Distributing farm fresh produce presents a set of challenges that producers of less perishable items, such as electronics, do not face. Fruits and vegetables not only have limited shelf lives, but they take up an appreciable amount of space relative to the money they yield and they must be handled properly or their shelf lives will be compromised even further. Wholesale direct farm marketing involves a grower delivering product directly to retailers such as restaurants. Wholesale distribution involves going through a middleman who in turn sells the produce to retailers.
When a farmer sells produce wholesale direct she has the opportunity to learn the specific preferences of individual customers who care more about quality than quantity. Farmers develop advantageous working relationships with restaurateurs based on a shared passion for superior seeds, superior soil and superior produce, and sometimes even start growing particular varieties because of demand from a particular chef. Farmers selling wholesale direct can also keep the entire purchase price that a customer pays because there is no middleman to add a markup.
Wholesale direct farm to retailer distribution can be challenging because farmers never know precisely how the weather is going to behave and which crops they may lose to predators and blights. If a restaurateur plans his menu around having a particular item from a particular farm and that item doesn't grow as planned, then the restaurant may have to make last minute changes. Some chefs avoid wholesale direct sales because of this unpredictability. In addition, wholesale direct sales can involve considerable stretches of delivery time.
Wholesale distribution involves turning over individual wholesale deliveries to a distributor who in turn brings fresh produce to retailers. In addition to saving delivery time, wholesale distribution makes it possible for a farmer to sell considerably more product because the distributor carrying the produce will have a considerably wider reach. In addition, because wholesalers tend to buy produce from multiple farmer suppliers, there is less pressure on any individual farmer to always have to have particular crops available.
A farmer who sells produce through a distributer must charge a lower price to the wholesaler than he would if he were selling directly because the distributor makes his livelihood by marking up supplier prices. These price cuts are not always justified by the added convenience of not having to make individual deliveries. In addition, farmers who do not deal directly with their customers do not have the opportunity to hear firsthand feedback or personally communicate the value of their offerings.