Marketing is “creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value,” according to the definition adopted by the American Marketing Association. As is clear from the definition, marketing is broad! It encompasses concepts around product, price, place, and promotion.
At the 2023 Farm Science Review (FSR), CFAES Center for Cooperatives program director, Hannah Scott, shared collaborative approaches to marketing that may help fruit and vegetable farmers grow their businesses. From cooperative efforts to reach customers to group buys for marketing supplies, the key question for collaborative approaches is whether a group can do something better together than they can individually.
To help reach customers and promote their farms and products, farmers might consider taking advantage of collaborative programs like Ohio Proud, a program of the Ohio Department of Agriculture to promote Ohio grown, raised, or processed food and agriculture products. Other community-led efforts to promote local food, like the Pike County Local Foods Directory, led by Pike County OSU Extension, may be opportunities for farmers to reach new customers and raise awareness.
Interested in Collaborative Promotion Strategies? Here are some things to consider:
- Are there existing programs your farm could engage simply and efficiently?
- How can your farm share promotional items from these collaborative programs? Using social media or placing materials around your community?
- If you help create new materials, who will “own” keeping them updated?
Controlling Costs through Joint Purchasing
Does your farm use marketing supplies that others also often use? Think of items like bags, boxes, cartons, crates, stickers, signage, and more. Sometimes purchasing supplies as a group may help farmers access bulk discounts while reducing the inventory they need to hold themselves. Group buys might also help control shipping costs and reduce administrative burdens.
Interested in Collaborative Purchasing? Here are some things to consider:
- Will group purchasing save costs on goods and/or shipping?
- Do the logistics work for the group?
- Be aware of potential risks and plan for them, including potential risks around payments for goods, the quantity purchased, storage and timing considerations, and more.
- Ensure that communications around the what, when, where, and how, for group purchases are clear and consistent.
Collaborative Marketing Approaches to Enhance Product Diversity
Sometimes offering a diverse array of products might help a business attract more customers. For example, farmer’s markets often work to recruit a diverse group of vendors so they can offer customers everything from fruits and veggies to meat and proteins, dairy, baked goods, and more. In some instances, business-to-business (B2B) sales, including approaches like multi-farm CSA’s, may help farmers or markets increase their product offerings or extend their marketing season.
Interested in Collaborative Approaches to Enhance Product Diversity? Here are some things to consider:
- How can you manage for the quality and safety of products you do not produce?
- Does product diversity actually help sales in the market channel you are in?
- What strategies might you need to help manage risk and set clear expectations around terms of B2B sales?
- Does the market channel where you sell products allow for B2B sales? For example, some farmer’s market rules may not allow for sales of items a vendor did not produce themselves.
Cooperation to Reach New Market Channels
Some market channels require higher volumes of product more consistently than others – think k-12 institutions or wholesale buyers – and these markets might be challenging for some farmers to enter. Producer-owned cooperatives that market products on behalf of their members may offer opportunities for farmers to pool products to reach higher volumes more consistently. Some farmer’s markets may be producer-led cooperatives (like the Chillicothe Farmers Market in Ross County, Ohio). Cooperatives may be a useful approach where pooling product or resources helps solve a challenge, but they can also be complex.
Interested in the Producer-Owned Cooperative Model? Here are some things to consider:
- Who will be involved as members and what will be their role?
- How will the group make decisions?
- How can the group manage risk?
- Will working together create the intended benefit? Can that benefit be clearly identified and communicated to members?
Access the slides for the presentation, “Marketing Collaborations to Improve your Farm’s Bottom Line” here!
To learn more about cooperative and collaborative approaches in agriculture, reach out to the CFAES Center for Cooperatives at Ohio State at go.osu.edu/cooperatives or 740-289-2071. The publication, “Cooperative Farming: Frameworks for Farming Together” published by Northeast SARE is also a great place to start learning about cooperative and collaborative approaches in agriculture.
Farm Science Review is a three-day, annual outdoor event hosted by Ohio State University featuring commercial exhibits, educational programs, and field demonstrations showcasing the future of agriculture. The presentation was part of 15 different learning sessions at the OSU Extension Fruits & Vegetables exhibit at FSR. The OSU Extension Fruit & Vegetable team posts educational resources and updates at https://u.osu.edu/vegnetnews/