Direct Marketing for Increasing Farm Profitability: Training for Trainers Project

2002 Annual Report for ENE02-073

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2002: $53,813.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Matching Federal Funds: $55,376.00
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $7,754.00
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Maria van Hekken
The Food Trust

Direct Marketing for Increasing Farm Profitability: Training for Trainers Project


The Direct Marketing for Increasing Farm Profitability: Training for Trainers Project is a two-year initiative to increase knowledge about, skills in, and resources for off-farm direct marketing for up to 75 agricultural professionals who work with farmers and their communities in the mid-Atlantic Region. Project collaborators include The Food Trust (formerly the Farmers’ Market Trust), Rutgers Cooperative Extension of New Jersey, University of Maryland, Delaware State University, and Penn State Cooperative Extension. The Maryland Department of Agriculture requested to be added as a collaborator to this project and participated fully in all aspects of planning and implementation. Training is offered as a pre-conference event and within the program of the annual Future of our Food and Farms Summit, hosted by The Food Trust in 2002 and 2003.

Each training will have a specific focus: year 1 emphasized farmers’ markets and tailgate markets. Year 2 will focus on restaurant and institutional sales, mail-order marketing, on-line sales and niche markets. In addition to the training itself, participants will receive a “How to Guide” on direct marketing; key materials will be converted into an on-line resource and made available on the agric-marketing pages of, a mid-Atlantic Food Systems educational website. In addition to training, the project widens the network of resources and contacts available to Cooperative Extension agents and other participants that can support off-farm direct marketing initiatives.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Performance targets seek changes in participants’ knowledge, behavior and attitude related to direct marketing. Specifically, of the 75 participants attending the training:

75% will be able to describe new tools, techniques, and strategies for successful direct marketing, including marketing in underserved areas.

40% will work with farmers and others in their respective regions to create and strengthen an existing direct marketing venture (e.g., farmers’ market, tailgate market, etc.), using a tool, technique, or strategy learned at the training.

75% will be accessing new resources and networks identified at the training in their work within three months after the training.


Training Planning: A steering committee composed of representatives of collaborating institutions 1) designed the program; 2) advertised the training and scholarships; 3) organized logistics; 4) implemented the training, including providing a wide array of topics and presenters, as well as resource materials for display and distribution; and 5) put systems in place for training evaluation.

Advertising and Promotion: The training was advertised extensively among extension networks in the region (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania), state departments of agriculture and economic development, colleges and universities with agriculture programs, farm marketing organizations and firms, growers’ associations, and local organic, sustainable food system, and nonprofit organizations, primarily at the local and state levels. Information about the training, including logistical information, topics covered and keynote speakers, was also posted on the Future of our Food and Farms Summit web site at and was linked widely to other sites. In addition, press releases were disseminated announcing the training and the availability of scholarships.

Implementation: The training was held December 5 at the Wyndham Wilmington Hotel in Wilmington, Delaware. The training was evaluated highly by those who attended. Unfortunately, the number of participants was dramatically affected by a major snowstorm in the region that began the night before the conference (December 4) and continued for much of the day of training. The storm caused late arrivals of both participants and presenters, delayed the opening, and bonded those who were able to make it despite slippery roads, poor visibility, and many accidents. In the end, 45 of the 74 individuals who had registered attended; 53 scholarships were awarded but not all were used because of the storm.

Participants were primarily from the mid-Atlantic region but a few were drawn from as far away as Iowa, Massachusetts, and California. Slightly more women than men attended.

The training program was composed of five sessions, supplemented by the keynote lunch presentation of the larger summit. They ranged from farmers’ market organization strategy to detailed nuts-and-bolts sessions on marketing to institutions. Specific sessions topics included direct marketing, training for farm profitability, producer only vs. private entrepreneur markets, how to sell family farm produce to supermarkets, and successfully marketing farmers’ markets.

A wide variety of resource materials were offered (or could be signed up for) by the project, presenters, and others, including the USDA CD-ROM,Reap New Profits: Marketing Strategies for Farmers and Ranchers offered by the National Outreach Arm of SARE; NRAES-32 pamphlet on evaluating new small farm enterprises; state departments’ of agriculture informational brochures; nongovernment organizations’ promotional and instructional materials; and more. In addition, because the project will produce a “How-to Manual” after the second year, presenters were asked to submit a copy of their presentation outlines and notes were taken at all sessions. These will be compiled for the manual and supplemented with information on other resources, both hard copy and on line.

Training Evaluation: A written evaluation was conducted. About 50% of participants (22 of 45) completed evaluation forms. The evaluation was designed to assess the extent to which participants believe the training increased their knowledge and skills and whether they will use it in the future. The written evaluation will be followed by interviews with a sample of participants approximately three months after the training. Results of the evaluation are detailed in the next component of the annual report, the outcomes section. Briefly, however, they indicate that participants appreciated new perspectives, new information, and new contacts.

Demographics Highlights of Registrants


Extension 24
Extension by state
DE 3
MD 6
NJ 5
PA 10
State departments of agriculture 8
Local economic develop 5
Farmer 8
Other (primarily nonprofits) 29


PA 34
MD 14
NJ 8
DE 7
CT, DC, IO, MA, NH, NY, VT 11

Male 32
Female 41
Unknown 1

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Outcomes to Date

The first of two training workshops has been successfully completed. Evaluation results, peppered with comments about the snow, were very positive. Participants were asked to rate usefulness on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is not at all useful and 5 is extremely useful. Three workshops received an average of 4 or higher. In the fourth workshop, while the average was 3.8, 10 of the 14 responses averaged 4 or higher. All workshops averaged 3 or higher.

The evaluation asked for specific examples of new knowledge resulting from the workshop. Illustrative responses included:

– Learned value of professional farmers’ market management; “Pay peanuts, get monkeys.”

– Benefits of a regional farmers’ market network, allowing farmers access to income beyond local markets

– Presenter gave excellent examples of new ways to attract audiences to farmers’ markets

– How to get product into grocery chains, and how to clarify message to consumers

Still using the same 1 to 5 scale, 18 of 22 respondents gave the workshop a 4 or higher for providing opportunities to make new contacts. Further, responding to the statement, “Using the contacts/new relationships formed at the training, I intend to work with farmers and others in the region to create/strengthen direct marketing ventures, the average response was 4.

Illustrative comments about what participants liked best about the workshop were networking, resource materials, presentations, listening to new ideas and perspectives, and the focus along the food chain–especially supply.

Comments about what was liked least were fewer. They included insufficient time (in part because of a later start due to snow), need for softer chairs, and other process issues.

Concerning next year’s training, participants requested that workshop sessions cover topics such as as how to act as a broker, marketing on a shoestring, next level of information on market development, ethnic and new crops, USDA rules and regulations, food safety, less snow, and more “buy local” tips.

Lessons Learned

Most participants loved the opportunity to network, hear about others’ projects and how they’ve handled specific problems. Break times are very important, as are displays, which were often the starting point for these conversations.

Variety in session organization is important:. Some people loved the speakers with a lot of information to share. Others wanted more time for interactive discussion.

Similarly, participants came with a wide range of interests, and finding the right balance between a) discussion of larger strategy issues related to local and/or sustainably produced foods, b) very hands-on training about such things as market displays, and c) other topics requires considerable thought.


Stephan Tubene

Director Small Farm Institute
University of Maryland
Robert Halman

Agriculture Education Program Liaison
University of Maryland
Virginia Hubbs

[email protected]
The Food Trust
1201 Chestnut St.
4th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 18104
Office Phone: 8144667075
Rick VanVranken

Cooperative Extension Agent
Rutgers Cooperative Extension
Duane Perry

Executive Director
The Food Trust
John Berry

Regional Agricultural Marketing Educator
Penn State Cooperative Extension