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

2006 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

An outline of the “Farm Diversification and Direct Marketing Opportunities for Placer County Producers“ has been developed. Project staff have continued to conduct research and compile information and resources from the Internet and in print. The resource list topics will include Farmers’ Markets, Crop Diversification, Agtourism and On-Farm Events, Community Supported Agriculture, Adding Value, Wholesale Outlets, Direct and Wholesale Marketing of Meat Products, Branding Your Farm and Developing an Association. 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.

• Develop and conduct 100-150 producer and consumer surveys

An initial producer survey was conducted and the information from the survey was used to identify which marketing channels farmers were most interested in. This information was used to develop projects, resources and workshops to provide information on how to access those markets. PlacerGROWN has developed several projects to provide growers with technical assistance to develop new marketing channels, and evaluations have been developed and implemented to assess the effectiveness of the projects. For example, PlacerGROWN organized a short course on how to start and manage a Community Supported Agriculture project. Growers that attended the short course completed an evaluation of the course and the instructor. In addition, an evaluation of the farm conference workshops was conducted.

We are continuing to conduct the consumer survey when PlacerGROWN hosts a booth at a community event. Surveys have been conducted at several events and tallied. An analysis of the results will be completed when we have completed and tallied additional surveys.

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

The 2006 PlacerGROWN Farm Conference was held in February and featured Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms as the keynote speaker. In addition, Joel conducted four workshops during the conference. Farmers left the workshops with innovative ideas for farm diversification and relationship marketing. In addition to the workshop, there were strands on mandarins, winegrapes, beginning farming, seed and equipment, organic regulations and certification and community supported agriculture, and for the second time there were two complete strands dedicated to agritourism and marketing for a total of eight workshops on these topics. These workshops showcased some of the most innovative strategies being used by family farmers to build economic viability. In addition, there was a focus on collaborative marketing through associations for mandarin and winegrape growers.

2006 PlacerGROWN Farm Conference Agritourism and Marketing Workshops and Descriptions

Agritourism

Workshop Title: Placer County Farm and Barn, Part I and II
Presenter(s): Cindy Fake and Paul Burns
Description: UC Farm Advisor Cindy Fake will lead this two-part workshop series on the Placer County Farm and Barn Festival. You will learn about what went well at the 2005 Farm and Barn sites, what could be changed or improved and suggestions for activities on the farm. The 2005 Farm and Barn Festival attracted over 2,000 visitors during the day-long event. The 2006 Farm and Barn Festival should be even bigger. The Festival had twelve different stops during the day, and many farms were near capacity for visitors most of the day. The Farm and Barn Festival provides a great venue for attracting people to visit a farm, learn about agriculture and make future contacts for marketing products.

Workshop Title: Signs for Agriculture
Presenter(s): Christine Turner
Placer County Agricultural Commissioner Christine Turner has been working with growers and the county on signage for agricultural operations. Christine will provide background on the existing sign ordinance, research conducted on El Dorado County’s sign ordinance and the diretion of future agricultural sign requirements.

Workshop Title: Farm Stays & Artists in Residence
Presenter(s): Joanne Neft and Eileen Eckert
Description: Tourists are looking for educational and enriching travel experiences. Using Horton Iris Farm and the Flower Farm Country Inn as examples, the financial benefits of farm stays and on-site artists will be described and discussed. Descriptive brochures and other hand-outs will be shared. Learn about new opportunities for your farm or ranch.

Marketing

Workshop Title: Relationship Marketing
Presenter(s): Joel Salatin
Description: This workshop is about developing patrons – different kinds of patrons (restaurants, individuals, buying clubs, CSA, etc.) – and the strengths and weaknesses of each. There will be lots of stories about our marketing venues. Polyface Farms is successful economically because they work with nature by mimicking her cycles and because they are all about relationships. They encourage people to come to the farm to buy their products. They want their customers to understand the faces and family behind the food they grow.

Workshop Title: Selling to Restaurants and Specialty Stores
Presenter(s): Ralene Snow and Randy Kliewer
Description: Selling to local chefs and specialty stores is among the alternatives that can help build a more stable regional food economy and a more sustainable agriculture. But these markets, like others, have challenges: a chef with whom you developed a close relationship may move on and you may lose that account, a restaurant may close or tight finances at a restaurant may result in late payments to you. Diversity of markets as well as a diversity of crops helps to provide the flexibility and stability you need to stay in business. Joining other growes to form a cooperative may also help to reduce some risks. It can also add new challenges. Ralene Snow and Randy Kliewer will discuss how you can take advantage of this marketing opportunity while navigating around barriers.

Workshop Title: What to Plan to Grow for the 2006 Farmers Markets
Presenter(s): Christina Abuelo
Description: Farmers’ market customers are looking for everything from the exotic to the mundane. If you want to sell your produce, you need to attract new customers and keep regular customers coming back. Christina Abuelo, market manager for the Foothill Farmers’ Market Association, will cover the marketing potential for new crops in the 2006 season. She has conducted an assessment of the local markets and an informal customer survey and developed a “Wish List” that she will present and discuss.

Workshop Title: Wine Marketing
Presenter(s): Rod Byers
Description: How does a small winery survive in this crowded world of an ever-increasing number of wineries and shrinking access to the marketplace? What is a marketing plan and how do you create one? How can it help define and shape the future of your small winery? In this workshop you will learn about the marketing challenges facing small wineries. There are 1400 wineries in California. Approximately 25 wineries account for 90-95% of the sales of wine in California. This leaves 1,375 wineries competing for that last 5-10% of the market.

Rod will help you understand the difference between marketing and sales. Sales produce the cash flow needed to keep the winery going. Marketing must occur if there are to be any sales. You will learn how each of these different strategies fits within an overall marketing plan. This workshop will help you understand the marketing foundation needed for a winery to stay in business for the long term. Rod will include examples from his experiences in working with foothill wineries.

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

A produce steering committee was formed, and the opening retreat was conducted in 2005. In 2006, we had an annual meeting of the steering committee on February 26, 2006. The meeting was facilitated by Roger Ingram, University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor. During this meeting the subcommittees reported on the status of the projects developed at the opening retreat. At this time we updated the action plans to further cultivate new marketing channels and developed strategies for providing farmers with the resources to cultivate those channels and address the objectives of the project. In addition some new projects were developed.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) – PlacerGROWN assisted project participants with organizing a farmer-to-farmer networking meeting to provide an introduction and overview of CSA in November 2006. In addition, PlacerGROWN developed a short course so farmers could learn how to start and operate a CSA. The short course was held one night per week for four weeks in January. The networking meeting and the short course were led by local farmer Bryan Kaminsky who has been operating a 125-member CSA for ten years. The short-course covered general and in-depth information on CSA structure and organization, outreach, administration, crop planning and harvest and post-harvest handling and utilized curriculum developed by the University of California, Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems in addition to resource materials provided by Bryan.

Although several growers attended the short course and found the information presented to be useful, there were not any growers interested in starting a new CSA on their own. We discussed what other options would be available in order to develop additional CSA’s to service the county residents and identified that we should explore developing a collaborative CSA.

PlacerGROWN agreed to launch a pilot project that would explore the feasibility of developing a collaborative CSA managed by PlacerGROWN that several growers would supply product to. For the pilot project we conducted outreach to Placer County employees by circulating a countywide email through the Agricultural Commissioner. Our plan was to deliver 25 boxes a week for eight weeks filled with fruits and vegetables from Placer County farms. The cost was $20 per week and members had to subscribe for at least 4 weeks. For an additional charge, they could receive half dozen or a dozen eggs. The boxes were delivered to 4 county offices for pick-up during the workday. We also scheduled 3 meat deliveries. Customers preordered lamb, beef and/or pork, and it was frozen, packed on ice in a Styrofoam cooler and picked up when they picked up their box. Below are some highlights of the pilot:

• PlacerGROWN purchased over $3,000 of local produce in a two-month period from 16 different local Placer County farmers
• We marketed the program to Placer County employees
• We serviced 36 total subscribers and successfully packed and delivered an average of 25 boxes per week for a total of 204 boxes
• Each box contained a newsletter listing what was in the box, the farm it was from, recipes and a farmer profile
• We charged $20 per box and kept produce costs to an average of $15 per box
• We kept deliveries convenient and centralized to four drop-off sites
• We reached new customers who do not normally shop at local farmers’ markets
• We provided over 20 different varieties of fresh, local fruits and vegetables
• We created and implemented a cost and delivery tracking system for future programs
• PlacerGROWN launched one of the first meat CSA’s in the state
• We made three separate deliveries and sold over $1,000 of locally raised beef, lamb and pork to 18 Placer County employees/customers
• 86% of the subscribers loved the Harvest Box; 59% thought it was a good value; 71% thought the quantity of produce in the box was just right; and 71% said they would subscribe again!

Development of a Mandarin Grower Marketing Organization – PlacerGROWN organized workshops at the Farm Conference featuring speakers from two different marketing organizations. Jim Churchill from Ojai Pixie Tangerine Growers and Maryann Argyres of the Apple Hill Growers Association each gave a history of how their organizations were formed, the benefits of working together and an overview of their collaborative marketing efforts. The mandarin growers of Placer County decided to form the Mountain Mandarin Growers Association. PlacerGROWN assisted them with this process and worked with them to develop a logo, a website and a marketing brochure and assisted with the promotion of Placer County mandarins and the Mountain Mandarin Tour. Their website can be viewed at www.mountainmandarins.com.

In addition, PlacerGROWN worked with the growers to obtain a grant from the Placer County Visitors Center and acted as the fiscal sponsor since their association had not yet been formed. PlacerGROWN received a grant in the amount of $3,500 to place an ad in Via Magazine in order to promote the Mountain Mandarin Festival and Mountain Mandarin Tours and attract new, first time visitors to these events. The target market was 25-54 year old, college educated, $50,000+ income level and travelers from Northern California, Nevada and Southern Utah. The ad ran in the November/December 2006 issue. Via is distributed to 2.7 million readers.

Visitors to the orchards were surveyed in order to determine how they heard about the Mountain Mandarin Tour and to determine if they were local or out-of-town. The information collected from these surveys will allow us to determine the impact of the Via ad and inform future ad placement.

In addition to the paid ad, Via has a Free Product Information section where advertisers can be listed and readers can request additional information. PlacerGROWN was listed and has thus far received 225 requests for additional information on the Mandarin Tours. Each requestor received three Mountain Mandarin Tour Guides, a “Christmas in a Glass” postcard, a 2006 Ag Guide, a personal note and a business card.

The ad may have contributed greatly to a significant increase in visits to the Mountain Mandarin website. This year, the total number of hits on the website was 139,421 in November and 98,087 in December. Last year the total number of hits on the website was 28,786 in November and 18,603 in December.

We will have additional information on the effect of the grant when we collect the survey responses from the participating growers at the end of the tour in January. A copy of the survey that was distributed is attached.

Direct Marketing to Restaurants – PlacerGROWN worked with project participants to launch a promotion to introduce their products to local restaurants. The promotion was titled “Placer County Wines and Dines.” Farmers partnered with local restaurants to develop a special menu featuring locally produced fruits, vegetables, meat and wine during the month of October. The event was promoted by the restaurants and through local media. An event committee was formed and committee participants met with local restaurateurs in order to explain the event and ask for their participation.

PlacerGROWN facilitated and organized two meetings between the farmers and the restaurateurs to assess the barriers and opportunities for them to purchase local produce, meat and wine. The first event, held in September, was a tasting event. The event was held at a local vineyard, and farmers, ranchers and wineries provided chefs and wine buyers with a taste of their products. Chefs had the opportunity to taste the superior flavor and freshness of local products and the farmers had the opportunity to learn what local chefs are interested in purchasing and discuss pricing and delivery terms. The chefs and winebuyers that attended received the 2006 Ag Guide as well as a binder of information sheets on each participating farm, ranch and winery. The information sheets listed the contact information, a biography of the producer and a list of what products they have available and when, a list of products they would be interested in growing and price sheets.

In addition, PlacerGROWN worked with local growers to compile and distribute by email a weekly availability list to restaurants and produce buyers.

Six restaurants participated in the promotion, and it was an excellent introduction to local producers. A follow-up meeting was held in January 2006. The farmers and restaurateurs decided not to conduct the promotion in 2006. In discussions during the meeting, restaurant and producer participants thought that additional education and outreach to the community needed to be conducted and that it would be better to organize a future event that brought people out to the farm to taste local products prepared by chefs. We are exploring the feasibility of conducting this type of event.

Building Local Government Support for Farmers’ Markets – PlacerGROWN worked 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 featured presentations from the Davis Farmers’ Market Manager and President, the Mayor of Davis and a city representative. They provided the Placer County 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. This event has helped build support for the farmers’ markets, particularly in the cities of Auburn and Lincoln, and we are continuing to cultivate those relationships and identify new opportunities.

Wine and AgTourism Brochure
The ten wineries in Placer County decided that they wanted to collaboratively market themselves and create a brochure featuring a history of winemaking in the region, a wine trail map and a listing of overnight accommodations and area restaurants and wine shops that feature local wines. They requested assistance fromPlacerGROWN to accomplish this. The wineries in collaboration with PlacerGROWN and the Placer County Winegrape Association developed the brochure and a distribution and marketing plan. Fifty thousand copies of the brochure were printed and the plan is to distribute them primarily 50 miles out of the area via Tourism Centers and at the Sunset Idea House in Menlo Park. The wineries placed a joint ad in Sunset Magazine. The brochure will be mailed to consumers requesting additional information from the ad. Three hundred brochures have already been mailed. All ten wineries mailed the brochure to their mailing lists. In addition they all participate and sell at venues outside of the area, including winetastings and fundraisers where the brochures will be distributed. The brochures will also be distributed through the Placer County Visitors’ Center as well as the Auburn, Loomis, Roseville and Tahoe Chambers of Commerce.

• 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

During the second year of the project we conducted nine meetings in addition to the annual steering committee meeting.

September 12, 2005 Farmer and Restaurateur Networking Meeting, Placer County Wines and Dines Tasting Event

November 16, 2005 Farmer Networking Meeting, How to Start and Operate a CSA
January 9, 2006 Farmer and Restaurateur Networking Meeting, Wines and Dines follow-up
January 10, 2006 Farmer Networking Meeting, CSA Short-Course Session 1
January 17, 2006 Farmer Networking Meeting, CSA Short-Course Session 2
January 24, 2006 Farmer Networking Meeting, CSA Short-Course Session 3
January 31, 2006 Farmer Networking Meeting, CSA Short-Course Session 4
February 26, 2006 Annual Steering Committee Meeting
May, 2006 Farmer Networking Meeting, Thad Barsotti
June 10, 2006 Farmer Networking Meeting, $elling the Whole Truckload, Gail Hayden

• 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

Eight workshops were featured at the 2006 PlacerGROWN Farm Conference. The workshop descriptions are listed above.

• 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.

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.