Farmers’ tailgate markets in the south are often small, limited resource, and made up of only a few local producers. In western North Carolina, marketing at tailgate markets is the only possibility for marketing specialty crops for many farmers. Because small markets lack the resources to effectively market they are often doomed to stagnant sales and limited opportunities.
The Mountain Tailgate Market Association (MTMA) was formed in the spring of 2002 to promote and develop the tailgate markets in two counties in western North Carolina. The organization is currently made up of ten markets representing over 150 small farms. The coming together of the tailgate markets within the region is a new way to market farm products. By pooling resources markets can reach new avenues of promotion and development that would otherwise be unattainable. The group promotion and development of markets is an excellent model for other regions, as it is the most economical pooling of resources for the limited resource markets.
1. Conduct group promotions through brochures, print, events, radio, bumper stickers, web, and other media.
2. Develop a MTMA logo to be used on all promotions and signage.
3. Survey vendors and shoppers at markets to enhance markets and evaluate project.
4. Conduct a farmers’ tailgate market workshop for other markets in the region.
The MTMA is made up of one elected representative from each of the markets as well as one at-large member. This group met to decide how to best conduct this project. Decisions on specifics of marketing and timelines were made early in the project and revisited throughout the project. Web and graphic designers were contracted and media contacts made with all members participating and making decisions. Group events were planed. A methodology was devised with the cooperators for the consumer and vendor surveys. Over the course of the 2003 season over 1600 consumers and 60 vendors were surveyed. Plans were made with the cooperators for the farmers’ tailgate market workshop to be held at the end of the project.
The MTMA advertised in several local media with good results. At the beginning of the season the group conducted “dot” surveys at the markets and found out which media their customers were most likely to be using and increased advertising there as a targeted market for their limited funds. This survey technique proved to be very effective for making quick decisions and measuring advertising effectiveness. A logo was developed and is being used in promotions and has brought a sense of group identity that had not existed prior to this project. Web tools make it possible for the markets to weekly post what they have fresh at the markets which goes out through emails and is now carried weekly in the regions largest newspaper. After much deliberation, the group decides against printing brochures. It became clear that the markets changed too much and too often to commit limited resources to such a permanent media. All markets also collaborated in holding an event during the same week. Summer Celebration was highly successful, attracting much media attention and bringing many new people to market while demonstrating the value of collective planning and marketing.
Surveys were conducted throughout the season at the markets. The survey results have brought much needed information on improving the markets, but also information on media sources used by consumers and how much they are spending at the markets. The surveys showed that for nearly 70% of shoppers at the markets, coming to the markets was their primary reason for coming to town and that 59% of respondents indicated that they planned to do additional shopping in the area of the market. Vendor surveys showed that they felt the promotions were effective. 85% of surveyed vendors noticed increased promotions and 87% found the promotions to be effective. 73% noticed new shoppers at the markets.
Overall this project has heightened the visibility of the markets, brought many new people out to markets, provided a strong base of information on consumer and vendor perceptions of the markets and marketing, and strengthened the cohesiveness of the group.