Common Standards and Labeling

Final Report for FW04-112

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2004: $13,500.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Region: Western
State: Colorado
Principal Investigator:
Dan Hobbs
Tres Rios Agricultural Cooperative Inc.
Expand All

Project Information

Abstract:

SUMMARY

This project was designed to develop a common set of production standards and marketing strategies for small producers raising products according to ecological methods and striving to provide premium nutritious food to the regional marketplace. We tried to reorganize our cooperative but were unsuccessful and it disbanded. However, several small producer members of the Cooperative joined the Beneficial group and ultimately formed the Beneficial Farm and Ranch Collaborative (BFRC).

BFRC is setting up as a trade association with a mission of providing support services to small-scale producers who employ ecological production methods. Current and proposed services consist of providing a logo and promotional materials, marketing and advertising support, product brokerage, product storage and product liability insurance. Membership categories in the association have been developed for the producers, independent retail stores and individual consumers. BFRC has accomplished and exceeded the established goals and objectives for this project.

OBJECTIVES

1) Develop common standard packaging for produce and livestock products
2) Develop a mechanism for preservation of standards
3) Develop a common label and region-wide brand recognition through marketing campaigns based on common standards
4) Conduct outreach to other producer and consumer groups

RESULTS

1) Develop common standard packaging for produce and livestock products
The project leaders and steering committee discussed at length the benefits and drawbacks of establishing agricultural production standards for the target producers. It was decided that the group did not wish to replicate a regulatory-type program, but rather develop customer loyalty through promoting a continual farm improvement approach, based on soil health. The “standards package” contains three basic components: a) farm improvement-plan worksheet; b) customer assurance affidavit; and c) licensing agreement.

2) Develop mechanism for preservation of standards
A licensing process was selected for preserving the integrity of the program. A licensing board, appointed during the fall of 2005, will consist of three producer directors, two retail (store) directors and one consumer director. A part-time, contracted licensing director will be contracted in fall 2005 to manage the administration related to BFRC licensure. This will provide participants with the right to use the BFRC logo, marketing materials and pay-per-use services.

3) Develop a common label and region-wide brand recognition through marketing campaigns based on common standards
A Beneficial logo and labels were designed and printed. Point-of-sale materials were created and displayed at the produce displays at four locations: Tejon Street market in Colorado Springs, and the three La Montanita Co-op stores in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Additionally, 44 radio ads were contracted through the public radio station, KRCC, in Colorado Springs. Two newspaper articles (one in Albuquerque and one in Colorado Springs) have also helped to propel the project.

Direct marketing activities involved the creation of a cooperative CSA (community supported agriculture) and a Beneficial booth at two farmers markets. The booth at the Colorado Farm and Art Market enabled project leaders to speak directly with consumers about the project and the cooperative CSA, planned for initiation in the fall of 2005.

4) Conduct outreach to other producer and consumer groups
An outreach sub-committee was formed as part of the steering committee. It recruited eight growers, who have or are submitting application materials, and four participating stores. The charter group of producers consists of three farmer/ranchers from northern New Mexico, four farmer/ranchers from the Arkansas River Valley of Colorado and one fruit grower from the West Slope of Colorado.

BENEFITS OR IMPACTS ON AGRICULTURE

Many small-scale farmers and ranchers in the project region feel marginalized by the National Organic Standards Program. Beneficial is the first eco-label in the region and is proving to be a helpful alternative marketing tool. The successes to date appear to be based on developing close personal ties with independent retail stores and developing the demand for fresh, local, chemical-free products. Research into other eco-labels around the country showed that few are financially viable. BFRC therefore is endeavoring to create self-funding mechanisms. At present, these include an annual fee of $100 from producers, 3% return of gross sales from the sale of Beneficial products at participating retail stores and the creation of a consumer membership category.

PRODUCER ADOPTION

One unanticipated result of the project is the formation of a cooperative community supported agriculture project that involves five producers and is being hosted by one of the retail store partners, Tejon Street market. The CSA will be organized under the Beneficial name and will run Oct. 1-Dec 3, 2005. Eight producers have joined the BFRC. Additionally, the project has piqued the interest of several other producers who have requested materials.

REACTIONS FROM PRODUCERS

The Javernick family farm of Canon City, Colorado, consists of a father and daughter team, who are growing 8 acres of vegetables. The father recently exclaimed, “I’m excited about this Beneficial deal! We can grow anything if we can get it marketed . . . we are blessed with good land and water. We’d like to sell a lot of cauliflower through the program.”

RECOMMENDATIONS OR NEW HYPOTHESES

The single most important thing to consider with any project that is attempting to develop and market an eco-label or new brand for agricultural products is how the project can become and remain financially viable. The integration of individual buyers and retail stores into the organizational structure is an innovative, self-funding approach that BFRC organizers believe will ensure long-term project sustainability. Individuals and stores were very receptive to this idea, and their willingness to collaborate with producers should not be underestimated.

OUTREACH

Outreach efforts have focused on three distinct areas: individual consumers, retail stores and individual producers. Additionally, a press kit containing biographies of participating growers and an introduction to the project have been created and are actively being passed out to media sources and additional retail stores.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Frank Stonaker

Research

Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.