This project proposes to develop an on-farm market as an avenue for the direct sale of pork. To accomplish its goals, the project will undertake three tasks:
1. Prepare an Educational Store and Visitor Center. This will be done at the entry court of the home and will include an 8-foot by 8-foot walk-in commercial freezer, a checkout station, posters and an information center.
2. Develop advertising and signage. A sign will be placed at the entry to the farm, describing days and times the market is open, and additional signs will be placed around the farm to direct, limit, warn or inform. In addition, an application will be submitted to accept food stamps for pork purchases, and advertising will be developed using local media, direct-mail flyers, newsletters and local events.
3. Chart project progress. Customer feedback will be monitored to assess community acceptance or rejection of the program, and profits will be monitored to determine whether the market makes a positive addition to the farm.
Offering locally raised and naturally produced pork directly from the farm has proved to be a rewarding experience in several ways. The farm’s Store and Visitor Center has become an avenue for several types of sales, including to walk-in customers, through mail order, to processing plants and to high-end restaurants.
In addition, finding alternative markets for the farm’s high-quality hogs, beyond its traditional venue of just selling a few off the farm, has enabled the farm to increase hog production.
“This project has allowed us the opportunity to advertise and be known in our community as a place that offers good locally produced products,” writes project coordinator Daphne McKeehan in the final report. “This exposure has generated a lot of interest in our farm and in our pork products. We are pleased with the results and how this project has affected our farm.”
The construction of the Store and Visitor Center entailed construction of the roof, doors, flooring and a walk-in freezer and installation of two tables, one for education brochures, the other for meat scale, cash register, posters, signs and a double-sided rack for store items and displays.
Several advertising materials were developed. A sign, with a newly designed farm logo and store hours, was placed at the farm’s entrance gate. It attracted customers and proved to be excellent advertising tool. T-shirts were designed and produced with the farm logo and phone number and given to dedicated customers and business associates and sold at the store. A toll free number was established (1-866-AHUALO) to accommodate mail orders. Farm brochures and stickers were created and used to promote the farm store. Finally, the project team, working with the Hawaii Pork Industry Association, helped design and create the “Hawaii Pork, Island Fresh” label, which is used at the store.
In addition to promoting its products as locally grown and produced, the SARE-funded project helped the farm establish “all natural” products. Tapping into this idea, Ahualoa Hog Farm now markets “all natural” sausage and shredded pork (kalua) in cooperation with Miko Meats Processing Co. “The products are tasty and have been very popular with our customers,” says McKeehan.
The project has basically changed the farm’s marketing approach. It now has increased production and sells more market-ready hogs to the local ethnic market. In addition, the grant has enabled the farm to separate pork cuts, using the higher end cuts for restaurant sales and lower end cuts for sausage and kalua.
“We have had customers appreciate our pork for its wonderful natural and fresh quality,” says McKeehan. “Customers also appreciate the facts that our hogs are homegrown and from a small family farm, raised humanely, and that we are operating under sustainable agriculture practices.”
Throughout the project, types of pork cuts and products sold have been tracked to determine stocking needs. In addition, customers have been asked to fill out a comment form, which has helped Ahualoa Hog Farm assess what the customer wants. Some of the results of those informal surveys show that about half of the farm visitors came to buy pork, while 20% came to visit the farm, 15% came to see what a pork market is and 15% came for other reasons. Other information from the comments includes:
• Most of the customers (85%) live within 5 miles of the farm, and 90% said distance was no problem. Ten percent said it was out of the way but worth it.
• The items most customers deemed most important are price, origin of the pork, supporting a local business, natural pork, hogs raised humanely, hogs raised on pasture versus confinement, the type of feed (swill or grain), farm recycling and sustainability.
• Purchases were made by 95% of those visiting the store, and an equal number said their visit gave them a better understanding of natural pork, sustainable agriculture and the difference between local and mainland pork.
• Finally, all of the store’s visitors said they would recommend the on-farm pork market to their friends and family.
McKeehan says the comment form proved an excellent tool to help the store achieve its potential, and from it she senses a perception that the store is a good positive asset to the community with good ethics and values.
“The responses lead me to believe that marketing pork in this fashion, with the use of the pork store, will continue to be a successful venue,” she says. “I am pleased with the results and would recommend that other ranchers and farmers consider doing similar marketing.”
This SARE project offers livestock producers an example of how to expand their operations through their own market, whether it’s for lamb, beef, pork or goat meat. Many Hawaii farmers and ranchers are looking for ways to offset feed costs, increased by the cost of shipping the feed from the U.S. mainland. An on-farm market can help do that, especially for farmers and ranchers who live and work on their farms and are present for on-farm sales at their market.
FARMER ADOPTION AND DIRECT IMPACT
The McKeehans say they have received no written comments about the project, but their discussions with ranchers and farmers, many of whom have visited the farm, have revealed a positive and supportive attitude toward this type of marketing.
FUTURE RECOMMENDATIONS OR NEW HYPOTHESES
While this project proceeded with few problems, the project coordinator recommends that the regional or national SARE program consider offering more financial support for farmers and ranchers interested in marketing their products through on-farm markets. In addition, incorporating an education program into the farm and market would teach children where food comes from and how it gets to the table.
A new objective evolving from the project is to find ways to further use pork product processing and to create specific foods that could further increase sales and profits. Such an expansion could include the sale of ethnic and local foods that could be processed using a public incubator certified kitchen that would allow businesses to germinate and grow.
DISSEMINATION OF FINDINGS
This project and its findings have been communicated to a wide audience through a variety of venues.
1. Many interested customers have toured the farm and visited the educational store, including 30 students and 10 adults from the Waimea Elementary School 2nd-grade class and the Honokaa School Handicap Outreach Program.
2. The farm hosted three Hawaii County 4-H Livestock Program workshops, including two for the Hawaii County Judging Team representing the Big Island in state competition, during which farmers, ranchers and veterinarians were present.
3. Project coordinator Daphne McKeehan spoke at the 2001 Hawaii Agriculture SARE Conference Jan. 27, 2001, to 30-35 attendees on pastured hogs in Hawaii and the SARE project.
4. Pork from the market was featured at the Taste of the Hawaiian Range Food Show June 15, 2001, during which three high-end restaurants used pork to prepare dishes sampled by more than 1,000 people, including farmers, ranchers and consumers. The pork store brochure was made available.
5. Hawaii’s Big Island Livestock and Aquaculture brochure was published in October 2001 and distributed to tourist and agriculture enthusiasts as part of the Agricultural Tourism Program, which is sponsored by the County of Hawaii Department of Research and Development, State of Hawaii Tourism Authority and Hawaii Island Development Board. The brochure includes a map pointing to the location of the farm and store and lists what the farm has to offer.
6. Two Web sites contain information about the farm, www.localharvest.org and www.smallfarms.com.