Carroll County farm families have historically produced commodities such as milk, feeder cattle, and grain. Few families grew fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other items which could be marketed directly to local consumers. Because Carroll County is located in the foothills of the Appalachians in eastern Ohio, topography is generally unsuitable for large scale grain production or large scale expansion of dairy herds.
In order for Carroll County farms to remain sustainable, a need existed to develop markets for alternative crops such as fruits and vegetables so that more farm families could develop new agricultural enterprises. A need also existed for a method for small producers to network and work together to market their products. A small weekly tailgate farmers market existed in the community, but the market lacked vendors, product and customers.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
Objectives and Goals – the objective of this producer grant project was to increase the economic, environmental and social sustainability of farms in Carroll County, Ohio by developing markets for locally grown food products. The project also sought to help keep small family farms viable by providing them with markets for alternative agricultural enterprises. Specific goals included:
– Strengthen and expand the Carrollton Farmers Market
– Develop another weekly farmers market in the county
– Increase the number of farms in the county producing alternative ag products
– Increase the number of vendors at the Carrollton Farmers Market
– Increase local consumers’ awareness of local foods
Process – the first step in the project was to develop a local farm marketing association to provide growers (and potential growers) a method for education and marketing. The Carroll County Farm Marketing Association was developed with twelve members in the winter of 2000.
The Carroll County Farm Marketing Association became the sponsor of the Carrollton Weekly Farmers Market and relocated the market to a location on a state highway. The association also developed a new weekly farmers market in another community in the county. An extensive promotional campaign was developed to promote both weekly farmers markets and local foods. The following promotion and advertising methods were used:
– development of logo and tagline: Farm Fresh Food From Carroll County
– construction of permanent farmers market sign with message board
– roadside banners
– direct mail flyers
– full color posters
– plastic market bags with logo
– change aprons with logo
– vendor t-shirts with logo
– newspaper advertisements
– restaurant placemats
– advertisements in tourism publications
– coupons in newspaper
Additionally, promotions such as pressure canner testing and cooking demonstrations were held at the markets and County Commissioners proclaimed Farmers Market Week each summer, and the local newspaper ran photographs of the commissioners shopping at the market. The farmers market also “took to the road” by setting up mini-farmers markets at local festivals in the county.
The Farm Marketing Association also sponsored winter growers meetings to educate farm families on various topics related to producing and marketing alternative crops. Specific topics of these workshops include:
– direct marketing basics
– opportunities to direct market poultry and meat to consumers
– alternative crops
– adding value to your products through on farm processing
Farmer’s market customers surveys were conducted over two seasons to determine what motivated customers to shop at the farmers markets and to determine which additional products customers would like to see offered at the farmers markets.
People – individuals involved with the project include farm families, the local Extension Agent, as well as assistance from Extension Specialists and industry representatives for specific activities conducted by the Carroll County Farm Marketing Association. County Commissioners were involved with the project by proclaiming “Farmers Market Week in Carroll County” each year. Two local department stores allowed the farm marketing association to use their parking lots free of charge for the weekly farmers market. A 4-H club assisted with conducting customer surveys at the farmer markets. The farm marketing association also involved local churches and non-profit groups by allowing one group to market food products free of charge each week at the farmers markets.
Results – the result of this project has been a tremendous expansion in the number of farm families producing alternative agricultural products, adding value to the products which they produce and marketing their products directly to consumers. Specific outcomes of the project include the following:
– Expansion of farmers market vendors from 12 to 54
– Development of one new farmers market
– Expansion and revitalization of one farmers market
– Receipts from the farmers market increased from $23K to $82K in two years!
– Community is more aware and supportive of local food systems
Economic development professionals estimate that dollars generated in a local community “turn-over” in that community seven times, due to the increased economic activity generated by those dollars. Based on this formula, this project has had an impact of more than $574,000 on the local economy based on the increased sales at the farmers markets.
Results of the farmers market customer surveys showed that the primary motivation for shopping at farmers markets were: fresher products (62% of respondents), locally produced products (47% of respondents) and higher quality (33% of respondents).
Additionally, the success of Carroll County Farm Marketing Association and its two farmers markets have spurred similar growth in neighboring communities. The association has assisted a group of farm families in the neighboring county who wished to start a farm marketing association and a weekly farmers market in their community. This group has formatted their farm marketing association and farmers market after the Carroll County group and began operating their farmers market this past summer.
Discussion – this project is strengthening the local farm economy be providing farm families with a method to market new farm products. Without these new markets, farm families would not be able to diversify their farming operations with alternative products. The project is also improving the local economy by allowing consumers to purchase locally produced goods, thus keeping dollars in the community.
Outreach was accomplished through the promotional methods and activities outlined in section III above. Additionally, the Carroll County Farm Marketing Association taught a session at an OSU Extension statewide in service on the topic of developing farmers markets. The association has also assisted a group of farm families in another county who wished to form a farm marketing association and farmers market.