Venneford Beef Farm is a family owned beef operation. For the past 3 years we had 3 generations working the farm. We had 80 head of beef cattle and with rented land we are working over 80 acres. My mother-in-law retired from farming this summer so now there are 2 generations working the farm and 55 head of cattle.
We became licensed to sell our meat retail in 2000. Our cattle are naturally raised. We started to sell our frozen meat at farmer’s markets in the summer of 2000. This went well, but the following winter our sales went down 80 to 90 percent because our customers did not want to drive 40 miles one way to pick up a few pounds of meat during the winter. That winter we tried to meet our customers once a month in the parking lot of another business. This worked somewhat but it was very cold and difficult to conduct business outside.
In January of 2001 I attended a value added conference entitled “Bringing Profits Back to the Farm.” I was hoping to get ideas for winter marketing, and I did. One week later I started making contacts to start organizing the Fox Valley Winter Farmer’s Market.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
There are three major goals of the Fox Valley Winter Farmer’s Market SARE funded project. These goals are:
– To provide the surrounding communities with a wide variety of farm fresh foods, fibers, and other farm derived products such as goat’s milk soap, medicinal herbs, etc. through the winter months.
– To make these products convenient to a large consumer base
– To educate the consumers about the origins and production of these agricultural value added products.
Steps in organizing the indoor winter farmers market:
We started to organize the winter farmers market 10 months before we opened with a core group of 5 farmers. Our market is run by the vendors. First we needed to choose a location. Appleton already had (2) summer markets. One downtown, they offered the use of the lobby in the mall right next door to where the summer market is held. The second summer market is held in a park at the Arboretum. They have a learning center building on site, it was also offered. We choose the Arboretum because it has a horticultural/agricultural connection that we thought was important to our goals. The people who ran the summer market gave us some pointers on what is needed to get a market started.
Our first year (2001-2002) we set up our basic structure.
– The season length is November to April
– Decided on a name for the farmer’s market
– Established goals, rules, and an application form
– Established standardized dates, first, third and fifth Saturday each month
o We did not go with an every week market because most items sold during the winter are not used up within a week or can be stocked up. Example: frozen foods, canned goods, soap, etc. We knew our market would be smaller than a summer market and did not want people to get bored with the selection if it ran every week.
o After going to farmer’s markets every Saturday all summer we thought that the vendors would prefer not going every Saturday during the winter.
o Some vendors travel to far to come every Saturday
– originally we opened the market to agricultural producers only
– Originally we ran the market from noon to 4pm due to availability of the building being rented.
– Met with city health, weights and measures inspector. We found difference in opinion between regional, city and state inspectors on interpretation of rules for giving samples. The city inspector spent 3 months going back and forth with the state to get his cleared up.
– We offered workshops at each market that were put on by the vendors and offered them free to the general public
– We established an annual flyer that lists market dates, workshops, full season vendors with products, and sponsor ad space
– We looked for sponsors to contribute to the advertising funds in exchange for publicity, ad space in our flyer, etc.
– Guest appearance by Alice in Dairyland for our grand opening day.
– Our first year advertising consisted of a large sign at the entrance to the park, small ads in the newspaper, radio ads on one station, community calendar notices, 6000 flyers, live interviews on the radio once a month. We had some help through the UW Center for Cooperatives, Madison from a FSAF/SARE grant they were working on. This help was dollars for radio ads and hours of technical support for 2 years.
At the end of the first year we questioned whether the Arboretum would have enough room for expansion in the future. Some vendors wanted more space to display their products. After looking at the pros and cons of moving the market we voted to stay one more year. We encouraged vendors to look at vertical displays over laying every thing out on tables like they do during the summer.
We surveyed the people who attended the indoor winter market each year.
Our second year (2002-2003) we made some changes based on expansion, request from regular customers and the results from the surveys taken of those attending the market.
– Elected officers: Chairman, Vice-chairman, Treasurer, Secretary, Food Safety Officer and designated our year as being May 1st to May 1st.
– Our promotional flyer went from 2 pages to 4 pages
– Hours changed, now 10:00 am to 2:00 pm (requested by customers through the survey)
– Allow vendors who are not agricultural producers but have an agricultural or natural value added product to be full time. (requested by customers through the survey)
– Added to the number of workshops per season
– Applied for and received a SARE grant to help support promotion of the winter market, 2 years
– Implemented maximums on the number of vendors with same type of product.
– Offer door prizes at each market; ask for email address on entry ticket. Add these to an email newsletter mailing list. Newsletter goes out the week of each market.
– Got a temporary restaurant license for the small kitchen so we could do samples and food.
– Started offering occasional hot lunch during the farm market
– Our second year advertising consisted of a large sign at the entrance to the Arboretum, A-frame signs at the two entrances to the park, larger ads in the newspaper and run multiple days, radio ads on four stations for opening day and two stations the rest of the season, community calendar notices, live interviews on the radio once a month, live remote with radio station on opening day, 10,000 flyers. We had some help through the UW Center for Cooperatives, Madison from a FSAF/SARE grant they were working on. This help was dollars for radio ads and hours of technical support for 2 years.
By the end of the second year we felt we had run out of room for expansion. Another concern had become the location. The Arboretum is located inside a city park and can not be seen from the main roads. Many people who live right in Appleton did not know it was there and had troubles finding it. We voted to look for a larger location. We found two locations to choose from.
1) Foyer/Lobby of a mall in downtown Appleton. The same one that was offered in February 2001.
2) Inside a year round greenhouse on the same side of town as our current location.
The vendors voted on the greenhouse to keep the market in agricultural setting instead of a commercial shopping center. The greenhouse offered more booth space, more space for workshops, and the location was on a main road and easier to find than our current one.
Our third year (2003-2004) we made more changes due to expansion.
– Added more booth spaces
– Added more workshops, now 2 per market date
– Found a new sponsor, The Free Market, a health food store
– Allowed in a limited number of full time craft vendors with crafts made from natural materials
– Started the annual “Lunch at the Farm Market” a buffet on opening day featuring foods from all the food vendors. Used as a fund raiser for advertising funds
– Started having a small hot lunch at each market, brats, hot dogs and stew provided by vendors
– Thompson Community Center put our flyer and vendor application on their website: www.thompsoncenter.org
– Our third year advertising consisted of a large sign and new banner at the entrance to the greenhouse, large ads in the newspaper and run multiple days, radio ads on four stations for opening day and two stations the rest of the season, community calendar notices, live interviews on the radio once a month, 10,000 flyers.
After starting our third season at the new location we found we had some problems.
– We attracted many people to the building but they did not make it past the store front of the greenhouse.
– The greenhouse was either to cold for the customers or to humid for the vendor products
– The space we were told we could use for workshops was being used for storage
– Attendance for the market and workshops dropped off considerably more each market
– Customers said it was too difficult to get in and out of the parking lot from the main road due to traffic conditions. They said this was a big cause of many people not coming any longer.
– Vendors started to drop out.
After just 4 markets we saw that there was a problem. We had a meeting to discuss options. Several ideas were looked into: moving the booths to another location within the greenhouse, extra signs, better control of heat/cold and humidity. These did not help. We began to look for a new location. One of our vendors suggested a Community Center in downtown Appleton. After the fifth market we held a meeting and voted to move the market to the Community Center ASAP. All arrangements, new permits, rental agreements, advertising and changes to flyers were in place and ready for us to start the second half of the winter season in our new location on January 17, 2004. Everyone was happy with this change:
– Regular customers came back. Attendance bounced back and may have even surpassed our attendance at the end of the season the year before
– Workshop attendance bounced back. Very nice room to use for workshops
– Lots of parking and easy to get in and out of the parking lot from 3 side streets
– Easy to find location
– Community Kitchen to use for cooking demos and preparing samples.
– New vendors joined on a full time basis for the second half of the season.
Our fourth year (2004-2005) preparations started in June of 2004.
– Designed and published our 4 page flyer
– Had several meetings with our new hosts, the Thompson Community Center. They will start to help with internet community calendar postings. This is time consuming; each date for each radio station has to be entered as a separate posting.
– Started plans for the 2nd annual opening day fund raiser “Lunch at the Farm Market” buffet.
– Found a new sponsor who will help to pay for a new banner. Now we will be able to have one on each side of the building.
– Re-arranged the both layouts to allow for a few more booth spaces.
– Made arrangements for Alice in Dairyland to attend our opening festivities.
– The Community Center is planning on putting on a hot lunch at every market using products from the vendors.
– Some vendors have been working on cold weather vegetables in their gardens during the summer so they can bring winter vegetables to the market. Rutabaga, Turnips, Parsnips, Carrots, Winter Squash, Dried Beans, etc.
– A sponsor is working on a (3) part children’s workshop series on organic food and gardening.
– We added a major event each month as well as the workshops.
At the time that we applied for this grant, in our second year, the agricultural producers working on this project were:
Art Sullivan – Hickory Springs Soapworks & Farm, Omro, WI.
The Sullivan’s have a CSA farm as well as making goat milk soaps and bath products. Art was the Vice-Chairman for two seasons. Art helped to organize workshops including his own soap making demo. Art bought in animals for a petting zoo, got quotes for signs, set-up and clean-up the day of the market, found sponsors and vendors. He also attended meetings at which we worked out the rules and future plans.
Donna Dernbach – Golden Dreams Ostrich Farm, Almond, WI.
The Dernback’s raise ostrich and sell frozen ostrich meat, ostrich egg shells and ostrich leather. Donna was the Food Safety Advisor for one season. Donna worked with the city health inspector to work out definitions for the rules on preparing and giving samples at a farmers market. Donna did a TV live interview with demonstration to promote the workshops and market.
Patty and Dick Kandiko – Apple Orchard Alpacas, Oshkosh, WI.
The Kandiko’s raise alpacas, they sell alpaca yarn and knit items as well as do spinning demonstrations. Patty was the secretary for one year and Dick was the secretary for one year. They helped with initial planning, arrangements for paper for the flyers, brought in alpacas for the petting zoo on opening days and a fiber day event.
Steve Keune – Keune Authentic Foods, Seymour, WI.
The Kenue’s operate a CSA farm and farm store selling their products and products from farms all over Wisconsin. Steve was the treasurer for half a season.
Kris Robertson – Robertson Orchards, Sturgeon Bay, WI.
The Robertson’s orchard raises apples, cherries, and berries. They also make cider and frozen apples. Kris helped with ideas for signage and advertising; he also put on two workshops about cherry products.
Jolene Staskal – Wool ‘N Woods Farm, Two Rivers, WI.
The Staskal’s raise sheep. They sell frozen lamb and mutton meat, raw wool, sheep skins and rovings. Jolene attending meetings, helped with ideas on rules, events and advertising. Jolene applied for a SARE grant to put up a billboard to promote the winter market and direct marketing but we did not get it.
After we received our grant several producers joined the winter market and have been helping with the project:
Terry Diedrich – Navarino Valley Elk Ranch, Shiocton, WI.
Terry raises elk on his farm. He sells frozen elk meet and the horns. He has been the Food Safety Advisor for two years. Terry has helped with large signs and contacting businesses to put up posters. He also has been working with the city health inspector to assure compliance with the rules for vendors and food samples.
Barb and John Bednarek – Bednarek’s Bison, Princeton, WI.
The Bednarek’s raise buffalo and sell many cuts of bison meat. Barb helps to organize and run the opening day buffet that features producer products. John helps with set-up the day of the markets. They also distribute the flyer, help with promotion and give a workshop on the benefits of bison meat.
Marcia – Rolling Meadows Sorghum Mill, Elkhart Lake, WI.
Marcia is a full time employee on the farm; she handles sorghum syrup production and all aspects of sales and promotion. She also sells honey and maple syrup for a neighboring farm. Rolling Meadows also has a bakery where they make cookies, pies, and jams. Marcia helps to distribute the flyers for the winter market. She attends meetings and contributes ideas even though she has only been with the market for half a season so far.
Don Spoehr – DJS Poultry and Rabbit Farm, Bear Creek, WI.
The Spoehr’s raise chickens and many other kinds of poultry and rabbits. Don is the vice-chairman of the market this year. He is new to the market but is already helping with promotion, donating items for cooking demonstrations and set up and clean up the day of the markets
There are other vendors who help with the market but are not producers. They make value added products from agricultural products.
Anna and Allen Noyce – Two Paws Up Bakery, Appleton, WI. They make home made dog and cat treats. Help with promotion of the market.
Thain Jones – Thain Jones’ Competitrain, Little Chute, WI. Thain has a custom ground fortified flax product that can be added to beverages or baking. Help with promotion of the market.
Erica Van Ryzin – Green Heart Natural Health, Appleton, WI. Erica makes many different medicinal herbal products. Help with promotion of the market and helped to work through problems during our stay at the Plant Station Greenhouse. Erica also puts on many health related workshops each season.
Rose Misco – Natural Expressions, Appleton, WI. Rose makes many kinds of breads and buns from scratch. She helped us to find and make initial arrangements with the Thompson Community Center for our final location change. Rose helped with promotion during the location change. She also puts on workshops.
During this project the community has been very supportive, we have had help from:
Todd Trueblood, Director, Memorial Park Arboretum and Garden, Appleton. The Arboretum supported us with technical support, free rent our first year and a 50% reduction in rent costs our second year.
Custom Printing, Appleton. Printing costs for our flyers was donated each year. Between 6,000 and 10,000 flyers each year.
Colwitz Convenience Store, Shiocton. Supports us with a cash donation each year of $300.00 to be put toward advertising.
Machine Shed Restaurant, Appleton. Chefs put on a 3 hour cooking demonstration at (2) markets each season at no charge.
WEMI Christian Family Radio, Appleton. Matched dollar for dollar, free radio ads for each dollar we spent on radio ads on their station for (3) years. Approximately $1,000.00 each year.
The Free Market, Appleton. Supported us with a cash donation of $500.00 per year for advertising for (2) years. They also are organizing a three part children’s workshop and did a fundraiser brat fry to raise money for the materials for the children’s workshop.
Griesbach Equipment Inc, Appleton. Supported us with cash donation of $300.00 per year for advertising for (2) years. They also brought in lawn and garden equipment for a display at one of the markets.
Bend Ind, Appleton. Donated $300.00 cash for advertising for one year and did a workshop on building retaining walls for gardens.
Miller Electric Credit Union, Appleton. Just started as a sponsor at the beginning of the fourth season. They are paying for a new banner for the main sign in front of the community center. They also hope to put it in their budget to be a major sponsor at $1,000.00 per year for several years in the future.
WI Initiative for Value Added Development, USDA-SARE and IFAFS funded project. through the UW Center for Cooperatives we received help with cash for radio advertising and hours of technical support. They provided a workshop on grant writing which I believe helped us to get this grant.
Zen Miller, Dairy/Livestock Agent, UW Extension Outagamie County, Appleton. Zen acts as a consultant. He reviews grant applications, attends meetings, helped organize petting zoos and consulted during problems when located at the Plant Station. Zen did workshops on soil testing in spring and turf maintenance. Zen did a survey each year of the vendors.
The Thompson Community Center, Appleton. Mark Ziemer, Director, has been very helpful in our quick move mid season last year. The Thompson Center is planning on participating starting this season by joining forces with us to put on the “Lunch at the Farm Market” buffet and offering a hot lunch at each market using products from the farm vendors. They also plan to include our market information on workshops, dates, events, etc. in their website and newsletter calendar.
The results that we achieved were to set up and operate on indoor market that resembles a summer farmers market. For consumers to be able to come together to one location to buy many types of year round agricultural products direct from the producers. We were able to advertise and promote this market and convey to the public the purpose of this market through media and our workshops.
Before this market was established the local agricultural producers would sell their products from their farms during the winter, occasionally trying to get into retail stores or restaurants. Some products fit into the craft shows but they did not have the right kind of atmosphere. On farm sales during the winter are very very slow. Most producers live in small rural towns to far from the larger cities for the consumer to easily travel to in the winter. This market not only allowed the producer to deal directly with the consumer right through the winter but also opened up other avenues. Health food stores and restaurants heard of our market and came to check out potential suppliers which turned into thriving business partnerships.
The winter market’s results, growth and achievements can be looked at in three ways: Attendance, Consumer view point and Vendor view point.
History of market growth by vendor attendance:
(9) full time vendors
(2) half season vendors
2002-2003 (first year with SARE grant)
(11) full time vendors
(2) half season vendors
(3) part time vendors
2003-2004 (second year with SARE grant)
(12) full time vendors
(5) half season vendors, (4) of these joined after moving to the Thompson Community Center
(3) plus, part time vendors
2004-2005 (so far, we are still 6 weeks away from the start of the season)
(16) full time vendors sighed up another (2) are thinking of signing up this week
(3) half season vendors
(3) part time vendors, unknown at this time
(7) special events
Attendance by the consumer:
We had door prizes at each market. On the door prize entry forms we asked for email addresses so they could be added to our email newsletter list. Not every one signs up for door prizes. But we still used this as a rough comparison from date to date as to the size of the crowd.
2001-2002 (first year at arboretum, before grant work)
Range from 25 to 109; average 66
35% included email addresses
2002-2003 (second year at arboretum, first year with SARE grant)
Range from 17 to 68; average 33
23% included new email addresses
Even with all the extra grant money for advertising our attendance was going down, we felt it was due to the location, this was one of the reasons for our move.
2003-2004 (second year with SARE grant, half season at Plant Station, half season at Thompson Community Center)
Range from 24 to 58; average 42
14% included new email addresses
First half of season attendance dropped off so bad that it is not included in this record. This data is for the second half of the season after moving to Thompson Community Center.
Consumer’s view of the market: results of a survey taken of people attending the winter farmer’s market.
2001-2002 (year before grant work, 125 people surveyed by email, 23 surveys returned)
1) Have attended up to 30% of market dates: 35%
Have attended up to 60% of market dates: 35%
Have attended over 60% of market dates: 30%
2) Attend during the first hour: 65%
Attend during the second hour: 35%
Attend during the last two hours: 13%
3) Have attended workshops: 48%
4) Buy from 1 to 3 vendors: 61%
Buy from 4 or more vendors: 39%
5) Did you hear about us from the newspaper?: 17%
Did you hear about us from the radio?: 17%
Did you hear about us form the flyer?: 52%
Did you hear about us from a friend?: 39%
6) 1 to 2 people in your family: 70%
More than 3 people in your family: 30%
2002-2003 (first year of grant work, 250 people surveyed by email, 48 surveys returned)
1) Have attended up to 30% of market dates: 48%
Have attended up to 60% of market dates: 21%
Have attended over 60% of market dates: 31%
2) Attend during the first hour: 48%
Attend during the second hour: 38%
Attend during the last two hours: 19%
3) Have attended workshops: 19%
4) Buy from 1 to 3 vendors: 85%
Buy from 4 or more vendors: 13%
5) Did you hear about us from the newspaper?: 85%
Did you hear about us from the radio?: 10%
Did you hear about us from our flyer?: 19%
Did you hear about us from a friend?: 13%
6) 1 to 2 people in your family?: 71%
More than 3 people in your family?: 27%
Other results from the survey of customers include: in January 2003 – 63% had attended the year before, 31% were attending for a first year.
Types of products purchased included:
Personal care: 50%
Fiber products: 17%
We also tried to do a random phone survey to see what percentage of people in the Appleton area go to the farmer’s market summer or winter, types of products purchased and if they have heard of the winter farmer’s market. This survey was done at the beginning of the grant period and again at the end. With the second survey, 2 years later, we found that people are harder to get on the phone and not as willing to do phone surveys as they were 2 years earlier. The second survey showed an unusually high percentage of people who have never gone to farmers markets compared to the survey done 2 years earlier. But, from the increase in attendance at the summer farmers market in Appleton over the past 2 years, this could not be accurate. Therefore, this survey is not being used.
Zen Miller, UW Extension office, Outagamie County, took a survey of the vendors at the end of each market season. Following are the results from the first year and the third (last) year.
Number of surveys filled out, 7, 13
Full time vendor, 4, 12
Part time vendor, 3, 1
Estimated gross sales during season:
$0-$1000, 3, 6
$1000-$2000, 1, 3
$2000-$4000, 2, 3
$4000-more, 1, 0
How were you selling last winter, (3) from the farm store, (2) from farm store
From November to April? (not counting wholesale) for 2001-2002: (2) craft shows, (2) selling in winter meeting customers at central point. For 2003-2004: (2) craft shows, gun shows, home and garden shows, (2) didn’t sell, (3) not in business yet, and (6) the FVWFM.
How did your sales at our winter market compare to the above sales last year during the same time period?
1.5 times more, 2, 3
2 times more, 2, –
3 times more, 1, 1
Some could not compare due to the poor half season in 2003-2004 at The Plant Station, but noted that the second half of the season did pretty well. Others could not compare because they were not in business yet the year before.
Do you feel the winter market also increased your phone calls and visits to the farm by consumers during the winter?
Yes, 6, 8
No, 1, 4
Rate your satisfaction with the winter farmer’s market so far.
Very poor, 0, 0
Average, 2, 5
Above average, -, 2
Excellent, 5, 6
The results of this project have been as good as I had hoped. The market is becoming well known by the agricultural vendors, the community is becoming more aware that this is available in the winter. I just hope that now with our grant work and grant funds for promotion being complete, that people don’t forget about the market when they see less promoting being done.
If there was anything I could have done differently, I think it would have been to find the Thompson Community Center when the Fox Valley Winter Farmer’s Market was first started. The market could be bigger and better today if it would have been started in a location that was easier to find, with more room and if we would not have moved location twice in one year.
From working on this project I learned that it is very beneficial for a market of this type to be run by the vendors. You need specialized promotion and knowledge of the products available to get the word out to the public that this is not just another craft show in the winter. This work also needs to be done by a team and not just one person. It takes a lot of time to make the market organized, fun and attractive to the public. We start to work on the promotions already in June and that does not stop until April.
The affects on our farm have been mostly good. It has given us a winter income. We most likely would have quit farming 2 years ago if it were not for the winter farmers market. The only bad thing about the market is that the time to do my share of the organizing, advertising, etc. takes away form my time to do the farm account records. Like many farmers today we both work off the farm, so time is scarce.
Our biggest barrier was getting the word out to the public. I feel we have taken a big step towards overcoming that. It is something that will never be completed but will be easier from here on out. One advantage we did have on our side when we started was that we were holding the winter market in the same location as an exiting summer market. We were able to utilize the summer market for distributing our flyers and get pre-season promotion. The only disadvantage to a winter farm market is that you no longer have all your Saturdays free after the summer farm market season is over.
I have been called by producers and Extension agents in other counties for information on our winter farm market and how it has been progressing. I am always happy to spend a half hour or more telling them all about it. I usually cover all the information that is in the report when talking about it. Usually they have heard about the market through articles in the different agricultural newspapers in Wisconsin, the UW Center for Cooperatives in Madison or through the county Extension offices.
Using one vendor as an example (our farm) Venneford Farm Country Meats had sales of $5300.00 during the winter before the first indoor winter farmers market. The first season of the winter farmer’s market was in excess of $8,000.00 for the same winter months. By our third winter season we had more than doubled our income from what it was before the winter market started. Through the winter market we came in contact with a new health food store opening up in Appleton. We have been selling our meat in their store ever since they opened. This accounts for another $3,000.00 in winter sales.
We have spread the word about our project as a whole through various forms of media:
– The Appleton Post Crescent runs an article each year
– The Green Bay Press Gazette
– The Press Times, Seymour
– The Healthy Independent
– The Country Today
– The Wisconsin State Farmer
Newsletter articles other than our own:
– Memorial Park Arboretum and Garden
– The Good Neighbor Program, live interviews each month during market season
– Radio live remote during opening day in 2002.
We have spread the word about our workshops and special events and dates by:
– All area radio stations and their website calendars
– All area TV stations and their website calendars
– All area newspapers
– We send a notice to girl and boy scouts, 4-H, etc
Distribution of flyer:
– 6,000 to 10,000 copies of our flyer are distributed
– Handed out at farmers markets during the summer from Green Bay to Princeton
– Sent out to private and public grade schools
– Distributed through area businesses
– Workshops promoted in ads in newspaper
– Workshops promoted in ads on radio
The project results will be shared with others by way of forwarding a copy of the grant report to the county extension office and from there it will be distributed to all the other extension offices in Wisconsin.
Our workshops vary in topic, length and hands on opportunities from month to month. The attendance will also vary depending on the type of workshop. Our attendance varies from 5 to 35, but the average is between 12 and 20. We have found that repeating the same workshop each year is not good after the second time. Attendance becomes very low the third time. It is best to have different workshops and keep them lively and interesting. We have found that cooking demonstrations with professional chefs go over very well; these get an attendance of 35 or more. We also found that having workshops geared towards gardening during March and April help to draw people out of their yards and to the market in the early spring.