Hancock Harvest Council (HHC) was founded in 2005 by a group of farmers who wanted to market their products locally. HHC is comprised of a diverse group of farmers including “hobby farmers”, fruit and vegetable growers, grain and livestock farmers, organic dairy farmers and greenhouse growers. These farmers produced diverse high quality products but very few consumers were aware of the availability of local products and agri-tourism opportunities. HHC was formed to evaluate ways in which to educate consumers on what products are available to them and how their support contributes to sustainable agriculture and community heritage.
The producers lacked the education on sustainable agricultural practices and benefits on how they impact their quality of life, as well as the marketing strategies to communicate the availability of their products.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
1. EXPAND AND ENHANCE A COHESIVE NETWORK OF PRODUCERS.
Hancock Harvest Council (HHC) established in 2005 and at time of application had approximately 30 members. Membership continues to expand as knowledge of the group and activities continue. A monthly one-page ad in the local paper included space encouraging new members. Membership recruitment has been incorporated into a website which has been developed and continues to be updated using Buy Fresh Buy Local® branded tools. It includes an on-line application for membership.
2. DEVELOP MARKETING TOOLS that will communicate the availability of local products that include:
The HHC has purchased chapter membership in Buy Fresh Buy Local® (BFBL) through FoodRoutes (website http://www.foodroutes.org/). This became a cornerstone to many aspects of our plan. The cost for this was $2500.00 plus an additional $600 to attend their National Gathering, which gave us great insight on what other chapters are doing to make their chapter a success. We also pay $500 annually and complete in-kind support to maintain our membership.
• Branding package:
o BFBL established branding tools was adapted for HHC
o Chapter established; member guidelines drafted
o Developed using BFBL tools and customized branding. It is www.hancockharvestcouncil.com
• Farmer/rancher directory
o A directory was first developed in 2006 and has been updated yearly.
o Development of website has enabled more real-time updates to the directory and availability to the public, with information on members’ status as local producers, and enabling listing and recognition of supporting members, both individuals and corporate sponsors.
o We have also produced a one-page directory listing each BFBL member and what products they sell directly to the public. We mass produced this directory in the spring of 2009 in Full Color. The directory used for 2008 was black and white and was distributed at our farm tour in April as well as at farmers markets. The 2009 Directory was available during our farm tour, at farmers markets, the County Fair as well as many other places where we had a HHC Booth Set up. We also have the directory available at our Chamber of Commerce and other business locations locally.
• Marketing brochure –
o The HHC brochure has been updated using BFBL branding and marketing tools.
• Newsletter –
o We initiated a monthly newsletter in August 2009 using Constant Contact Marketing Service for distribution. We felt this was the most cost effective method in getting the information out. We had collected e-mails from our farm tour attendees, market customers and from our booth setup. Interested individuals can sign up to receive our newsletter from our web site as well.
o The newsletters are archived, so anyone who is interested can go to the web site and review previous issues
o The newsletters contain information on our members with a member being focused on each month. We have also been promoting the local farmers markets and making people aware of what products can be found at the market. Other information included is agri-tourism and educational opportunities that are available.
3. EDUCATE CONSUMERS AND INCREASE AWARENESS of local product offerings and related social health and economic benefit
• One-page monthly ad secured in the local newspaper (Greenfield Daily Reporter) with top section with educational information about local foods and events, and bottom section of purchased individual ad space purchased by HHC members. Ad expenses thus far are $1576.25.
• Booth: We set up a booth at several events promoting the availability of local foods and Agritourism. One of our most successful booths was held at the Hancock County 4-H Fair. We were able to collect surveys from attendees on their awareness of HHC and local foods. We distributed our directory and attendees were entered into a drawing for local products. We also set up a booth at the Indiana Horticulture Congress in 2009 & 2010, which helped us to promote HHC and the Buy Fresh Buy Local Branding. We gained new members to our group each year.
• Website: www.hancockharvestcouncil.com has been developed and continues to be updated with new and pertinent information. It now includes a Member/Supporter page listing our members and the type of products they produce, each member also has their individual page with additional information about them and their sustainable practices. We also have a Farmers Market page listing all of our Farmers Market Members and each market has a page that can include what vendors they have at their market, dates and hours of the market and other pertinent information. Our Newsletter page directs individuals to our archived newsletters. We also have a links page which includes links to other educational, related and/or sustainable sites for members as well as consumers. We still have additional work to complete with the addition of recipes on the recipe page as well as making our home page more educational based.
• Farm Tour kickoff for BFBL chapter was held on April 26, 2008, and was a huge success. We collected a consumer mailing list as part of the pre-registration for this event. Six member farms hosted 850-1000 guests per site. The event allowed for a lot of consumer education on the availability of local products as well as allowing them to get to know several of the local farmers. We hosted a second farm tour on June 27, 2009 which included four member farms, it was also a successful event although not as well attended as our first event, the weather was very hot and several other events were occurring the same day.
Hancock Harvest Council meets monthly for all members. We also hold executive meetings and held several planning meetings for events such as our farm tours. In all of our planning we looked at how we could best provide education to the public. Much discussion in the beginning was around how we were going to brand our group. We felt like going with the Buy Fresh Buy Local® chapter would give us the best recognition and awareness of our mission to promote local foods.
We utilized the local paper initially to promote the availability of local foods and to educate the public on buying in season. We felt like this worked well for the first year, but we had no way of tracking the effect it was having for any of our producers.
Believing that a low percentage of the population actually takes the Daily Reporter, we began doing advertising slots with the local theatre which gave us a greater exposure over a multi-county area that utilizes Legacy Cinema. This is a one year contract; we used this to promote our farm tour, farmers markets and to guide individuals to check out our web site.
We have seen an increase in the number of hits to our web site with the implementation of the Legacy Cinema ads as well as the newsletters. With the implementation of the Winter Market this year, we are reaching more of the individuals who don’t normally shop at the market during the summer. People are checking out the winter market, who say I grow my own during the summer, we are hoping this increased awareness of other products will keep them as continued customers during the normal market season.
With our annual farm tour we are getting individuals out to the farms and encouraging them to become more informed consumers. Each year we want to increase the educational value of the farm tour to include how our members are using sustainable agricultural practices as well as increase their understanding of how their food is produced.
1. Members of Hancock Harvest Council, complete list is on our web site www.hancockharvestcouncil.com on the member/supporter page. Paid membership dues and provided many volunteer hours to implement the marketing strategies.
2. Roy Ballard, Purdue Extension Educator, Hancock County, 802 N Apple Street, Greenfield IN 46140. Roy provided direction on sustainable agriculture educational programs and acted as program advisor for HHC.
3. Daily Reporter, Local Newspaper, 22 West New Road, Greenfield, IN 46140. HHC worked with the Daily Reporter on educating the public on the availability of local products and Agritourism opportunities,
4. Greenfield Chamber of Commerce, 1 Courthouse Plaza, Greenfield IN 46140. Increased visibility of HHC with other businesses.
5. Mike and Ruth Ann Roney, Tuttle Orchards, 5717 N 300 W, Greenfield IN 46140. Mike provided input in successful development of sustainable operation and marketing for Agritourism sites.
6. Food Routes Network – Buy Fresh Buy Local, R.R. 1, Box 25, Troy PA, 16947. Buy Fresh Buy Local® membership and graphics also helped with web site initial design.
7. Kyle Turpin, 5125 N Sugar Hills Drive, Greenfield, IN 46140. Was hired to update web site as needed with new member pages and other major changes. We also utilized him to teach a member how to do minor updates to our web site.
We increased awareness of local foods and helped to start as well as revitalize farmers markets in the area. We have continued to expand our membership which now includes 45 producer members, six farmers markets, two restaurants as well as consumer/associate members. We have helped to increase customers who shop at the local farmers markets, by increasing awareness of what items are available. A lot of individuals thought of the markets as just fruits and vegetables, they are now aware of the availability of meats, eggs and many other items. We also initiated a winter market that started in November 2009, which has been very successful. We continue to see new faces each market checking us out, not aware that products could be available at a market during the winter months.
Hancock Harvest Council has been a great networking opportunity for our members and we continue to expand on this. We also hope to increase consumer involvement in helping us know what they would like to see available. We hope to provide some workshops for consumers as well as producers within the next year.
We always kept moving forward with our goals for the project, but finding the best ideas and then getting them implemented took a lot of effort from several individuals in our group. We did ask for and were granted a one-year extension, which was very much appreciated. As a primarily farmer/producer group, we are not used to the marketing end of our work. We learned a great deal on the importance of building contacts with individuals and businesses that could help us and give us advice. We are very happy with our choice of becoming a Buy Fresh Buy Local Chapter for our branding as that gave us a lot of credibility.
In utilizing a grant such as this in the future, we will do a better job of pre-planning how we would accomplish our goals and have a more defined project in place. This was a great tool to help us learn and we feel like we did accomplish the goals we set forth initially, just not quite the way we initially thought it would take place. We found it challenging to actually track the increase in consumer awareness in a measurable way.
• We utilized newspaper, web sites including our own, radio and TV to promote our Farm Tour.
• The newsletter keeps individuals up to date on the progress we are making.
• The hard copy and electronic (web site) directory of producers and members inform individuals of what is available.
• Enclosed are picture from our Farm Tour, copy of full page newspaper ads, press releases, our 2009 BFBL Directory, survey used (results available upon request), farm tour flyers, recent feature article. [Editor’s note: For copies of these items, please contact NCR-SARE at email@example.com or 612-626-3113.]