The following details our second-year project activities:
• sent sample bottles to potential retailers, planned for in-store samplings
• featured in various local newspapers (winter/spring 2012)
• displayed product at organic farming conference (Feb 2012)
• planted 18 acres camelina (April 2012)
• attained organic certification (May 2012)
• pressed second batch of oil (June 2012)
• pressed third batch of oil (Sept 2012)
Throughout the second year of our project, we conducted a total of 12 in-store samplings, attended various conferences and events to promote our oil, and grew our number of retailers to over 15 stores by the end of 2012.
All grant funds were used during our first year (refer to 2011 progress report for details).
While our first year was spent doing countless hours of research around camelina and developing our processing methods and business plan, our second year focused primarily on marketing and selling our finished product. Our first strategy was calling buyers from Minnesota food co-ops to tell them about camelina oil and ask them to carry it. Overall, our product was very well-received by local food co-ops, especially considering most retail staff and customers had never heard of it. We emphasized camelina’s impressive nutritional profile and the fact that our product is certified organic, locally grown, and family owned. As more retailers picked our product up, we began talks with local distributors and food brokers to further grow and expand our sales.
We’ve found the potential market demand for camelina oil to indeed be very promising, though the main challenge right now is simply consumer awareness and education.
The tangible results of our second project year include: organic certification for our product, inventory on-hand and ready to sell, a growing list of retailers (17 stores currently carry our oil, and in Spring 2013 we will be adding an additional 38 stores to total 55 locations throughout the United States), partnerships with 3 food distribution companies, and various press coverage via local and regional media outlets.
In 2012, we increased our planting acreage and rate to 18 acres at 7 lbs/acre for better coverage (again using the grass seed attachment on a drill at the red clover setting). We packed it for good seed-to-soil contact. Just like the previous year, though, the weather proved to be hard on all of our crops. We experienced a very wet April and May, during which the soil was too wet for too long and resulted in a problem with powdery mildew. By mid-June the camelina plants were dying from fungal diseases, and so we had to dig up our entire camelina planting. Drought was again an issue, and without any rainfall during June and July we were unable to replant during the 2012 growing season.
As stated in our 2011 progress report, we’ve found camelina to be a hearty, competitive, and low-input crop well suited to southern Minnesota. Though we weren’t successful in growing a 2012 crop, we remain optimistic for future plantings. (Refer to our 2011 progress report for additional technical information pertaining to camelina.)
WORK PLAN FOR THE FUTURE
We will continue to focus on marketing our oil and identifying new sales channels. We will also work with grocery managers to help educate staff and consumers about camelina oil, its health benefits, and its many uses. We hope to further expand our geographic reach and also have plans to begin selling raw, whole camelina seed.
Our project dissemination activities for 2012 include the following:
• 1 in-store sampling (approx. 80 people) (January 2012)
• table and oil pressing demo at regional organic farming conference (approx. 300 people)
• oil featured in two local newspapers (February 2012)
• 1 in-store sampling (approx. 110 people)
• oil featured in statewide Minnesota newspaper (March 2012)
• 2 in-store samplings (approx. 275 people total)
• oil featured in prominent Midwestern agriculture periodical (May 2012)
• oil featured in 1 in-store cooking class at food co-op (approx. 25 people) (June 2012)
• presented oil at local organic field day hosted by University of Minnesota (approx. 45 people) presented oil at local Rotary Club meeting (approx. 25 people)
• 1 in-store sampling (approx. 50 people) (July 2012)
• 3 in-store samplings (approx. 450 people total) (August 2012)
• featured in two Minnesota food distribution catalogs, 1 in-store sampling (approx. 120 people) (September 2012)
• 1 in-store sampling and video session (approx. 80 people) (October 2012)
• 2 in-store samplings (approx. 200 people) (December 2012)
We also accomplished several other information-sharing activities throughout the year such as: regular blog posts via our website (including recipes), our oil featured on other blogs, social media promotion, and distributing our informational materials and product samples to numerous potential retailers and wholesale buyers. In addition, we worked with a local film producer to create a short, promotional video of our camelina oil and family business, scheduled to debut spring 2013.