my house. Although a reading of my town code suggests that this is illegal to do without a permit, I think I’d do it anyway. The worst that will happen is I will get fined, refuse to pay, and get thrown in jail for a few nights. I wouldn’t be opposed to that; it would make quite the news story. ;)

Thanks everyone for your suggestions. Hopefully next year the weather won’t be so crappy and I’ll have more of a need for them then. There’s still a chance that we’ll have a few more warm days and the remaining crop will have time to develop, but I’m not counting on it. At any rate, I’ll keep you updated.

augustlan's avatar

Thanks for the update, Pete. Sorry your crops didn’t do as well as you’d have liked, but I’m sure you learned a lot this season! (Not to mention you got to eat your delicious corn.)

Darwin's avatar

Actually, the fact that you didn’t spray the corn with anything would be a plus in my book. So what if there were a few worms? Have you ever read the regulations on when, how much and with what commercial farms must spray their corn in order to ship it?

Makes me scared to even walk near the fields.

arnbev959's avatar

Update:

Several weeks ago I drove up to the farm and lo, there was much more corn than expected. The remaining corn did have time to develop after all. The ears were smaller than the first group that matured, but they did develop all the way to the tip.

That weekend I ended up coming home with thirty-six dozen ears of corn in the back of my truck. So all together I’d wager I picked about 50 dozen, or six-hundred ears.

Most of it is in the freezer. I spent two entire days cooking, blanching, and packaging it. I expect I will be eating my very own homegrown corn well into the winter. The rest was eaten at my sister’s birthday barbecue or given away.

Although I did not sell my corn crop for a monetary profit, I did profit greatly from my labors this year.

Last weekend I went up for the last time as a farmer this year, and harvested the rest of the potatoes, the carrots, the sunflowers, and the pumpkins. This time there was no more edible corn—I picked a few ears but they were so starchy as to be totally unpalatable. I did, however, cut down some of the stalks. I’m going to let them dry out and tie them to railings and poles in the front of my house as autumn decorations.

augustlan's avatar

@petethepothead I have no idea why, buy your farm updates always make me ridiculously happy. :D

lilikoi's avatar

@petethepothead Your farm sounds awesome! I don’t know what kind of corn you plant, most likely it is different from what I’m planting, but I’ve read that harvest timing is key for corn – if you let it go too long, it gets tough.

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