Boosting farmer sales through culinary events and marketing

2016 Annual Report for ONE16-265

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2016: $14,992.00
Projected End Date: 04/15/2018
Grant Recipient: City Seed
Region: Northeast
State: Connecticut
Project Leader:

Boosting farmer sales through culinary events and marketing


CitySeed’s Project, Boosting Sales through Culinary Events and Marketing, seeks to find the “sweet spot” of marketing and engagement activities and demonstrate that it has an impact on farmers’ sales at our market. We sought to accomplish this through highlighting specific fruits and vegetables identified by market farmers and highlighting those crops in marketing themes, market events, cooking demos and tastings.   In 2016, after surveying our market farmers to identify crops, CitySeed hosted seven large scale events at our larger market locations in Wooster Square and Edgewood Park. We held two additional events in Fair Haven and Downtown, two of our smaller market locations. A series of cooking demos were also conducted though our partnership with the Hispanic Health Council at our Fair Haven Market.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Prior to the start of the season, CitySeed polled farmers to identify fruit and vegetables to promote throughout the 2016 market season. As a result of this survey, a series of large and small-scale events were planned that promoted the identified crops and project partners or participants were identified. Large-scale events were planned in the beginning and end of the season when our markets generally see a decline in customers and product. This Spring, our major events focused primarily on Salad Greens and on Strawberries and in the Fall, on Apples and Squash. Other vegetables and fruit promoted in conjunction with these events over social media and with point-of-purchase market signage were: Arugula, Carrots, Garlic, Greens, Herbs, Lettuce, Kale Spinach, Sprouts, Pears, Turnips, Sweet potato, Winter Squash, Cucumbers, Herbs, Swiss Chard, Sugar Snap Peas, Summer Squash, Zucchini and Beets. Because our main objective was to increase sales of produce at our market, we saw no reason to exclude any of the vegetables or fruit identified in our pre-season surveys.


CitySeed hosted five major events at our larger weekend markets in Wooster Square and Edgewood Park and two major events at our smaller markets Downtown and Fair Haven, for a total of nine large-scale events during 2016.   Major events were defined as pre-publicized events that always incorporated increased signage promoting in-season highlighted crops, included at least one sampling or cooking demo and incorporated at least two other event components. Point-of-purchase signs identified highlighted crops, suggested pairings with highlighted produce that included other farmers market offerings, and highlighted crop focused recipes. In addition we also had signage for sampling crops and cooking demonstrations.

Major events also included at least two other components such as: a highlighted crop themed kids activity, guest vendors with specialty products that incorporated highlighted crops, crop information/identification table, or live music. In addition to the nine major events, CitySeed also partnered with the Hispanic Health Council to have regular cooking demos at our Fair Haven Market. Eight demos were conducted and incorporated pre-survey identified produce.   The remaining 2-6 demos or samplings will be conducted outside of our original proposed dates of November –December, and be conducted at our indoor Winter Market January – March instead.



Surveying was an important aspect of our proposal. Post event surveys were given to our vegetable farmers and identified project partners after each major event. Sales data for the week prior and the week of the event was requested in the survey along with information related to any noticeable increased customer inquiry related to promoted produce and sales of specific crops. Mid-year surveys were conducted over social media to poll our customer base about our events. Dot-surveys were conducted to gauge the reasoning for customer attendance and measure engagement with highlighted crops as a result of the events. CitySeed also used our weekly e-newsletter and social media outlets to promote ID’ed crops throughout the market season. To maximize our marketing efforts these posts were boosted on a regular basis. We also used our major events and the related crop as the theme for the months the events where hosted. Market calendars were created to highlight major events and distributed throughout the season. Specific event flyers with ID’ed crop images and graphics were used on digital marketing outlets as well as in flyer for at the markets throughout the season.


CitySeed relied more on its Executive Director and Market Management to accomplish grant tasks than originally had been anticipated. Our marketing specialist, Tagan Engel, left CitySeed in mid-July. Our Executive Director and Program Director stepped into her role as needed. Our Program Director, Ashley Kremser, was on Maternity leave from July – mid-September and both our ED and Market Manager Beth Hutton assumed her responsibilities in her absence.


April 2016 – May 2016

Marketing Specialist creates a detailed marketing plan covering social media, print media and market. Messaging guidelines are drafted to and disseminated to staff.

  • Marketing plan completed
  • Guidelines were reviewed with staff


April 2016 – December 2016

Marketing Specialist and Program Director coordinate the creation of monthly print and electronic marketing material            

  • Seasonal marketing material created that incorporated our market calendar and printed in advance of major events and on seasonal market flyer
  • Recipe cards created and printed
  • Point-of-purchase signage for major events created and printed
  • Executive Director was involved in coordination from July on

April 2016 – November 2016

Market Management and Marketing Specialist meet weekly to review successes and to implement weekly and overall project marketing strategies online and otherwise.

  • Market Management met with Program Director and Executive Director to review weekly goals from mid-July – November.

April 2016 – November 2016

Under the supervision of the Program Director, Fellow creates price comparison sheets with applicable identified products.

  • University Fellow under the direction of ED (Program Director was absent due to maternity leave) created a price comparison sheet for the month of June and July
  • Fellow is with us for the months of June – July. We did not have the capacity during this year with two staff members absent and on leave to conduct price comparisons without the help of a fellow.

April 2016 – November 2016

Market Management and staff to secure volunteers and area chefs for cooking demos, samplings and major events.

  • Our partner, the Hispanic Health Council, secured and conducted cooking demos through the months of August – September.
  • Small Kitchen Big Taste catering company secured for demos for all major events.
  • CitySeed coordinates with staff and farmers to provide sampling at four of our major events.



May 2016 – December 2016

Market Management and staff execute large-scale events, cooking demos, and samplings.

  • Salad Event executed on May 7th
  • Strawberry Event executed on June 25th & 26th
  • Apple Event executed on July 23rd, 24th, October 12th & 13th
  • Squash Event executed on November 5th & 6th
  • Cooking Demos conducted at major events and August – October
  • Samplings conducted at key major events


June 2016 – December 2016

Market Management coordinates the execution of post event survey dissemination to customers, farmers and full-scale project farmer participants.

  • Dot-surveys created and conducted at major events, post event surveys disseminated to project participants and vegetable vendors after major events, mid-season customer survey accomplished in mid- June.
  • Our first major event promoting salad greens and spring vegetables experienced inclement weather that included a significant deluge of rain, and as a result data was not required from our farmers in regard to sales as it would have been reflective of the weather and not our promotional efforts. The dot-surveys also could not be conducted during the event – the large pads of paper that are used would have been destroyed.
  • Post event survey responses are lower than expected. Market Management is currently reaching out to farms that have not completed the surveys.


January 2017– February 2017

Market Management analyzes survey results and compiles report.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes


On days that CitySeed hosted major events, markets saw an increase in customers who engaged with added activities. Major events that incorporated tastings, cooking demos and increased activities did not necessarily translate into more sales for farmers. Although market numbers went up and some farms reported an increase of sales on the day of a major event, some also reported a decline in sales.


Stacia Monahan

Stone Gardens Farm
83 Saw Mill City Rd
Shelton, CT 06484
Tobais Fischer

Gentle Giant Farm
327 Litchfield Tpke
Bethany, CT 06524
Elizabeth Hindinger

Hindinger Farm
815 Dunbar Hill Rd
Hamden, CT 06514
Rachel Berg

Four Root Farm
257 Tater Hill Rd
East Haddam, CT 06423