This project sought to determine the potential for direct marketing farm produce from rural farms to a potential distant market comprising parishioners of a 1,200-member Denver parish. The idea is based on the premise that food is more than a commodity. It holds the potential for building community and bonding urban and rural groups through cooperation.
Project coordinator Paul Mailander believes production of traditional crops comes with a high financial cost and depletes natural resources. Minimal profits and lack of sustainability prompted him to investigate the option of finding a direct-marketing partner that would provide a product outlet.
Mailander chose to survey a 1,200-plus-member Denver parish with which he had make contact in the 1980s. The survey was designed, tested and mailed to 1,254 potential food-purchasing partners to see if enough would be interested to continue into a second phase of actual marketing.
Of the 1,254 surveys mailed, 170 were returned, exceeding by far the 50 deemed necessary to pursue phase two. Ninety responding families said they were interested in purchasing natural beef or other meats. Eighty families said they wanted fresh, naturally grown vegetables or naturally produced cheeses, eggs or dairy products but no meat. Of the 90 who would buy meat, 14 said they would purchase 100-200 pounds every six months, while 76 would prefer to buy 30-40 pounds every two months. Most of the respondents said they base their food purchases more on quality and freshness and less on price.
Thirty-nine respondents were curious about today’s agricultural realities, and 80 said they want to visit the farm or farms where their food is produced, which, in this case, would require travel of 100 to 200 miles. Fifty-two asked to be kept informed of the project’s progress, and 20 said they’d be interested in hunting pheasants, ducks or deer in northeastern Colorado.
Mailander says the project shows that self-interest and a relationship built on reciprocal basic needs – a family’s desire for naturally produced food and a producer’s need to make a reasonable profit – can be initiated, perhaps achieved, through such a survey and implementation of its results.
These findings suggest that urbanites have been affected by health education promulgated through local and national media. It further signifies that cost is not the most important factor in food purchases. People want quality.
“From the survey results, we conclude that consumers balance the elements that go into decisions on food purchases, including freshness, quality, price, convenience and natural or organic,” says Mailander.
Further, he says, consumers are aware of the community-supported subscription-marketing concept, which gives them some involvement in food production, and that they value the source of their food. This suggests the potential for building new rural-urban alliances through direct marketing of food, which can further
endorse the support urbanites have for family farms and provide family farms an alternative for increased profits.
FARMER ADOPTION AND DIRECT IMPACT
To the questions: “Can a social/justice relationship between two groups of people for the basis for a direct-marketing project?” and “Is there potential for increased profit from value-added food production?” the answer to both, says Mailander, is yes.
FUTURE RECOMMENDATIONS OR NEW HYPOTHESES
Mailander and the project’s participants are satisfied that their survey technique provided the information necessary to move to the second phase.
DISSEMINATION OF FINDINGS
A copy of this report has been passed along to the local extension office and to the cooperating agent, who is the regional director. Project findings were presented at the Holyoke Farmers Union meeting. As the second phase begins, the findings will be shared with meat and vegetable producers identified as potential participants.
No other producers were involved in the project, although producers will be involved in the second phase.