Final Report for FW08-030
The Salle family works hard to create a viable farm enterprise that can be passed down to another generation of farmers. In light of current economic pressures caused by factors such as increased labor and gas prices and decreased consumer demand, the project "Creating & Marketing Value-Added Orchard Products" has contributed significantly to the financial viability of our farm. The goal was to preserve foods by drawing on family traditions and natural methods to can, dry and flavor our crops and then market the value-added product to specialty stores, as well as through direct sales. We approached each project with the enthusiasm of a promising new future.
Ironically, our lack of knowledge probably helped make it a successful venture. Otherwise we would of been overwhelmed by the regulatory requirements and start-up costs. As of today, we have launched a very beautiful web site, designed literature and labels fitting for our product line, perfected our marketing practices and, most importantly, created several value-added products that have brought added income and recognition to our farm.
We have created a learning tool for other small farms by chronicling our process through a blog. Most importantly, the project has revitalized our passion for farming and ensured the future of Salle Orchards.
- Establish project documentation on blog to discuss farm branding and product marketing including advertising, pricing and distribution, as well as other topics
Meet with local gourmet stores and schools to assess interest in purchasing value-added products
Construct fruit drying racks and upload “how-to” tutorial online
Decide on custom processors (e.g. to make honey roasted walnuts)
Hire graphic designer/marketing communications consultants to prepare product labels and promotional materials
Begin production of value-added products
Launch website to increase awareness and visibility of farm and products
Announce blog content to key contacts and through media releases
Finalize preliminary promotional materials (business cards, product labels, product fact sheets, recipe cards, etc.)
Test email marketing as promotional tactic
Continue to identify and assess new market opportunities, including e-commerce
This grant is about sharing knowledge and experience. Since our mode of sharing is through our relaunched blog, it is difficult to tell how many have benefited from our project. One thing is very clear to us: fruit loss has decreased while our sales window for fruit products has increased into the off-season, creating much need revenue for maintaining the future crop.
We have an abundance of raw walnuts, but a limited amount of demand for raw product at farmers’ markets. Now our nut sales have increased by a third by offering the many flavors of gourmet nuts. The extra revenue is going back into increasing the value-added product line and securing the necessary state and health permits to allow internet sales and specialty store sales.
With the addition of our Value-Added Product, our farm has seen an increase in revenue each year with a decrease in product loss. Our seasonal workers have enjoyed extended time of employment to support their families. Our family will be better prepared to continue a legacy for our children as they assume leadership roles in the family business. With added diversification in our revenue stream, our farm’s future is more secure.
At this point we can’t determine the actual adoption by other farmers, but we do foresee that our blog, with its valuable insights, will positively affect other producers for some time to come.
Reactions from Producers
During farmers' markets or festivals, we receive positive comments and interest from other farmers/vendors all the time. We feel we have an outstanding product that deserves an outstanding presentation. If your product is treated as the ultimate gourmet item, it will be received as such. I will say that in the last two years I have noticed an increasing improvement of display from my fellow vendors as well. With that observation, I suspect others are paying closer attention and giving more thought to their presentation.
Education and Outreach
As previously mentioned, our project is chronicled on our online blog. A media release (attached) publicizing the blog is being sent to several ag publications including Farmers’ Market Today, Growing for Market, Ag Alert, Fruit Growers News, Vegetable Growers News, Small Farm Journal, Progressive Farmer, Farm Journal and Good Fruit Grower.
Education and Outreach Outcomes
Our biggest mistake with this project was not knowing all the current regulations or even knowing where to find these updated requirements before starting. We were way off base assuming the old-fashioned way of processing dried fruit would be accepted in today’s regulatory environment. The best place to start getting answers is with your local farm advisor and health department. I can’t stress enough to do a better job researching your particular county or state standards. We now have a better understanding of the process and a clearer road to success.
Hiring a graphic designer and marketing consultant was one of our better investments. Our graphic designer, Arlene Graham, created a professional quality family of branded labels, flyers, signs and banners that represented our farm and product line. Christina Abuelo, our marketing consultant, created copy and provided art direction for marketing materials, email newsletters and media releases, created and updated the farm’s website, contributed product recipes and conducted research for supply purchases. Together, they ensured that our product labels included all the required components (bar codes, country of origin and nutritional facts, etc) and looked great too.