Local food is good for health and the environment. Buying local builds a strong local economy and a resilient food system, ensuring there is an adequate supply of fresh and healthy food in the community.
Consumers concerned with how their food is grown and raised enjoy greater transparency through interaction with local food producers.
The benefits of local food are undeniable, but the price of local products is often higher than conventional goods. Inconvenience accessing locally grown produce and meat also keeps consumers from spending more of their food budget on local fare.
Communicating the health, environmental and economic benefits of local food justifies the added cost and effort consumers must make to obtain it. Farmers can communicate the true value of local food through conversations, samples, in-store signage, newsletters, menus, blogs and vlogs, and agritourism.
Direct sales are an opportunity for farmers to communicate the value of local food to customers. “Consumers‘ Preferences for Locally Produced Food: A Study in Southeast Missouri” found consumers’ want to know the farmer behind their food. ¹ Since traditional grocery stores and food distributors cannot share the story behind the food, farmers’ ability to engage consumers in conversations about local foods during direct sales is a competitive advantage.
When conversations with customers are not possible, in-store signage informs consumers of opportunities to buy local and support farmers in their community. On a recent trip to the supermarket I noticed signage featuring a rancher selfie with cattle. The sign invited shoppers to buy beef raised on local pastures to support area farmers.
Freshness, taste and quality are the top reasons consumers purchase local food over conventional goods. ¹ Offering samples invites consumers to see, smell and taste the local food difference.
Samples also inspire consumers to try local favorites in new ways. Local honey drizzled over Ohio cheese and apple dumplings made with fruit from a hometown orchard, demonstrate local products’ superior flavor and versatility.
Restaurant menus and advertisements that list sources of local ingredients show hometown pride. Diners are less sensitive to premium-priced meals when they know their choice supports agriculture in their community. Their purchase of local food from a local business reduces food miles, invests in area infrastructure, and create jobs in the community.
Newsletters communicate the value of local food in depth. Farmers can educate consumers about the health benefits of just-picked produce, sustainable production of pastured poultry or grass-fed beef.
Readers learn what’s in season now, and what fresh produce to look forward to in the future. Farmers can engage customers by asking them to submit their favorite seasonal recipes or share a testimonial about their love of local food. Newsletters share regional farm and garden events and tell customers where they can purchase farm products or how they can support local farms.
Print and digital newsletters make sense depending on delivery. Print newsletters work well in direct sales situations such as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Farmers who don’t have direct contact with consumers can create digital newsletters. Farmers can use free Microsoft Word templates to create newsletters and email to a list of subscribers. Alternatively, email marketing services such as Constant Contact and Mail Chimp are an easy way to create and manage newsletter subscriptions online.
Blogs and Vlogs
Blogs and vlogs are a window into farmers’ world. A blog is an online dairy of personal experiences and opinions. Vlogging (video blogging) is great for farmers who don’t enjoy writing or have limited time to create content. Both give consumers whom may never step foot on a farm an opportunity to experience agriculture and virtually participate in food production.
Inviting consumers to the farm is a powerful way to communicate the value of local food. Pasture walks, volunteer days, “How-to” and “DIY” clinics combine entertainment and education. Agritourism creates positive associations with farming and food production in the minds of consumers. It deepens their connection and commitment to local food.
- Brown, Cheryl., “Consumers‘ Preferences for Locally Produced Food: A Study in Southeast Missouri.” American Journal of Alternative Agriculture. Vol. 18, Iss. 4, December 1, 2003, pp. 213-224.
Article originally published in Farm & Dairy Newspaper, October 5, 2018.
Apple orchards, pumpkin patches, corn mazes and hay rides — agritourism is an opportunity for farmers to diversify operations, add a new stream of revenue, and finish the season in a strong cash position. That is if the event is well attended.
Advertising creates awareness and invites agritourists to attend your on-farm event. It is the difference between putting on a profitable event and facing a stack of bills and a field of rotting pumpkins. Here are 10 ways to advertise your agritourism event for free!
- Facebook Event. Facebook is an online platform that connects friends, families and communities. Users can create a Facebook Event for free and invite people to attend. To create a free Facebook event, login to your farm’s Facebook business page, click events on the left menu bar, then press the + Create Event button. Add a picture and description of the event, including date(s), time and location. Mark the event as public. Public events appear in Facebook’s calendar of event listings and allow users to share the event with their networks.
- Facebook Groups. Facebook Groups allow people with common interests to connect online. Community-based groups exist to share news, sales and recreation. Post and promote your agritourism event in Facebook Groups for free. Find local Facebook Groups by searching city and state in the Facebook search bar and selecting Groups.
- Community calendar. Many local newspapers publish a weekly events calendar and also host an online community calendar on their website. Contact the newspaper to add your agritourism event.
- Organizations and clubs. Community organizations and clubs such as the YMCA, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, civic clubs and ministries make good partners to promote family-friendly events. Consider donating a portion of profits to the organization or club in exchange for promoting your on-farm event to members.
- Tourism display. Area hotels and motels, visitor centers and local restaurants maintain displays of tourism brochures to help visitors find local fun. Ask permission to add your promotional materials.
- Community board. Local businesses and libraries showcase events on community boards. Ask to post a flyer.
- Press Release. Write a press release about your agritourism event. Submit the press release to local publications. Free press release templates are available online.
- Newspaper story. Journalists love story ideas, especially when ideas focus on the community they serve. Contact local newspaper staff and suggest a story about your farm. Perhaps your farm has been in the family 100 years, sells to residents at the farmers’ market, or donates fresh food to the local food pantry. A story is a great way to share your farm story and promote your agritourism event.
- Chamber of Commerce. Chambers host a network of local businesses and community organizations. They can help you identify cross-promotional opportunities with other businesses and organizations in your area.
- Visitor Bureau. Some visitor bureaus offer grant funding to promote events that increase tourism in the local area. You can utilize grant funds to print professional brochures, signage and other promotional materials for your agritourism event. Contact the visitor bureau to inquire if a marketing assistance program exists in your county.
*Article originally published in Farm & Dairy Newspaper
Be sure to make your reservations for the fall meeting of the Ohio and West Virginia Food Hub Network at OSU Mansfield to learn about institutional sales. Please register by September 17th! go.osu.edu/FoodHubSept2018Registration
The Center for Cooperatives in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University is working on a project to assess the professional legal, accounting, and tax services available to cooperative and collaborative businesses in Ohio and West Virginia.
The goals of the project are twofold.
- First, using information collected from an online survey, the Center will create a directory of professionals who provide services to cooperatives and collaborative enterprises.
- Second, the Center will use online survey responses to better understand professionals’ experience levels, continuing education practices, and interests in network building to help develop programming and resources for professionals in our region’s cooperative community.
If you are an attorney, accountant, or tax professional who works with cooperatives and collaborative enterprises, we invite you to take the short survey at the link below. The survey will gather information for a directory of professionals and ask about your experience with cooperatives as well as continuing education and networking interests. We anticipate that the survey will take approximately 5-10 minutes of your time.
If you know legal, financial, or tax professionals working with cooperatives, please forward this invitation to participate to them! Gathering robust information will help us create valuable resources for the cooperative community.
If you have questions about his project, please contact Hannah Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-289-2071 ext. 227. This survey is for a study being conducted by The Ohio State University.
Think a co-op may be part of the solution for your farm or food business?
Now is the time to get involved and/or come to ask questions.
Date: Monday 8/27/2018
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: Eastern WV Community & Technical College, 316 Eastern Drive, Moorefield, West Virginia 26836
Date: Tuesday 8/28/2018
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: WVU Kearneysville Tree Fruit Research and Education Center, 67 Apple Harvest Drive, Kearneyville, WV.