Vegetable Marketing Strategies for a Small Farm Co-op
In order to succeed, farmers who belong to market co-ops must learn to supply produce year-round. They must also learn to apply techniques and strategies to market that produce. Such techniques and strategies include proper preparation, storage, packing and shipping.
1.) Conduct a series of vegetable marketing workshops focusing on readying, transporting and marketing produce to commercial markets.
2.) Evaluate current marketing strategies to determine strengths and weaknesses.
3.) Develop an evaluation/assessment plan to determine the effectiveness of workshops and seminars.
4.) Host an annual demonstration marketing field day to include other farmers in the area and other cooperatives.
During this extended project, leaders are arranging with commercial vendors and agricultural service representatives to provide a co-op of 55 small farms with a series of workshops that focus on techniques for timely production and on preparing, transporting and marketing produce in a more profitable manner.
The project began with a workshop called Sharing Information About My Farm, which led co-op farmers to examine the ways they were currently marketing their produce and to note the strengths and weaknesses of those methods. This was followed by workshops entitled Problems Facing Farmers Today and Financial Management Training. The latter included sessions in computer training for farm management and presentations about sustainable agriculture.
A form is being designed and will be mailed to participants for their evaluation of the effectiveness of the workshops.
Participants report that the workshops have fostered a positive attitude, and they are eager to learn new ways of marketing their produce. They are consulting more with each other about individual crops and about striving for consistent quality in the produce coming from co-op farms.
The computer workshop was particularly popular and has spurred requests for more training in farm record keeping by computer. The co-op is investigating the possibility of purchasing computers for this training.
Farmers are putting into practice the skills they are learning in the workshops. They pooled produce of consistent quality from their various farms and then loaded trucks to send their first shipment from South Carolina to Baltimore.
Co-op members anticipate that the changes will impact profits, but at this time it is still too early to tell. Future seminars will build on the strengths of the current strategies to develop a progressive marketing program.
A total of 40 people attended the first workshops. The first marketing field day was attended by 19 people, including farmers from other communities. It was held at the Joseph Fields farm, which produces squash, strawberries, collards, cabbage and broccoli. The group was given a tour of the farm, which uses a combination of bed and row planting techniques. The pond and irrigation system were included in the tour.
Joseph Fields concentrated on squash for the marketing demonstration. He explained how to grade for color and size. After harvesting, the squash was placed in a wash water containing dish detergent and chlorine bleach. The bleach acted as a cleansing agent and the detergent imparted a shine. The squash was then placed in crates, ready to be transported. He explained that the squash blossoms are sometimes sold as a specialty item. The field day concluded with a meal at the Fields’ home, where attendees discussed their own operations and exchanged ideas.