Final Report for FNC03-491
This project involved the three producer farms listed below. A fourth farm was included the second year, Renee Bartz, Bolen Vale Farm.
Shepherd Song Farm is a 140 acre family operated sheep and meat goat operation owned by Judy and Larry Jacoby. Family members include over 200 ewes and 100 meat does. Grass raised, hormone-free lambs grow naturally on rotated pasture. Guard animals include 5 guardian dogs and over a dozen llamas (some have been loaned to neighboring sheep and goat farms). Holistic management practices were begun in 1992 with rotational grazing and limited grain feeds. With this grant support, direct marketing has begun into the Samoli, Hispanic/Latino and Hmong ethnic markets of Minneapolis, St. Paul.
Jennifer Bush and Andrew Gaertner are produce and maple syrup producers and the farm educators for the Lake Country School. Their 160-acre farm has chickens, sheep and llamas and has been in operation since 1995 as a remote site for the students of the Lake Country School to learn about ecology and agriculture. Andy spent 3 years in the Peace Corp in Honduras working on sustainable agriculture projects and water conservation. Andy and Jen (2002) traveled to Guatemala as part of the Farmer to Farmer education program supporting weavers and coffee producers.
Arlene and Maynard McCelland, retired dairy farmers, raise hormone-free, grass pastured beef. Maynard has had bee hives since he was seventeen. Since 1970 he has had up to 30 hives in the surrounding community and sold honey through a local food cooperative, a local grocery store and an off-farm site. In the 1980’s the McCellands initiated a food cooperative uniting neighboring farms. They have done special packaging of honey for community events. Arlene has been a community leader for over 60 years and managed the rural food co-op in Connorsville, WI for over 15 years.
Renee Bartz, Bolen Vale Farm. Renee opened a cheese store at the Bartz family dairy farm during our project. Her location became an ideal place for sales, farm recreation and educational activities. Youth apprentices experienced on-farm sales and customer service at her renovated garage cheese store. Although she was not written into the original proposal, she became a critical member of the team for marketing of our products.
Project Description and Results
Direct marketing to ethnic, diverse and niche markets is important to the financial viability of our farms. Our challenge has been to find cost-effective methods of direct marketing to offset the extra time required and the collapse of local outlets (i.e. small grocery and food cooperatives). Recently Hispanic, Hmong and Samoli families have sought us out. The whole family arrives, infants to grandparents. These families are purchasing something more than food—-a memory of their heritage while strengthening family bonds.
The objective of this project is to direct market a variety of products (i.e. produce, honey, naturally raised lamb, goat, chicken, fiber kits)to culturally diverse families and communities by connecting families to land, agriculture and shared experiences.
Process: Some of the activities included:
• Invitations for a city-farm visit once a month, May through October. Each farm will take two turns hosting the visit. The objectives of these visits are to instill a respect for nature and an understanding of food production. In season, families will be encouraged to harvest their own meal. Activities included opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, moving sheep with trained border collie, spinning, felting or blacksmith demonstrations. A corn maze is being established for the fall of 2005.
• Paid apprenticeship opportunities for culturally diverse adolescent youth and unpaid apprenticeships for Lake Country private school youth.
• Multilingual (i.e. Samoli, Hmong, Turkish, Spanish) advertisements published in area specific magazines, Bed & Breakfast publications, tourist information centers, university and specific audience newspapers.
• Web site for education and future marketing.
• Multilingual labels, business cards, 1-page handouts and brochures designed to describe the products.
People that assisted include:
Arlene and Maynard McCelland: collaborating producers
Jennifer Bush and Andrew Gaertner: collaborating producers and Lake Country School Farm managers
Dale Wiehoff: Vice President Communication, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Karen Fredrickson: Fiber artist
Abdi Abdilahi: Somali community advocate and guide
Dao Xiong: Hmong community advocate and guide
Jesus Villasenor: Hispanic community advocate and guide
Figen Haugen: Turkish Muslim community advocate and guide
Rabbi Goldberger: Orthodox Jewish kosher advisor
Renee Bartz: second year collaborating producer and Bolen Vale Cheese Store
University WI River Falls Extension: Survey data input and data analysis
University WI Madison Extension: Sheep marketing support
Steve Fisher: USDA slaughter facility, halal goat trials
Summer Interns (8)
• Diverse families will visit repeatedly and relationships developed: The majority of our farm sales have been from repeat visits especially from extended Mexican families the first year and Somali Muslim families the second year. We lost a few of our families due to moves (California to harvest grapes, Alabama to process chickens). Many of our families do not have telephones so just appear at our door with the expectation that we will always be home. Some have waited 6 hours for us to return home from an errand to make a purchase.
• Our goat sales have become nearly 100 percent direct sales to ethnic families. Direct lamb sales have ranged between 30 and 40 percent due to the Muslim and Hispanic preference for goat meat over lamb. We have sold out on goats supplied from 4 collaborating farms (over 400 kids year one).
• Increased farm visits from two or three a season to five or six per month. The second year an additional collaborating farm implemented a cheese store, corn maze, educational farm tour with livestock in natural setting, sale of local producer products in a renovated garage store. This has resulted in monthly sales averaging over $4,000 and increased family visits substantially.
• Additional funds were leveraged from a WI grant to do a Somali meat preference survey in the Minneapolis metro area and to provide additional producer workshops in the fall of 2005 and winter of 2006 with nationally known experts on ethnic marketing. The Somali community of Barron, WI has provided support, and working together with Dunn County Economic Development have helped establish an ethnic meat market in the nearby area of WI.
• Developed point of purchase product information, website, translated advertisements.
• Apprentice youth developed their own enterprises with range and organically fed chickens, goats, llamas, and lambs. Wool was prepared spun and made into kits.
We have found, and research supports, standard marketing methods are not effective with culturally diverse families. Look to your personal networks of friends, co-workers, neighbors, relatives for opportunities to reach diverse families through an advocate or ambassador to the community.
Look for opportunities to build relationships. Larry has swapped a lamb for a new pair of leather boots, attended wedding celebrations, helped in the preparation of side dishes, provided tools for car repairs, provided access to the internet to check email accounts, tracked down computers and other items, and chatted about everything from politics, to recipes, to baby names.
Hiring youth from culturally diverse families. Mary Lou is thirteen years old and cares for our black chickens raised specifically for Hmong families. As she is also Hmong she is able to help with marketing and bargaining issues. She knows the cost of the feed, the months it takes, the losses due to skunk or mishap—-just let someone attempt to bargain her down!
Our attempts at translated ads in culturally appropriate papers have brought in many phone calls but few actual sales.
Farm gate sales require a personality that welcomes diverse families even at inopportune times (i.e. early in the morning, Christmas Eve, phone calls in rapid Hmong, Spanish or Somali). The producer needs to be flexible and welcome an opportunity for personal growth and learning about the cultural requirements of new Americans.
It is also important to sell in a way that brings in the most profit:
• Sort the animals you have for sale. Have a good sense of their weights and the current market price.
• Know the upcoming holidays and prepare.
• Is it worth feeding out triplets or those significantly behind in weight gain? Is it worth bottle feeding orphans or supplementing triplets? We have found that it can be profitable to sell them off the mom or off the bottle.
• Sort for unproductive ewes and does before breeding in the fall and instead of shipping to the auctions, market for the upcoming holidays. Feed them a maintenance diet. Fat adult animals rarely bring top direct market prices.
• To maintain sanity, set a clear schedule for when sales are available with some exceptions by appointment for special occasions such as weddings, birthdays.
• When possible discuss special occasions in advance to get approximate number and size of animals required. It is disappointing for both seller and purchaser if 10 animals are required and only 5 are available without seeking out a group grazing the back forty.
We found that ethnic sales can be highly profitable or just marginally. To increase sales across an economically diverse group of families, we sort and move our prime animals towards the higher margin sales and hold the slower growing, cull, bottle kids and lambs towards lower margins.
• Rice Lake, Sheep Conference February 5, 2005. Provided a 50 minute presentation to attendees of the conference on marketing to ethnic families. Provided handouts, power point outline and slide display
• Shared project at Sioux Falls SARE work conference and MOSES Organic conference at LaCrosse, WI.
• We will be providing a workshop on October 18, 2005 with a guest speaker from Cornell University, Dr. Joe Regenstien, who will speak on ethnic markets. This is funded by another source but made possible by the connections made in the SARE grant.
•"Country Today" regional newspaper article.