Leveraging the Power of Social Media and Mobile Point of Sales Systems at the Oshkosh Farmers Market

Project Overview

FNC14-949
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2014: $7,154.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Grant Recipient: CiderHill Farm LLC
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Elise Hallock
CiderHill Farm LLC

Commodities

  • Vegetables: artichokes, beans, beets, cabbages, carrots, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts

Practices

  • Education and Training: networking, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: marketing management, market study, value added
  • Sustainable Communities: public participation

    Summary:

    This project has been a succesful proof of concept that free social media marketing really can make a difference to small farmers if a social media marketing strategy is developed and followed. Too often social media is treated as a throw away marketing tool that requires little resource investment, but when managed properly and persistently, social media, and mobile point of sales systems, can be powerful, low cost tools for small farmers to connect with their customers on a much deeper and more meaningful level.

    Introduction:

    We have a passion for purple carrots, a soft spot for fragrant galia-type melons, and a lingering joy for anything on the Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, but many view our excitement with skepticism. They’ve never heard of the fruits and veggies we produce. How do you eat a kohlrabi anyway? Is that cucumber supposed to look like a watery potato? The fear of buying something new, only to have it wither away in the refrigerator, stifles too many adventurous spirits because consumers do not realize the flavor and the protective nutrient benefits they are missing out on.

    According to an October 2011 report titled “Tracking Demographics and U.S. Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Patterns,” by Roberta Cook for UC-Davis, “unfolding demographic and food trends are likely to continue to shift consumption toward more fresh and less processed fruits and vegetables, as well as toward… differentiated products, including [those] with specific food traits.” Those specific food traits that consumers are starting to looking for in their produce are increased variety, rich flavor profiles, and superior phytonutrient content. According to Cook, the desire for these varieties hinges significantly on the consumer’s education.

    While supermarkets in urban areas are rising to the challenge of providing more produce variety, residents of communities like Oshkosh have limited access to the cornucopia. These underserved communities, where consumers may know little about the relative health and flavor benefits of some varieties over others, and where they do not even have reliable access to these varieties, provide an opportunity for both community and producer.

    As small producers in the Fox Valley, we are uniquely situated to create a willingness to try something new by bring together the exploding research into specific phytonutrient rich fruit and vegetable varieties,  interest in locally grown, heirloom produce unavailable on a commercial scale, and these underserved markets. The resulting intersection provides more, and healthier, options to consumers while creating a sustainable competitive advantage over the convenience of the monolithic supermarket. If enough small producers opted to grow food varieties that are more delicious and nutritious, we could have a lasting impact on the health of the community, while increasing food independence in the area.

    The first step toward this end in our grant research centers on ascertaining what motivates consumers to try a new variety. This would be accomplished via a consumer survey conducted with the help of a veteran research consultant from locally owned Dynamic Innovation Solutions. The results of the survey will guide a marketing campaign designed to educate consumers. The campaign would also serve to differentiate our products from those at the supermarket as being a healthier, more colorful,  more delicious alternative.

    Project objectives:

    Our goal, in conducting this project, was to make new and diverse produce options more available at the Oshkosh Farmers Market by connecting with customers and creating demand for new varieties while expanding payment options for customers.

    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.