Sharing Resources to Help Connect Farmers to Direct Marketing Niches

2001 Annual Report for EW00-012

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2000: $96,578.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2002
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:

Sharing Resources to Help Connect Farmers to Direct Marketing Niches


The overall goal of this multi-state proposal is to enhance the ability of ag and community development professionals to develop successful direct marketing channels and strategies. To achieve this goal, we propose to conduct six direct marketing workshops over a two-year period. These one or two-day events will address direct marketing strategies, opportunities, barriers and solutions. Participating states include California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho and Oregon. The main audiences for these workshop will be Cooperative Extension and USDA personnel, community organizations and agricultural service providers together with farmers, ranchers and direct marketing organizations (the more traditional audience for such events). The joining together of these two audiences provides unique educational and action opportunities. Similarly, the workshop content will provide excellent “how-to” direct marketing information at the farming operation, individual and institutional level while also examining the community-level implications of direct marketing strategies. Workshops will furnish simple tools that communities and farmer organizations can use to assess the potential for direct marketing in an area. A project leadership team composed of representatives from each participating state will develop a flexible core curriculum that can be adapted by each state. Each state will, in turn, organize a broad-based planning committee composed of representatives of the project leadership team from that state, Cooperative Extension educators, USDA personnel, farmers and community organizations. As each workshop occurs, it will be evaluated by the project leadership team and used to revise and refine the next workshop. A Resource Guide that highlights existing educational materials on various aspects of direct marketing will also be developed and distributed in print and on the Web.

Objectives/Performance Targets


1. Increase knowledge and use of direct marketing opportunities, barriers and solutions among Cooperative Extension educators, USDA field personnel, food/agricultural support professionals, lenders and community leaders.
2. Develop the capacity of farmers, ranchers and community organizations to identify, evaluate and implement direct marketing strategies.
3. Create a flexible curriculum and training framework for six workshops in six states, emphasizing joint participation of Extension, USDA, farmers/ranchers and community organizations in planning, execution and evaluation.
4. Create a Direct Marketing Resource Guide for each participating state that includes an annotated bibliography of existing direct marketing resources (e.g. fact sheets, bulletins, case studies, web sites, books).


Individual State Summaries (includes both Accomplishments/Milestones and Impact/Outcomes)

An advisory committee was formed in the fall of 2000 to organize direct marketing activities and resources in California. The group consists of representatives from UC SAREP, the UC Small Farm Center, Cooperative Extension farm advisors, the California Federation of Certified Farmers’ Markets, the Community Food Security Coalition, and a nonprofit agricultural marketing organization. The advisory committee is planning two statewide direct marketing workshops for 2002. The first will be held at UC Davis, March 1, 2002 and will target agricultural professionals. A workshop postcard was sent out in November, 2001 describing the conference (see attached file). A conference brochure with speakers, session titles, and a registration form is also attached. We are highlighting three major areas (3 sessions each)—the practical aspects of doing direct marketing, engaging the consumer and building community partnerships. The workshop will be highly interactive. The second workshop will occur in tandem with the California Farm Conference, to be held in Ventura in the fall of 2002.

UC SAREP, with input from other states, has developed a Resource Guide—a database of the best and most recent print and video materials about direct marketing. Print copies will be available at the workshops in California. Each participating state can select the most relevant publications to print for their state’s use. With additional resources from the Sustainable Agriculture Network, the Resource Guide will be expanded further and developed into a web-based resource.

Impact / Outcomes
The workshops will bring together agricultural professionals with farmers, marketing and food security nonprofits, economic development experts and government agencies to learn about the cutting edge issues in direct marketing on topics such as: CSAs, selling to restaurants, working with immigrant farmers, creating a local identity, working with the press, getting consumers to the farm, agri-tourism, working with local businesses and opportunities for marketing to schools. We anticipate that as a result of the workshops and the resource guide, ag professionals will be better informed about these direct marketing strategies, understand their benefits and challenges and be better equipped to work with farmers and ranchers that need information. In addition, these workshops will create stronger networks of people that are using or can provide technical assistance about these strategies throughout the state.

This Western SARE project complements and extends other internally and externally funded direct marketing efforts in Oregon. The externally funded projects include the USDA/IFAFS Northwest Direct Project and the Western SARE Enterprise Facilitation Project. 2001 has seen a dramatic increase in interest in farm direct marketing among producers and among other community and government agencies that influence the development of the direct marketing sector.
 A February 2001 conference (“Farmers’ Markets 101”) drew 250 participants.
 Diverse agricultural and community groups including the Oregon Agribusiness Council, the Oregon Agricultural Cooperatives Council, the Oregon Horticulture Society, the Food Alliance, Oregon Tilth, Portland City Council, and the Salem City Club developed educational programs for their members focused on direct marketing issues.
 Other community groups (Portland, Eugene, Corvallis) have begun longer term projects focused on the development of their local food systems.
 In presentations and reports the Oregon PDP team made a concerted effort to highlight the achievements and potential of this generally under appreciated sector without overselling it (by, for example, also developing a case study of a CSA farm that didn’t make because the owners would not accept the lifestyle sacrifices that it required).

The planning team took the following decisions:
 In keeping with the focus of the PDP grant and to better meet the needs of participants we expanded the topic to “Farm Direct Marketing 101: Strengthening Agriculture and Communities”. The conference will attract both farmers and agricultural and community professionals.
 We decided stick with a one-day format for the conference and add an additional pre-conference the night before for beginners.
 We partnered with Idaho to obtain Risk Management Agency funds to bring in three speakers from the North American Farm Direct Marketing Association for our conference.
 The draft schedule is provided as page 3 below.

Impact / Outcomes: Direct marketing has begun to appear on the radar screen as an important contributor to the agricultural sector in the state and as a motor of economic and social development in individual communities. Providing research-based information through publications and organized educational events can make a significant difference in encouraging public attitudes and policies that will better support direct marketing enterprises. Our 2002 SARE/PDP Conference will attract the diverse audience needed to continue to push direct marketing forward. OSU Extension is providing greater support for small farms in general and direct marketing in particular through new field positions. On the research side, we have been able to fund direct marketing research from both external and internal (to OSU) sources. This was less true in even the recent past. A group at OSU is not discussing developing a multidisciplinary for-credit course on small production and marketing. This will provide a good complement to on-going research and extension activities.

The planning committee (or various subsets of the committee) met five times in the last year at face-to-face meetings or through conference calls. We have accomplished so far:

 Identified topics that are of interest to Extension educators, other ag professionals and producers in our area.
 Made decision to do two-day workshops in two different locations: Conference speakers and facilities are confirmed, agendas are developed, and brochures will go out the first week in January. (See conference information and tentative agenda attached.)
 Partnered with NAFDMA to bring their Executive Director and 4 other members from across the country and Canada to do a one-day workshop at Post Falls and Twin Falls Idaho. We have submitted a proposal with OSU partners on this grant to USDA Risk Management Agency to help pay for NAFDMA members travel and lodging. That funding is not confirmed.
 Developed a second day of the Post Falls conference with Dept of Ag, UI Department of Family and Consumer Science and UI Department of Food Science to focus on value-added, food processing and safety issues, labeling your products and a panel discussion on regulations.
 Connected with an annual farm conference planning team in Twin Falls, Idaho to work with them in conjunction with our marketing workshop. We will pay the way and lodging for NAFDMA members at the Post Falls conference to travel to Twin Falls to do one day of their two-day farm conference. The Twin Falls conference dates are March 1 and 2, 2002.

Impact / Outcomes: The positive outcomes to date are based on the partnering aspect of the conference planning effort. This is a first time effort for us to partner the food safety and processing topics (and people) with agricultural production and marketing. We don’t often take the opportunity to work with other departments within our college at the university, yet alone work with several in different geographic locations of the state. It has been an excellent internal team building exercise. The benefits to the participants will be a broader perspective on how food processing and marketing fit together. In addition, our hope is to provide new and more advanced perspectives on marketing strategies by bringing in the NAFDMA producers and The Food Alliance. The opportunity to introduce these two organizations to our Inland Northwest and Southern Idaho areas has tremendous potential for producers. If Idaho producers take the opportunity to link up with either of these two organizations it would increase their potential to create new marketing strategies and improve farm profit and sustainability.

Early on in the process, we decided rather than start a new Extension program in direct marketing, we would attempt to insert direct marketing curriculum into existing or planned educational programs. Fortunately, there were two planned programs identified which were appropriate for inclusion of direct marketing expertise and effort. Following is a brief description of each.

Agri-Profiting Through Direct Marketing Workshop (January 9-10, 2002)
This 2-day program is targeted toward anyone interested in increasing their return on labor and investment, regardless of what they are currently growing or raising.
Day 1 will feature speakers on value-added, agri-tourism, food safety and exploring new opportunities. It will conclude with a panel of “producers who have done it”.
Day 2 begins with a talk on the “evolution of a farm”, followed by presentations on marketing processed fruits, product differentiation, meeting customer demand, building direct marketing relationships, organic and specialty crop marketing, and buying local. An optional tour will be offered which will target niche meat markets, processing facilities, and alternatives for commodities.
A web site containing all pertinent information has been established at

The Human Side of Farming – Sustaining Farms and Families (January 31-February 2, 2002)
This major conference is an annual one held in the Front Range of Colorado. Each year, however, the planning committee expands to include more diverse input and representation. The availability of funds from the direct marketing project clearly helped shape the content of this year’s conference. The keynote speaker to kick off the first day is John Fielder, noted nature photographer, who will address responsible growth in Colorado. Day 2 will focus on trends in alternative agriculture featuring a panel of alternative marketers followed by presentations on local food links and marketing cooperatives. The afternoon will consist of marketing outside the box, e.g., transitioning to new enterprises and finding a niche. That evening the CO Organic Producers Assoc. have their annual dinner meeting. The 3rd day will focus on the human side of farming including future opportunities for youth in agriculture and a discussion of where we go from here. Complete conference information including speakers can be found at

Impact / Outcomes: Since the 1980’s it has been my experience Colorado has been blessed with a core group of people from different agricultural backgrounds, perspectives and value systems who respect this diversity and each other. Because of this foundation it makes planning educational programs fun and relatively easy. Adding new members to the team, however, can be challenging but rewarding as we make new linkages and form new friendships. One of our goals for these conferences is to have a more inclusive audience. While the planning committee may be diverse, often our conferences and workshops were attended by a narrow representation of agriculture. It is our hope that these two conferences will have something for everyone, including youth.

 Original plan was for a 1-day workshop for ag professionals and farmers on Maui in March 2002, as a tie-in to an international industry conference. Focus areas were to be farmers’ markets, direct marketing to households and health food stores, CSA’s, catalogue and internet marketing. A separate 1-day workshop was planned for agritourism, with Maui farmers being the primary audience. These were abandoned because of major problems, among others, with logistics, differences between the target audience and the conference participants, and uncertainties arising from recent world events.

 An alternative plan was developed for a 2 day workshop for ag professionals and farmers with a more participatory format and would include more on value-added products and marketing. This was proposed and discussed at a special expanded committee meeting. The consensus was that it had too much of the participatory format, and there were serious questions on the usefulness of the material, given the diverse needs and interests of the mixed audience

 A compromise format is being developed to have a 1-day participatory training session for ag professionals followed by a second day with a more standard panel program for both ag professionals and producers. The second day would be an example for how agents can develop similar workshops for their clients. The first day training will focus on the training needs of ag professionals and the format will be developed by the planning committee. The second day will focus on the needs of farmers and would serve as an example for how agents can develop similar workshops for their clients. The format would be decided by Extension staff, The workshop will be held in June on Maui.

Impact / Outcomes: We are still too early in the planning process to claim impacts. One outcome has been the realization that the training needs of ag professionals are different from the needs of producers. If the desired outcome is agents creating direct marketing workshops, then training needs to not just give information but must also focus on the training process itself. Another outcome is that we now see the benefit of bringing together livestock and crop professionals even though the market channels are quite different. Agents in both areas are already involved in helping farmers direct market, so can share their experiences and can teach each other. There are also opportunities for cross-crop, joint marketing activities, and there is potential to create new products that combine meats, aquaculture products, fruits, vegetables, and ornamentals, yet animal and crop agents are not accustomed to working together.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Impacts / Outcomes for each state’s activities are included in their summary in the Accomplishments / Milestones section.


Stuart Nakamoto

Cinda Williams

Kai Siedenburg

Vickie Parker-Clark

Garry Stephenson

Gail Feenstra

Dick Bowen