- Animal Products: eggs, meat
- Miscellaneous: candy, jams
- Farm Business Management: marketing management, mobile meat market
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities
The family farmers in Kansas and across America are experiencing a double downturn in the farm economy. Commodity prices for grains and livestock are dropping simultaneously. As a result, commodity farmers are actively looking for alternative marketing methods, even if it means learning new production methods. While some farmers are looking towards niche farming practices to help boost farm profitability, the small scale farmers already involved in the niche marketing of their sustainably grown products are likewise experiencing a shift in their own farm economies. The reliable standbys of farmers markets across the state and nation are experiencing drops in attendance.
Additionally, the nation's new farmers are predominately adopting sustainable farming practices. This results in an increasing number of farmers utilizing grass-finishing for their livestock, who then will be looking for direct marketing channels for their premium product. Farm conferences are doing excellent jobs of teaching farmers about the benefits of sustainable farming practices. Farmer training programs are doing great at providing the farmers with the practical knowledge needed to implement these practices. But then the farmer has to hack his own way through the marketing jungle. The quantity that most food hubs need is not feasible for most beginning farmers, nor is wholesale in general. In the past, beginning farmers have relied on farmers markets to help foster their growth, but farmers markets are seeing drops in attendance, and a lot of markets are at vendor capacity.
We think this lack of direct-marketing success for family farms has multiple reasons: (1) Consumers are increasingly "greenwashed" as more corporate giants enter the marketplace and (2) Farmers are not utilizing the proper marketing method for their farm size and/or goals. Additionally, we are dealing with an industry that is hybridizing commodity and niche farm products.
After ruminating on the looming niche marketing crisis, the Bauman family gathered for a brainstorming session. We went against the grain in search of a solution and found ourselves with a concept we term the "Mobile Meat Market". For the last quarter of 2016, the Mobile Market traveled 4 days each week selling the Bauman family's chicken, eggs, turkey, duck, grass-fed beef, pork and goat. Grass-fed lamb was sourced from D&N Farms. Jams and Christmas candy were then added from another neighbor. The past 4 months have given us a great snapshot into this marketing method's potential and we now find ourselves needing to move this to the next level.
Going forward, we ask the assistance of a SARE Farmer Rancher grant as we research the potential this marketing method has when expanded to include more diverse products from more small family farms. This project seeks to expand into a taller, wider trailer for more display space, as we are at capacity in the current 20' trailer. More space will also enable a kitchenette so that hot foods featuring the farmers' products can be served out of the Mobile Market, adding a food truck aspect. Increased space will enable us to cooperate with multiple farmers for more products. Valley View Elk Ranch jerky, Ratzliff Red Wattle Pork, D & N Farms lamb and beef and Bauman's Bakery rolls and jams can be added immediately. Products from other local entrepreneurs will be added as demand allows.
The object of this project is not to provide farmers with a blueprint for direct marketing success, because there are no models for direct marketing. However, our object is to be an example of outside the box possibilities in direct marketing and the importance of finding a marketing model that works for your farm.
1. To be an example of outside the box possibilities in direct marketing and the importance of finding a marketing model that works for your farm.
A. Research the potential of an expanded Mobile Meat Market that includes a food truck and more diverse products from more small family farms.
Reflection at the end of the project:
The object of this project was not to provide farmers with a blueprint for direct marketing success, because there are no models for direct marketing. However, our object is to be an example of outside the box possibilities in direct marketing and the importance of finding a marketing method that works for your farm. We researched the potential of a Mobile Meat Market expanded to include more diverse products from more small family farms. This project seeks to expand into a taller, wider trailer for more display space. More space will also enable a kitchenette so that hot foods featuring the farmers’ products can be served out of the Mobile Market, adding a food truck aspect. Increased space will enable us to cooperate with multiple farmers for more products.
Our conclusion: This mode of direct marketing INCREASES our ability to make a profit, it does not guarantee it. However, this method gives us more control over many of the variables. The question then must be asked: do we want or are we capable of handling this increased marketing responsibility? Essentially, this opens the door to providing all sorts of value-added products, similar to grocery store’s meat and deli counters. Instead of just selling whole chicken, I could be selling 20 products made from chicken. The mobile-market concept is a good alternative to a brick and mortar store-front.
In response to this research, the Bauman family is looking for staffing, marketing managers and new locations to expand into. We believe that this mobile-market method is a good fit for our farm. We can increase the variety of products sold to our existing customer base, which is essential for a small farm. Small farms must produce and market one item to many buyers, or alternatively, market many items to fewer buyers. We chose the latter as the best fit for our family farm. The Williams family is also supportive of this cooperative marketing avenue as the increasing vitality of their farm’s soils is supporting more animals per acre, but they have no desire to increase the hours that they spend off-farm in marketing pursuits.