Expanding the Marketing Opportunities for Organic Growers in Texas
The major objective of this project is to expand the marketing opportunities for organic farmers in Texas. To accomplish this objective the research team has successfully completed the proposed focus groups of both producers and consumers in each of the five regions of Texas. The results of the focus groups are still being transcribed but preliminary information is available. Data gathered in the focus groups reveal that there is a wide diversity of commodities produced across Texas as well as wide variety of marketing channels utilized by organic producers. Similarly, organic consumers obtain their food from a diversity of outlets including regional grocery stores, farmers markets, and direct from producers. There are patterns by region for both consumers and producers. Finally, there is a wide diversity of opinions regarding the importance of the food being “certified organic” on the part of both producers and consumers. The research team has also been successful in beginning to build a network of both farmers/producers and organizational liaisons of parties interested in the project. University extension agents, farmers market managers, urban gardening program coordinators, and a wide diversity of farmers, gardeners, input suppliers, and alternative food production/processing companies have been involved in the research.
The targeted objectives have been met on schedule. The focus groups have been carried out and are being transcribed. Information gathered in the producer focus groups reveals the great variety of crops grown organically in Texas and the various marketing strategies used to sell these crops, including barriers to further market access. For example, the producers of organic cotton in Northwest Texas produce for a global market while the producers of organic produce in Northeast Texas are more likely to direct market their vegetables and meats at farmers markets or direct to consumers. Additionally, data from the consumer focus groups reveals that consumers of organic products take part in a variety of buying strategies ranging from direct buying from farmers to relying solely on the organic section of their regional grocery store. The focus groups were carried out in each of the five regions to try to capture some of the particularities of each reason. The results of the focus groups did reveal that there are such predicted differences in both consumer behaviors and producer marketing strategies by region. Networking has been carried out in each of the five Texas regions and people and organizations have agreed to be part of a larger project to enhance the marketing opportunities for organic growers in Texas. The research team has also accomplished the task of conducting a literature review of various studies of organic marketing from the producer and consumer perspectives. Several examples of surveys have been collected to use as models for the quantitative survey instrument this is to be created using the focus group information.
The primary accomplishments of the project have to do with completing the consumer and producer focus groups and networking with people and organizations across the state interested in the project. A number of ideas gleaned from the focus groups have already pointed to research and program needs in the state. The process of networking has already started to galvanize a state-wide group interested in continuing to advance the goal of organic production and consumption in Texas. Several university extension agents have indicated their willingness to be part of the current project as well as work on other projects. Similarly, Texas Department of Agriculture staff have also indicated their further support for this and similar projects. There has also been several good links made with farmers markets in and/or near major metropolitan areas who are interested in getting more organic foods represented in their markets. The research team and the statewide organic organization (Texas Organic Farmers and Growers Assn.) has been well received in each of the five state regions.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The impacts and contributions are nascent at this time but have alluded to above. The process of carrying out the focus groups has aided in the networking effort across the state. A major early outcome is the willingness of several Texas A&M-based extension agents to collaborate on this and future projects. We feel this is notable accomplishment already. Another notable accomplishment is early work being done to connect organic livestock producers with a source of organic livestock feed from Texas. This is a major issue that came up repeatedly in the focus groups. Finally, the diversity of opinions on the part of both producers and consumers regarding the importance and the necessity of food being “certified organic” is a valuable early outcome of the project.
Texas A&M University
Department of Horticultural Sciences
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX 77843-2133
Office Phone: 4098453915