When it comes to great tasting fruits and vegetables, you definitely cannot judge a book by its cover. But if some of the best tasting produce is less than perfect on the outside, why do consumers insist on buying only the most aesthetically pleasing?

This question is even more perplexing when you consider that more and more agricultural experts are telling us that the most beautiful fruits and vegetables aren’t always the healthiest or best tasting. In fact, in most cases, the only advantage of such produce is its ability to sell quickly.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, approximately six billion pounds – or 20 percent – of produce that is grown in the United States is thrown away each year because of its appearance.

So who is to blame for this search for the perfect fruit or vegetable? There’s plenty to go around. First, the USDA stipulates that commercially grown fruits and vegetables must be 90 percent blemish-free. Next, marketers are always on the lookout to photograph only the most aesthetically-pleasing fruits. These camera-ready specimens are hard for the average piece of produce to live up to and set an unrealistically high standard for fruits and vegetables. Finally, a large portion of the blame must be put on consumers.

When shopping for produce, most consumers select food based on how it looks rather than how it smells or how it will taste. This means that many fruits and vegetables are rejected solely on appearance rather than on taste, quality, or ripeness.

Thankfully, there is a new trend toward average-looking fruits and vegetables. Experts are pushing the message that perfect on the outside doesn’t necessary mean better tasting. In fact, pull an apple straight off a tree and it might not look perfect but it sure tastes that way!

There are several companies working to minimize waste by delivering less than perfect fruit directly to consumers. Farmers and consumers can both benefit from doing business this way. Farmers will be able to sell crops that would normally be bound for the landfill and consumers will be able to purchase produce for much less than they would pay in the grocery store – without sacrificing quality or taste. Across the country, farmers list these types of transactions as something they are very interested in pursuing.

Selling less than perfect-looking produce to restaurants is another untapped market. After all, diners don’t care how round a tomato is before it is baked into a lasagna. They only care how it tastes. And as anyone who is willing to take a bite out of an imperfect piece of produce will tell you, it doesn’t have to look perfect to taste that way.

Farming can be a hard life but it is a life that many people are interested in trying. In most cases, people who want to give farming a shot fall into two categories. The first are those who would love to farm but are overwhelmed by the prospect. The second are those that believe all they need to do is buy a plot of land and they will be an instant success. Both types have a point, and the reality is somewhere right in the middle.

Before anyone can begin farming there are certain necessities. These are land, capital, labor, equipment, and buildings. Part-timing farming is a good way to begin because you can gradually ease into full-time farming or decide that part-time farming is enough. As a part-time farmer you are able to derive the benefits of farming while keeping your day job.

Many people romanticize what it means to be a farmer without understanding all it entails. As with all professions there are pros and cons. The farm life provides a healthy way of life that can free you from the many stresses of urban living. It also can afford a family the chance to enjoy the wide open spaces. The air quality is much better in the country and the physical labor can help keep you in shape.

The farm life is not for everyone, though. Many people feel isolated and cut off from their friends. Further, if they are involved in activities away from the farm the travel time back and forth can be physically and financially draining. Finally, the realities of farm life can hit new farmers harder than a seasoned one. The death of livestock or a crop taken out by weather can seem like insurmountable setbacks.

If your farming plans are still in the infancy stage, take advantage of this time to do your homework and find out as much as you can about what it takes to own and/or run a farm. Here are some things that can help you decide if you want to continue on your journey:

  • Talk to farmers you know and get in touch with agricultural organizations. University extension education offices are a great place to start.
  • Think about your goals. What do you want to produce? How will you market your products?
  • If you are married or have children, make sure all are onboard for what can be a drastic change in lifestyle.
  • Without the support of your loved ones it will be next to impossible to make the big move from city to country.

If your dream is to be a farmer, by all means pursue that dream. After all, as most farmers will tell you, there is nothing quite like it. Before you make any major decisions, however, make sure you have done your homework so you will know what to expect from your new lifestyle.

Agricultural marketing brings with it unique challenges that you might not encounter when marketing to other industries. These challenges arise from the fact that farming is neither exclusively a lifestyle nor a business. Instead, it’s an ever-evolving combination of both. A true ag marketer understands these challenges and rises to meet them.

The agriculture industry deals with significantly more “unknowns” than other industries. These include a volatile marketplace that can change rapidly and without notice, burgeoning state and federal regulations, and the weather. Therefore, unlike other business owners the only certainty when it comes to marketing specifically to farmers is that what works this month or this year might not work next month or next year.

When it comes to making a sale, approval by committee takes on a whole new meaning when you are selling to farmers. Since most farms today are family-owned and multi-generational, there is seldom one decision maker. Instead there are several people that must approve a purchase or any other decision.

Farmers today are exceptionally savvy when it comes to technology. Overlook this fact and your marketing strategy is already dead in the water. Ag industry research repeatedly shows that high-acre farmers – and most other farmers as well – adopt mobile technology at a greater rate than the general population. This can be directly related to the fact that for years farmers have had to adapt to things like precision planting, fertilizer application, and grain yield monitoring. This has made them extremely comfortable with hardware and software, contrary to some stereotypes of farmers as “out-of-date.”

Farmers know full well how technology can aid in split-second decisions and that it is essential to managing long-term risks. Technology, including mobile apps, also provide farmers with an important edge when it comes to assessing profit margins and successfully managing risks. And since farms are often multi-generational, tech support is built in thanks to a younger generation that has been raised on technology.

If your ag marketing strategy does not include email campaigns, mobile apps, and social media, chances are farmers will write you off as “behind the times.” Remember, globalization and market volatility have forever changed the ag industry, and today’s farmers are skilled at using technology to deal with things like market fluctuations, futures, hedging, and trading.