Both CalaverasGROWN and Farms of Amador have utilized the promotional materials produced from the SARE-funded project widely. The materials have engendered expansion of membership and markets, new product development and a greater awareness of small farmers throughout Calaveras and Amador counties.
The objectives of CalaverasGROWN and Farms of Amador are to implement a strategic marketing program that incorporates all aspects of agriculture, including: promoting locally grown and processed foods; increasing agricultural production, profitability and opportunity; creating and enhancing a more sustainable community; and enhancing and increasing economic development and stability in Calaveras and Amador counties.
Farming in the California foothills, with a mountain range on the east and the lush Central Valley on the West, can be challenging. While the moderately fertile to poor soils accommodate a variety of commodities – livestock, fruit, nuts, vegetables and vineyards – the increasing supply of commodities from other countries is squeezing the mostly small foothill farms.
However, many consumers have discovered the benefits of buying local products. To tap into that growing demand for local products, this project, with help from local extension offices, devised CalaverasGROWN and Farms of Amador to identify and develop new markets with grocers, institutions, restaurants, shops and other stores The programs are also exploring new tourism markets, emphasizing farm visits and meeting ranchers and farmers.
To achieve their goals, the project team developed a Farm Trails Map, a color brochure 18 inches by 24 inches, designed to help people find local farms, ranches, roadside stands, grocery stores, restaurants, farmers markets, bed and breakfast inns and food processors that have taken part in the program. The brochure features each county’s agricultural history, a harvest calendar showing when products are available, a list of where locally grown products can be purchased, a calendar of events and the Farm Trails Map.
To help visitors find participants, permanent aluminum signs, measuring 12 inches by 18 inches, have been set along roadways indicating the farm trails system. Each sign carries a logo unique to that county.
Another major component of each program was to hold an annual farm conference as a means of continuing interaction between the producers and the public and providing educational forums for farmers and ranchers.
Workshops offer a wide assortment of topics, including agri-tourism, sustainable agriculture, organic farming, marketing success stories, starting a business and growing different commodities, such as wine grapes, medicinal herbs and olives. The workshops are geared toward a wide range of farming skills, enabling newcomers and long-timers alike to glean value.
BENEFITS OR IMPACT ON AGRICULTURE
Both organizations, CalaverasGROWN and Farms of Amador, have had a major impact in a short time. Not only have new markets and outlets been found for members, news farming operations are popping up in the two counties.
The agricultural community appears to have accepted the two organizations, with most seeing them as new outlets for existing products. Others see them as programs that will enhance sustainability of demand for local products. In either case, producers derive profits without incurring major costs.
Many wine grape growers in the foothills also grow walnuts, peaches, apples and plums, the demand for which has fallen in recent years. Creation of CalaverasGROWN and Farms of Amador appears have infused new life into these once abandoned products.
Members of the project have said that creating support from the general public is a critical step in generating awareness among county residents as well as tourists.
A program of this magnitude must have full support from all players, including the public, the agricultural industry, non-agricultural businesses and government. The local government should be involved first to address road and sign ordinances, zoning regulations and public health and safety issues. Local government has supported this program well, but making changes to road and sign ordinances and zoning have been time consuming.
The local media have supported this project. In February 2001 and 2002, the Amador Ledger Dispatch ran a 24-page insert on the CalaverasGROWN program, distributed to 25,000 residents in the foothill counties. The newspaper has run additional articles on the program. Both CalaverasGROWN and Farms of Amador have joined their local chambers of commerce, which have run articles in their newsletters and tourism guides.
In addition, both organizations send out monthly newsletters, either hard copy or electronic, http://cecalaveras.ucdavis.edu and www.farmsofamador.org. In May 2003, KVIE Channel 6 held its annual “Destination Amador” Wine and Jazz festival in Sacramento, featuring Amador County wines and other agri-tourism venues. Farms of Amador representatives attended and handed out information cards. A display, 6 feet by 9 feet, has been created to promote the programs. And CalaverasGROWN has developed shelf talkers, logos on poster board, 4 inches by 5.5 inches, which can be attached to store shelves where products are sold as well as T-shirts, tote bags and window decals.