Tuttle Orchards in Hancock County has been around since 1928. The current generation, Tom Roney and his brother and his brother's kids, keep the business evolving and growing today. They sell 90% of what they produce, both vegetables and apples, retail, on the farm.
If you want to try raising vegetables or selling home-grown meat on a small scale, the big question is: how do you get the word out about your business? Roney says there are actually other questions you should ask first. Roney is an Indiana Prairie Farmer and Purdue University College of Agriculture Master Farmer.
"How much can you grow?" he asks. If you have limited space then you're not going to be able to grow a lot of sweet corn, for example, or melons or cantaloupe, because those crops require considerable space to raise a decent quantity of product.
"Do you have competition from other people who are already doing what you want to do?" he continues. "How much can you grow? How much can you expect to sell? Where is your market?"
Once you've answered these questions and determined you have a market audience and can grow a product, the next hurdle is then getting the word out, Roney says. For many years in their business, they relied on word-of-mouth, plus ads in local newspapers or free weeklies that were available. For a big event or to launch apple season, they might advertise in the Indianapolis Star.
"A few years ago we started doing some radio advertising with a station that fits our demographics," he says. "It seems like that has been successful and brought people out."
As Roney talked about this subject to the Indiana Hort Congress recently, someone in the crowd said that if you're targeting people under 40 and don't use social media, including Facebook and Twitter, you're missing a big opportunity.
Roney agreed. "We've done some with it, and we've tried Facebook when we had something special to sell," he says. "It really works. People will respond and show up."