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. Surveys will be employed in 2015 and 2016 to track how, if at all, participants’ purchasing habits changed after visiting farms at Open Farm Day.
Surveys tracking consumers’ shopping habits with local farms were tracked at Open Farm Day 2015 and 2016. Participants were solicited from emails collected at Open Farm Day and through online advertisements. An initial survey conducted in 2015 gathered information on respondents’ familiarity with farms and farm products from Open Farm Day. Respondents from this survey were then contacted again in 2016 to track their purchasing habits. This follow-up survey received a response rate of 31 percent. To add to this study’s overall data set, a general survey identical to the first survey give in 2015 was sent out to a wider group of Open Farm Day 2016 attendees. This survey still documented consumers’ knowledge of local farms, purchasing habits, and experience with local farms and will increase overall knowledge about the shopping habits of those that attend on-farm special events.
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.
June 2016 – August 2016: Second follow up survey to 2015 survey developed.
November – December 2016: Two surveys sent out; one to original 2015 respondents as follow up, and one to Open Farm Day 2016 visitors.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Preliminary results gathered from the first consumer survey in 2015 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.
In year 2, follow-up surveys were sent to respondents of the 2015 survey to see how, if at all, their buying habits and perceptions of local farms and farms products had changed after attending Open Farm Day 2015. The response rate for this follow up survey was 31 percent. Results from this survey are still being analyzed. However, of those that responded to the survey, 68 percent indicated that they attended Open Farm Day in 2016. Of those that attended Open Farm Day 2016, 98 percent reported still learning about new farms and farm products at the event.
Due to a lower-than-hoped for response rate on this follow up survey, a third survey that was the same as the first initial survey in 2015 was sent out to attendees of Open Farm Day 2016. This survey still gathered information on whether or not attendees were familiar with any of the farms prior to the event, whether or not visitors planned to patronize farms in the future, and what kind of experience they had at farms.