“Farm to Family Connection” Radio Project
To enhance direct marketing of farm products, a group of producers from northeast Nebraska and southeast South Dakota propose to utilize a popular farm radio station in Yankton, SD to feature a different area farm family each week and the products they have for sale.
The three farmers involved in the show are all pursuing sustainable practices and direct marketing. Kreycik’s Riverview Elk Ranch at Niobrara raises elk and buffalo and has wagon tours and private hunts in their rolling pastures. They market their own elk and bison meat. Gary Cwach and his family raise natural beef north of Yankton, SD and direct market their products to consumers in that vicinity. Curt Arens and his family raise black oil sunflowers and Christmas trees. Curt also writes and produces the program and the website.
Using contacts already established through the advertising program at KK93, we sought out new prospective business sponsors to support the show so that it could be aired twice on Thursdays — in the mornings at 7:45 am and evenings at 5:35 pm — prime commuter times for those traveling to and from work in Yankton and surrounding areas.
We were selective about sponsors — in deference to our organic farmers featured on the show — we avoided seed and chemical companies that only wanted to promote those products or GMO seed. We went instead to a regional health care center, a regional lumber yard, an ethanol plant, and a construction company, and sought support though the SARE program to support airtime financially. Farmer participants also paid $50 to participate.
We are now beginning the process of surveying participants, with detailed surveys of the farms partnering in the grant — Kreycik’s and Cwach’s — to find out their success. This is an ongoing process as we enter the second year.
We also shared the technicals on setting up this type of campaign at the Center for Rural Affairs annual gathering in February 2005, through the agri-tourism group, Heartland Experience and through articles in the Center for Rural Affairs and Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society newsletters.
Curt Arens also shared individual transcripts of each program through his Food and Society Policy Fellowship website and with others involved in sustainable agriculture at the Food and Society Conference sponsored by W.K Kellogg Foundation in Virginia last spring. Several articles also ran in local newspapers.
People directly involved in the project are:
1) Curt Arens, farmer and writer and producer of the radio show and the website,
2) Gary Cwach and Kenard, Chris, and Steve Kreycik — both families are producer partners in the project who are being surveyed for results and getting a sense of the show’s success with their own customers.
3) Laurie Larsen, Carolyn Becker — KK93 Radio executives. Carolyn takes care of the financial end, while Laurie has been instrumental in finding and signing up farmer and business participants as well as business sponsors of the show. She is vital to the project.
4) Jan Jorgensen, Northeast Nebraska RC&D; Terry Gompert, Knox County Cooperative Extension Educator; and Wyatt Fraas, Center for Rural Affairs — all have supported the project by helping identify prospective direct marketers and promoting the project through their own media relations.
So far, we have gotten an indication from general surveys that have been turned in from farmer participants, that sales for them have increased around 5 to 10 percent because of the show. These are not hard numbers, but general feelings of the farmers who have responded. We want to quantify these numbers during our second year.
We have learned several things about this project so far.
1) The most challenging part of launching this type of campaign is financial. You need business sponsors right up front to pay for valuable airtime. It is tough, especially at first, to explain the premise of the show and get businesses interested. They’d rather follow a track record already established, like sponsoring Husker football programs, for instance. But slowly, as the show becomes more popular, it is much easier.
2) Local sponsors are the best. They know the people and have a vested interest in economic development like this.
3) Finding farmers is also somewhat difficult, because we like to feature farmers who don’t have a big operating budget for advertising and need help getting the word out. That’s why we keep their portion low at $50. We could offer them the program free, but then they don’t have a vested interest in providing the information we need to do a good job for them. We’ve seen some of that happen.
4) The website is a key to the show. Some folks might not remember phone number or other contact information mentioned on the show, but they often remember www.farmtofamily.net because it is mentioned in every promo and every show. Now we’re getting nearly 1,500 to 2,000 hits a day, just because people are going back and checking out the farms we mention.
5) Having the right radio station, willing to work with farmers and willing to be patient, is also key. We got lucky with KK93 and with Laurie Larsen. Without her knowledge of the communities and farms, it wouldn’t have happened.
6) You have to have someone to write and voice the show who knows area farms and farmers, knows how to tell their stories and shares their compassion for direct markets and farming practices that think and work outside the box.
We feel the project is helping promote sustainable practices by raising awareness of the diversity of food and farm products being raised in the area. It is planting seeds in the minds of young people who are learning that you can make it farming without raising only corn and soybeans and relying on government payments. There are other ways to farm.
Also, if the early indicators are correct, we are growing business for many direct marketers who are participating, by perhaps 5 to 10 percent. That is no small feat.
We participated in meetings for the Center for Rural Affairs, Heartland Experience. We wrote articles for Center for Rural Affairs newsletters and Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society newsletters. Articles appeared in local papers. The project has been featured in two individual articles — one in January 2005 in the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader and another in February 2005 in the Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan. Curt also promoted the project through his Food and Society Policy Fellowship.