Fresh, From Our Family to Yours: Direct Marketing Education for Producers

2005 Annual Report for SW04-058

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $98,395.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Molly Johnson
PlacerGROWN

Fresh, From Our Family to Yours: Direct Marketing Education for Producers

Summary

This project is working with Placer County producers to identify, address and cultivate new markets. Project activities provide farmers with the resources to develop new marketing channels, increase promotional efforts and build relationships with the local community. Goals for this project are to increase farm sales and annual sales at the farmers’ markets by 20-25 percent, sell local produce to at least two school districts in the county, market to at least ten local restaurants, double the number of CSAs, and sell produce to at least one large institution such as a hospital or community college.

Objectives/Performance Targets

• Generate descriptive list and annotated bibliography of new marketing opportunities for Placer County farmers and ranchers
• Develop and conduct 100-150 producer and consumer surveys
• Showcase innovative and successful marketing ideas and models at the PlacerGROWN Farm Conference
• Conduct an opening retreat for producers to generate and prioritize ideas for expanding direct marketing opportunities
• Perform research on available resource materials for workshop development
• Organize four farmer-to-farmer networking meetings annually to promote relationship building and develop project collaborations
• Design and deliver eight in-depth marketing workshops for producers on how to meet the needs and requirements of consumers and produce buyers and monitor impact
• Design, test and update, and utilize program evaluation measures
• Produce and disseminate Report of Findings

Accomplishments/Milestones

• Generate descriptive list and annotated bibliography of new marketing opportunities for Placer County farmers and ranchers

Project staff have conducted research and started compiling information and resources from the internet and in print. The information collected has already been used for project ideas, developing farm conference workshops and identifying knowledgeable presenters, as workshop curriculum and for the farmer-to-farmer networking meetings. For example, community supported agriculture (CSA) is an underutilized marketing channel in our area, and several farmers are interested in learming more about CSA and are exploring starting new CSAs. Research was conducted on CSA resources and resulted in the development of a short course on CSA utilizing curriculum developed by the University of California, Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems and presented by an experienced local CSA farmer.

This process was also informed by a brainstorming session at the opening retreat where a list of ideas for new marketing channels was developed and the producer survey. This list will be completed and disseminated during the second year of the project.

• Develop and conduct 100-150 producer and consumer surveys

A survey was developed and distributed to approximately 120 local producers in order to assess which marketing channels they are currently using and which they would like to use, what workshop topics they were most interested in and what crops they currently produce (see Appendix A). Thirty-six responses were received and the information from the survey was used to identify which marketing channels farmers were most interested in and developing projects, resources, and workshops to provide information on how to access those markets.

A consumer survey has been developed. The survey is conducted when PlacerGROWN hosts a booth at a community event. Surveys have been conducted at two events and the results will be compiled and summarized when we have completed additional surveys.

• Showcase innovative and successful marketing ideas and models at the PlacerGROWN Farm Conference

The 2005 PlacerGROWN Farm Conference was held in February and featured Jane Eckert of Eckert AgriMarketing as the keynote speaker. Jane also conducted two well attended workshops during the conference. Farmers left the workshops with innovative ideas for developing a farm marketing plan and a list of farm marketing strategies. In addition to the workshop strands on livestock, mandarin, specialty crop and wine grape production, beginning farming, and organic regulations and certification, for the first time there were two complete strands dedicated to agritourism and marketing for a total of ten workshops on these topics. These workshops showcased some of the most innovative strategies being used by family farmers to build economic viability.

2005 PlacerGROWN Farm Conference Workshops
Building the Basis of Agritourism – Jane Eckert
Gold Coast Growers’ Collaborative – Judy Blue, Community Alliance with Family Farmers
Marketing 101: Agritoursim in California – Jane Eckert Market Windows of Opportunity – Cindy Fake, University of California Cooperative Extension
Local Tourism Resources Panel – Angie Tahti, Placer Arts Council, Jonelle Norton, Placer Valley Tourism, and Cynthia Haynes, California Welcome Center
Regional & Niche Market Program Panel – Temra Costa, Community Alliance with Family Farmers and Rick Knoll, Knoll Farm
Hosting School Visits Panel – Temra Costa, Community Alliance with Family Farmers and Karen Brenner, Farmer
Marketing Tips at Farmers’ Markets – Cindy Fake, University of California Cooperative Extension and Christina Abuelo, Foothill Farmers’ Market Association Preparing for Farm Visits – Dan Macon, Farmer
Telling Your Farm Story – Cindy Fake, University of California Cooperative Extension and Joanne Neft, Placer County Agricultural Marketing Program

• Conduct an opening retreat for producers to generate and prioritize ideas for expanding direct marketing opportunities

A steering committee of 29 producers was formed and a one-day opening retreat was held on March 6, 2005. The retreat was facilitated by Roger Ingram, University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor. During this retreat the producer steering committee discussed their most significant marketing challenges and brainstormed opportunities for developing new marketing channels. They identified projects and workshops that would provide them with the resources to address their challenges. The committee formed several subcommittees each focused on a project or specific marketing channel and they developed an action plan to cultivate the following marketing channels and developed strategies for providing farmers with the resources to cultivate those channels and address the objectives of the project:

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) – PlacerGROWN will assist project participants with organizing a farmer-to-farmer networking meeting to provide an introduction and overview of CSA and develop a short-course so farmers can learn how to start and operate a CSA. The networking meeting is scheduled for November 16, 2005, and the short-course will be held one night per week for four weeks in January. The networking meeting and the short-course will be led by local farmer Bryan Kaminsky who has been operating a 125-member CSA for ten years. The short-course will cover general and in-depth information on CSA structure and organization, outreach, administration, crop planning and harvest and post-harvest handling and will utilize curriculum developed by the University of California, Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.

Development of a Mandarin Grower Marketing Organization – PlacerGROWN will assist project participants with organizing a series of short-courses that will provide education to mandarin growers on structural options for a collaborative marketing organization, post-harvest handling and packing for optimal quality, value-added products and effective communication and conflict resolution. In addition, PlacerGROWN will assist the mandarin growers with developing a logo and brochure to promote Placer County mandarins.

Direct Marketing to Restaurants – PlacerGROWN will work with project participants to launch a pilot project that will introduce their products to local restaurants. The project will be a promotion titled Placer County Wines and Dines. Farmers will partner with local restaurants to develop a special menu featuring locally produced fruits, vegetables, meat and wine that will be featured during the month of October. The event will be promoted by the restaurants to their customers and through local media. An event committee will be formed and committee participants will meet with local restaurateurs in order to explain the event and ask for their participation.

PlacerGROWN will facilitate and organize two meetings between the farmers and the restaurateurs to assess the barriers and opportunities for them to purchasing local produce, meat and wine. The first event to be held in September will be a tasting event. The event will take place at a local vineyard and farmers will bring samples of their products. Chefs will have the opportunity to taste the superior flavor and freshness of local products and the farmers will have the opportunity to learn what local chefs are interested in purchasing and discuss pricing and delivery terms. The second meeting will be held in January and will be a facilitated meeting to assess the successes and challenges of the event and determine if restaurants and farmers would be willing to participate again. PlacerGROWN will work with project participants and producers to develop a weekly availability list to distribute to the restaurants as well as other food service buyers so they are aware of the local products that are available.

Building Local Government Support for Farmers Markets – There are 15 seasonal markets and 1 year-round market in Placer County. The seasonal markets often have difficulty finding a permanent home and have to change locations from year-to-year, which makes marketing and promotion challenging because it is difficult to establish a long-term customer base. Some cities with seasonal markets would like to have a year-round market but lack the location and facilities. PlacerGROWN will work with project participants to organize a day-trip to the Davis Farmers Market, one of the most well-known and successful markets in the state of California, for city officials and chamber leaders in order to build local government support for farmers markets in Placer County. The tour will feature presentations to give local officials and business leaders an inside look at how public and private support of farmers markets yields widespread positive impact on local communities in terms of economic, social and other indicators. Additional follow-up will be conducted to identify strategies for increasing local support of farmers’ markets.

• Perform research on available resource materials for workshop development

Extensive research to identify experts in the field as presenters and educational resources was conducted during the development of each workshop and farmer-to-farmer networking meeting.

• Organize four farmer-to-farmer networking meetings annually to promote relationship building and develop project collaborations

Two farmer-to-farmer networking meetings were organized during the first year of the project. The first meeting was held in May and featured a presentation by a local chef and produce store owner. He gave a presentation to farmers on how to market their products to his business as well as other restaurants and retail outlets.

The second meeting was held in June and was a follow-up to the opening retreat. At this meeting producers further refined their action plans to cultivate new marketing channels.

We have plans to conduct six meeting in the second year of the project.

• Design and deliver eight in-depth marketing workshops for producers on how to meet the needs and requirements of consumers and produce buyers and monitor impact

Ten workshops were developed for the 2005 PlacerGROWN Farm Conference, and an additional eight workshops will be featured at the 2006 PlacerGROWN Farm Conference. The workshops are still in the development phase, but we have confirmed keynote speaker Joel Salatin. In addition to giving a keynote address, Joel will conduct four workshops during the conference on Salad Bar Beef, Pastured Poultry, Relationship Marketing and Holonic Farming. There is tremendous opportunity in our region for improving farm viability by raising and direct marketing livestock and poultry. A recently formed marketing collaborative, High Sierra Beef, has made it possible for ranchers to work together to market locally raised beef. In addition, Sierra Community College and the High Sierra Resource and Conservation and Development District are collaborating and have received funding to build and make available for use by local producers a mobile poultry processing facility. Joel’s presentations highlighting his innovative production and marketing strategies will be important educational information for local producers.

• Design, test and update, and utilize program evaluation measures

An evaluation plan has been developed. Evaluations are distributed and collected at each workshop and networking meeting and the information is reviewed and taken into consideration when formulating subsequent meetings.

• Produce and disseminate Report of Findings

This will be completed in the final year of the project.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

1. Increasing producer knowledge, awareness, attitudes and skills

From the workshops conducted producers have obtained the information, skills and resources to more effectively direct market their produce and farms. Specifically, the project has increased awareness among small-scale producers about the opportunities and challenges of direct marketing. Local producers are more conscious of viable direct marketing opportunities such as community supported agriculture, marketing to local restaurants and retail outlets, and on-farm events and promotions. Serving on the steering committee and attending workshops have provided them with the opportunity to develop a more positive attitude toward working collectively. Finally, the project has provided growers and ranchers with solid experience in networking, problem-solving and teamwork, abilities that they will capitalize on long after the grant period to pursue collaborative direct marketing endeavors.

2. Information dissemination

All of the workshops and the farm conference have been well publicized through direct mail, press releases resulting in local media coverage, the PlacerGROWN web site, email and phone calls.

During the second year of the project the resource list entitled “Farm Diversification and Direct Marketing Opportunities for Placer County Producers,” will be completed and disseminated. During the third year of the project, the Report of Findings including both qualitative and quantitative information, will be completed and distributed through various means, including via the PlacerGROWN and Foothill Farmers’ Market Association websites, at farm conferences and through the newsletters of both organizations. In addition, we will send notice of the availability of the final Report to 10-12 national publications, with paper copies available to those without internet access.

3. Additional Impacts and Outcome to be Determined

We have developed and started implementing an evaluation plan to assess additional impacts and outcomes of the project. We will have more to report as we collect additional information.