Gaining and retaining consumers from on-farm special events
Using on-farm events to attract and retain customers is a common marketing strategy employed by farms, but apart from anecdotal evidence, there is limited documentation of these events’ overall impact on customers’ future farm patronage. This study seeks to address the effectiveness of on-farm special events in gaining and retaining customers for farms by surveying participants of Open Farm Day, a large annual farm visit event. Two separate surveys will be employed, one in 2015 and one in 2016, to track how, if at all, participants’ purchasing habits changed after visiting farms at Open Farm Day.
The first of two online surveys was administered and completed by a total of 210 Open Farm Day 2015 attendees. Participants were solicited from emails collected at Open Farm Day and through online advertisements. This first survey enabled us to gather baseline data on consumer habits to compare to a follow-up survey scheduled for July-August 2016.
April 1 – 30, 2015: Developed initial research survey and follow- up survey.
May 1- June 30, 2015: Tested first survey in two pilot groups; refined survey.
July 1 – 14, 2015: Project lead and support staff worked with farm partners to establish sign-in procedures for Open Farm Day visitors.
July 25, 2015: Project staff and farm partners collected Open Farm Day visitor information, inform visitors of upcoming survey.
July 26 – 31, 2015: Farms returned Open Farm Day visitor logs and participants’ email addresses for use in survey.
July 27 – October 13, 2015: Participant information recorded and edited for accuracy.
October 13 – November 6, 2015: Survey active; sent out to 492 Open Farm Day 2015 participants.
November 7, 2015 – December 31, 2015: Initial results from first survey analyzed.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Preliminary results gathered from the first of two consumer surveys indicate an overall positive customer response to on-farm events. Half of respondents sampled had not previously attended Open Farm Day, and of those, 48 percent reported having no prior familiarity with the farms they visited the day of the event. Ninety-six percent of these first-time Open Farm Day attendees reported that they had learned about new farms because of the event, 92 percent reported learning about new farm products, and 52 percent made first time purchases from farms they visited at Open Farm Day. People who had previously attended Open Farm Day reported that they still learned about new farms and new farms products from the event, 21 percent and 83 percent respectively.
A total of 87 percent of all respondents reported learning about new products from Open Farm Day. Responses from all survey participants show that 91 percent purchased product from a farm at the event, 48 percent for the first time. Overall, 88 percent of respondents reported that they planned to visit the farms they attended at Open Farm Day in the future. These figures will be further analyzed and compared to results of a second survey launched in July/August 2016 to see if respondents continued to purchase products from farms they learned about through Open Farm Day year round.