The Florida FarmLink Sustainable Community Project has been a succesful project to date and will continue to be fruitful for the next several years. The Florida FarmLink website is currently operating at www.floridafarmlink.org
and has been populated with 3 pages of entries to date. Most of the materials developed with this grant are being saved for a big statewide promotion in 2008-2009.
Florida FarmLink is an innovative tool for assisting farmers and communities in achieving their mutual goals of sustainability, building on and expanding the models of farm link programs from outside the South. Florida Farm Link was launched as a statewide effort, that is currently in beta testing operating as a web-based service.
Listings are currently posted for the following:
• Farmers seeking land and landowners seeking farmers
• Employment posting area for farm manager/apprentice/mentor matching
• References for professionals specializing in assisting small and sustainable farms
• Local food outlets
• Link to local food and sustainable agriculture resources, such as SARE, ATTRA, LocalHarvest, and others
Funding for website development has been provided by local economic development organizations and agencies. The methodology is to utilize a self-serve network to keep operational cost down while coordinating large amounts of information and resources. Outreach to the agricultural sector, potential beginner farmers and landowners is critical to achieving the goals of the program in the coming year.
The objectives of this project have been to provide educational materials that will facilitate the overall Florida FarmLink project. Those goals are:
1. Facilitate linkages between rural landowners with farmers and farmers with land and additional resources to achieve their goals in their sustainable farming enterprises and build capacity in the local community food system.
2. Demonstrate the importance of agriculture and local food systems to overall sustainable communities and sustainable economic development using a natural capitalism partnership-based approach
3. Construct an innovative tool that can be used immediately by entrepreneurs in the susainable agriculture sector and function as an on-going needs assessment and communications method for sustainable agriculture and small farmers across Florida
4. Reach out to the community members that may have never had a connection to agriculture, but are interested in community development, civic participation, and sustainability and include them in the solution of a local food system
The methods for this project have been the following:
1. Develop the website as an interactive tool that can be expanded on in the coming years.
2. Provide an opportunity for partners and members of the sustainable agriculture service provider network to comment and provide feedback on the initial “beta-testing” site that is currently operating at www.floridafarmlink.org.
3. Develop the educational and promotional campaign to drive traffice to the website when the beta testing is complete. The key to the success of the Florida FarmLink will be to integrate it into the community and get people using it like a portal. The SARE-funded portion of the project was for the outreach materials and development of the campaign.
4. Develop a recruitment effort to target specific people in communities that are involved in local food and sustainable agriculture that want to do more to help the effort. Those people will receive “Florida FarmLink Action Packets” consisting of the materials developed using this grant.
The Florida FarmLink project has had the following outcomes/impacts:
•There are currently 24 live listings on the beta testing site, before launching the marketing campaign
•There are currently 62 users registered
•The site is receiving approximately 40 visitors per day, with over 7000 to date before the campaign rollout
•Outreach efforts are established and ready to rollout
• Beta testing has been exceptionally valuable, including the re-planning of the website for a re-vamp in phases based on initial data returns and feedback
•The marketing materials that have been developed with this project (logo, branding) have been very well recieved and are targeted to different audiences in the community.
Educational & Outreach Activities
The centerpiece of this project with SARE has been the educational and outreach component of our overall Florida FarmLink project.
The following outreach documents have been created:
1. A brochure for posting on bulletin boards in rural areas and community gathering places that is slightly larger sized and sturdy. It includes a location for putting sticky-notes that have been custom printed as a take-away for community members.
2. A general brochure for a variety of audiences that highlights the basics of Florida FarmLink and invites people to the website.
3. A brochure to be mailed to restaurants, targeted to higher-end chefs that want to obtain local food.
4. A brochure targeted to those growing local food or wanting to shart growing local food.
5. A brochure to be mailed to businesses that serve the local sustainable agriculture community like suppliers, equipment dealers, and consultants/inspectors and others.
6. A brochure-holding organizer to function as the Florida FarmLink Action Packet to get the word out across the state
7. A brochure in a mini-size, a double-sided business card size for counter locations and bulletin boards across the state
8. Article in a local magazine SRQ “Shop the Local Food Movement”
9. Poster to place targeted to faith-based organizations for using their land for growing food.
Many many additional articles and outreach will be launched this fall.
•Establishment of an informal team of partners providing feedback and input on the project
•Development of a beta-testing site for www.floridafarmlink.org
•Development of a vision and mission
•Development of a logo
•Development of a brand, look-and-feel for the entire program
•Itemization of specific messages for different audiences in the community to get the word out and provide outreach and education
•Creation of 6 different brochure informational products for those audiences
•Development of a website resource with links and partners
•Development of press releases, banners, and other materials for marketing rollout
•Strategic planning with a consultant on Phase I full-implementation of the website
The contributions of this project are difficult to overestimate. When the full Phase I project rolls out later this fall with the marketing and educational materials funded through SARE, this web-based tool will accelerate the local food economy across the State of Florida.
The marketing materials developed are highly professional and eye catching, all designed to get people moving from a situation of talking about local food to a position of acting.
The Florida FarmLink project is predicted to become a phenomenon that garners national attention with copycats popping up around other areas.
The future recommendations for the Florida FarmLink project are the following:
1. To continue the development of Phase I and Phase II for the website per the strategic business plan.
2. Distribute the application packets to community leaders and community organizers around the state
3. Launch the full-statewide campaign to promote usage of the webservice
4. Evaluate the need for additional services to the sector through the webservice through 2009.