Building a Successful Small-Farmer Marketing Group When Customers are Geographically Dispersed

2000 Annual Report for FS00-117

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2000: $14,800.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2002
Region: Southern
State: Virginia
Principal Investigator:
Ned Johnson
Highlands Bioproduce, Inc.

Building a Successful Small-Farmer Marketing Group When Customers are Geographically Dispersed


This producer will develop a marketing system that will expand a small growers organization’s total sales (wholesale, CSA, etc.) to a volume sufficient to economically market and distribute organic produce within a large geographical area. This is important because both the growers, customers and potential customers live great distances from each other.

The problem the producer has encountered is that it is difficult to achieve a group sales threshold volume that generates enough revenues to afford a professional marketer, a delivery vehicle(s) and a delivery person(s). There is further need to pay operating expenses such as bookkeeping, liability and delivery vehicle insurance, printing/postage, bank fees and promotions/advertising, etc. To stay viable the producer must also generate greater consumer awareness and participation in purchasing organically grown produce and still guarantee that there will be enough revenues to pay growers a good price for their produce. Unless this happens, there is insufficient grower interest to assure that the quantities of produce of the quality needed will be available for sale.

This producer’s solution will be to organize a few growers willing to do the marketing and distribution tasks for the group as a whole so that a large portion of the group’s income is not spent on hiring a professional marketer and a delivery driver until the total sales volume is sufficient to justify it. Growers doing these tasks will be nominally compensated. A couple of grower farms spread out in the region will serve as produce collection points. These growers will pack the CSA baskets for pick-up and delivery. Other volunteer growers will deliver the baskets to sites convenient for consumer pick-up. Another grower or two will be the marketer(s) to retail stores, restaurants, etc. who then pick-up the produce from the collection points and deliver the produce to the buyers normally twice a week. This would be done for two growing seasons with the objective of reaching sufficient gross sales volume during the third year to then hire a dedicated marketer and delivery person(s).


Henry Snodgrass

Virginia Cooperative Extension Service
Anthony Flaccavento

Appalachian Sustainable Development
Hubert Lambert

Sullivan County, TN Extension Service