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Cherry tomatoes are one of those crops that, in a decent year, when they come on, they can absolutely flood you. Worse problems exist. Cherry tomatoes can be earlier than large tomatoes, profitable and a customer favorite. That said, you might not be the only grower at market loaded down with cherry tomatoes.
With that in mind, let’s talk about ways to stay ahead of the competition but also to compete in real time, in the middle of the season when you can’t turn back the clock and plant the crop any earlier. Cherry tomatoes can be a truly excellent crop, but not if they sell. Here are tips for selling more.
1. Start Them Early
Obviously, the best way to get ahead of the competition is to simply beat them to market. For this, a small amount of season extension is generally required deepening on your location. For some, you might need a heated greenhouse, though even plating your cherry tomatoes in an unheated greenhouse a few weeks before you would plant them outdoors can yield significant results. A one- or two-week jump on everyone else could mean a significant boost in revenue.
2. Skip the Flood
Another way to get ahead of competitors who can drive prices and sales down: Simply do not compete with them. Do an early round of cherry tomatoes, then a late round. So while others struggle to maintain reasonable prices in the glut of August, you can wait out that month, then have fresh cherry tomatoes when others’ plants are burnt out and customer are still looking for them.
3. Try Different Varieties
A beautiful array of cherry tomato options exists. You should dare to mix up what you grow and sell. Customers enjoy the different shapes, colors and sizes of tomatoes. As a grower, you can essentially sell different varieties all mixed together as well as separated into individual varieties on the table. Or, you could do both.
4. Sell Cherry Tomatoes on the Vine
Some cherry tomatoes from determinate plants (meaning they ripen more or less all together), and some from indeterminate plants (ripen over a long period of time) can yield a cascade of cherry tomatoes. Under the right management, these could make nice additions to the market table. You might sell them for more per pound than the tomatoes themselves are generally worth.
5. Less Can Make More
We’ve had success selling them in heaping, half-pint berry containers rather than full-pint containers. This works really well in a “1 for $3 or 2 for $5” option. This means you get a minimum of of $5 per pint/pound, which, generally speaking, is what they cost most of us to produce.
6. Sell to Chefs and Restaurants
Cherry tomatoes are a summer fixture in restaurants. You’ll always sell more to busier restaurants than smaller ones that might be more particular about shapes and sizes. If you do have a good relationship with a high-end chef, charge for sorting out the size differences. Otherwise, it is always a good idea to find a nice, larger-scale restaurant that will buy larger quantities of cherry tomato bumper crops.