Susan Misgen operates a certified organic greenhouse and vegetable farm and sells chicken as well. She sells her products directly to customers in Austin, Albert Lea, Owatonna, and off her farm.
Nancy Aspelund, since divorced used to run 615 acres with her husband. She direct marketed pork, poultry, and vegetables at farmers markets in St. James and Madelia and off their farm. They had their first certified organic field and garden in 1999. She had planned on selling organic meat some day.
Both Susan and Nancy were members of the Sustainable Farming Association, South Central Chapter. Both had been involved in organics for quite a few years, Susan had been certified for quite a number of years. Both were direct marketing products in their immediate area. Susan has held various offices in her SFA chapter. The Aspelunds had planted three field windbreaks throughout fifteen years, and had just introduced pastured pigs and chickens into their operation.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
The goals of our project were to increase sales of sustainable products, to connect potential customers with the farmers who were direct marketing, and to increase the membership in our SFA. All of these goals were for within our south-central Minnesota area.
In June of 1999, Susan and Nancy brought up the idea of a directory to their SFA chapter officers. They thought it would be a good idea to try, so we started looking within our chapter for those who might be interested in participating. We thought if anyone outside of our chapter wanted to be in it, all they had to do was become a member of the chapter ($20 per membership). Susan designed a questionnaire for each participating farm to fill out, and we set a deadline for the questionnaires to be returned.
We started thinking of how to reach potential customers, where those people would be. We came up with libraries, churches, and customers at farmers markets. We also wanted to send some to each extension office in our counties to let them know of the people who were trying sustainable practices. Nancy came up with a list of the libraries and extension offices in their 11 county area.
Susan put together a rough draft of the directory and took it to a local printer for estimates. Susan and Nancy both worked on getting the cooperation of six businesses and organizations to help get their directories out.
They went out in early spring of 2000 and took pictures of the farmers and/or their products. After taking the rough draft into the printer, the directories were printed. We mailed them out in August of 2000, making sure we had enough ourselves to hand out at markets, etc. In September 2000, we mailed our forms to each farm, asking them to try and keep track of the number of calls and sales directly related to their being listed in the directory.
The people involved were all the farmers listed in the directory, the Mankato Area Environmentalists, Land Stewardship Project, Clean Water Action Fund, Prescott Bergh (Minnesota Department of Agriculture), Geneva Meats and Processing, and Krause Livestock and Feed. The MAE, LSP, and CWA were going to distribute the directories at meetings and functions they attended. The libraries and extension offices would be able to display them for any interested people (farmers and consumers). Prescott Bergh is helping with marketing by giving a talk to our SFA chapter. Geneva Meats and Krause Livestock supplied services to those listed in the directory, and they also display copies for their customers.
The directory generated very few calls. One person did make a sale form a call due to the directory, one person had a call but made no sale, and one person received a call from a librarian who called to say the directory was a great idea. We were disappointed in the lack of calls or inquiries generated.
However, people were glade to take them at markets and at points of sale. Those listed in it were very glad to be in it, and were glad to see the others in their area who were involved in sustainable Ag. Some people handed them out like business cards. One person used it as an educational tool for meetings.
One neat thing that happened was the AgriNews, a weekly newspaper out of Rochester, MN did an interview of a family after receiving a copy of the directory.
We did increase our SFA chapter membership by one family due to the directory. The farm family joined in order to be included in it.
We learned that there are not that many people interested in purchasing sustainably produced products. It seems not too many people are aware of where their food comes from, other than a grocery store. I think that, as one directory participant put it, we are just starting to see people buying these types of products.
The directory didn’t affect our operations much, but it did help the farmers in it to see who the other farmers were in their area who were interested in sustainable agriculture. That seemed to be one of the main things that those involved appreciated about the directory. It also was used as an educational tool by one of the participants who is also involved in environmental groups.
Everyone agreed that the directory was well done, and they all seemed to be glad to be in it. Most would want to be in another one.
Recommendations: the only recommendation we have is that we should have left off the date, so we could use them longer.
We mailed ten directories to each library and extension office in our eleven county area. We also mailed some to the Mankato Area Environmentalists, the Land Stewardship Project, Clean Water Action Fund, and each participant to hand out at their church or other places they wished.