Beef Co-op’s Marketing Efforts Offer Insights for Local Food Entrepreneurs

For every business, getting marketing right is key. For food entrepreneurs selling directly to consumers at farmer’s markets, farm stands, online, in grocery stores, and via subscriptions, telling their story through marketing is vital to reaching their target customer demographic to enhance sales. But how do food entrepreneurs — especially those selling locally produced products through local supply chains –know which marketing channels to use?

The farmer-owners of Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative, a young co-op marketing locally raised beef in southwest Ohio, set out to answer that question. They wanted to know how they could maximize their marketing efforts to generate new customers and sales for their farmer-owners. In 2019, the co-op proposed and was awarded a project to the 2019 Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) Farmer/Rancher grant program. Their project would help the co-op develop, implement, and then measure the effectiveness of four new advertising channels: Google ads, billboards, radio advertisements, and Facebook ads. The co-op placed their ads, some of which were created in consultation with marketing professionals at the companies they purchased advertising through, and then tracked whether their efforts translated into new customer orders. What they learned can offer insights to other local food producers, particularly those selling meat.

Readers can learn more about the project, the co-op’s experiences, and the results in a presentation by a founding member of the co-op available above as a part of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences online Farm Science Review.

What Did the Co-op Learn?

  • Facebook ads and radio ads on the local public radio channel were the most effective new advertising channels the co-op tested. Facebooks ads resulted in an astounding 10900% return on the dollars invested in the channel. Also, co-op members were surprised to learn that radio ads resulted in an 85% return on their investment.
  • Some new advertising channels took a lot of time and energy to learn. The co-op relies on volunteer labor and they took a team approach to implementing the new advertising methods. Even so, learning the ins-and-outs of utilizing certain channels took a significant time investment.
  • Word of mouth is still the most effective marketing strategy for the co-op. Sales from customers who reported learning about the cooperative by word of mouth dwarfed sales generated from customers who reported finding out about the co-op through one of the new advertising channels. This reinforces the idea that food entrepreneurs should ensure they are paying close attention to customer experiences and creating ways for their customers to share their excitement about their products.

About Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative

Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative was formed in 2016 by southwest Ohio farmers who wanted to expand their markets for locally raised beef and to increase their farmer incomes. The co-op markets beef to retailers and directly to consumers. You can learn more about the cooperative via the video, Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative: Our Story  The co-op’s farmer members were supported by the CFAES Center for Cooperatives in their start-up and the development of their SARE proposal.

Foodpreneur Coaching: Crafting a Blueprint to Grow Your Food and Farm Business

The CFAES Center for Cooperatives is working to help businesses keep things moving forward in these difficult times. Marketing is a key aspect to maintaining or growing any business, including food and farm businesses.

The CFAES Center for Cooperatives, OSU Extension Direct Food & Agricultural Marketing Team, and Ohio Farm Bureau in Ross, Hocking, Fairfield, and Pickaway counties are hosting a virtual interactive experience for small and medium food entrepreneurs who are eager to grow their businesses. Foodpreneur School Coaching will give attendees an opportunity to engage with experts in marketing and promoting their local food and farm products, and more, to help them learn strategies to meet their growth goals. This educational opportunity will cover marketing locally raised meat, increasing produce sales, and promoting local food and farm retail products.

Foodpreneur School Coaching will be offered over a three-week span, in three sessions, and will focus on ways to grow food and farm businesses. Entrepreneurs can attend one session that best fits their needs or all three sessions. Each live Foodpreneur Business Coaching virtual session will offer small group coaching from industry and university experts.

The first session, Marketing Local Meat, will be offered on Tuesday, September 15th.  This LIVE Foodpreneur Business Coaching virtual session is for farmers and ranchers seeking to increase local and regional meat sales or explore new market channels for farm-raised proteins and local meat products.

Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative, a southwest Ohio co-op that markets member-farmers’ beef to retailers and consumers, will share results from a recent research project to assess multiple marketing channels to grow sales. Co-op members will share their experiences marketing local meat throughout the region. Additionally, Dr. Lyda Garcia, Animal Science professor at The Ohio State University, will be available to offer insights and answer participant questions.  Garcia specializes in meat science and manages the OSU Meat Lab.  Through her background in meat industry internships, livestock production, training and research in graduate school, and many other meat related experiences, she seeks to bring product value to the meat industry, producers, and consumers.

The second session, Increase Produce Sales, will be offered on Tuesday, September 22nd.  This session will offer insights and best practices for produce growers looking to increase produce sales or explore new market channels such as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), farmers markets, farm stands, or specialty stores.

Brad Bergefurd, Ohio State University Extension Horticulture Specialist, and owner of Bergefurd’s Farm Market, will share his expertise built over 30 years of experience in produce education, production, and marketing.  Bergefurd’s education and research at OSU has focused on a variety of produce crops, including strawberries, pumpkins, hops, pawpaws, and more, in addition to research and education on marketing innovations like produce auctions.  Bergefurd’s Farm has specialized in growing a variety of produce that is sold through CSA’s, farmers markets, and an agritourism operation.  In the planning of this session Bergefurd stated that, “Produce farmers have many channels of marketing opportunities available today more than ever. Marketing is less expensive, and online options now allow farmers to reach customers in areas they never were able to reach before these marketing channels became available.  It’s all in how you market yourself, so it’s important to get it right”, said Bergefurd.

The third session, Promoting your Local Food, will be offered on Tuesday, September 29th.In this session, educators and industry experts, will discuss how farm and food producers making products such as cheese, salsa, honey, baked goods, and body items, can expand a farm’s offerings  or serve as a standalone business. During the live Foodpreneur Business Coaching session attendees will learn how to expand their sales and build their brand.

A large part of growing any business is effective marketing to keep customers engaged. Christie Welch, Ohio State University Extension Direct Food and Agricultural Marketing Specialist, and owner/operator of Welch Farms LLC, explains that marketing is key to keeping customers engaged with your business, especially in the current environment of the pandemic. Welch shared that, “Customers are craving experiences and seeking the locally produced foods they have come to love.  Because of the rapid changes in how business is conducted while maintaining social distancing, communicating with your customers is more important now than ever.  They want to know what you are doing to keep them safe while still purchasing the local foods they love. Sharing this information in a manner that reflects your brand is key.”

Christie Welch is the owner/operator of Welch Farms, LLC, a third-generation family farm in southern Ohio.  Christie has been involved in the operation since 1992 and during that time, the farm has diversified.  The farm, which began as a dairy operation, has diversified over the years and currently focuses on u-pick plasticulture strawberries.  The farm also sold at several farmers’ markets and Christie served on the board of the Chillicothe Farmers Market Association for seven years.  Direct marketing to consumers is vital to Welch Farms and provides many opportunities to share experiences with other local food producers.

Foodpreneur School Coaching sessions will all be held online and will be offered over a span of three weeks with each session held on a Tuesday evening.  The cost to attend the Foodpreneur School Coaching is $20 per session for Farm Bureau members, and $25 per session for non-Farm Bureau members. There is a separate registration for each session.  We encourage early registration; each session will have a limited number of seats available. To learn more, go to https://cooperatives.cfaes.ohio-state.edu/events or to register for the Foodpreneur School Coaching you can go to go.osu.edu/foodschool2020.  For additional information you may contact Charissa Gardner at gardner.1148@osu.edu.

5 Food-trend Opportunities for Farmers in 2019

In January the Mid-America Restaurant Expo dominated downtown Columbus. The annual restaurant and foodservice industry trade show featured the latest food trends and topics creating new marketing opportunities for farmers. I sampled more than my fair share to discover the following five trends for farmers in 2019.

Greenhouse trend: Indoor herb gardens
Indoor herb gardens give consumers the satisfaction of growing something they can use in the kitchen. Herb gardens appeal to consumers because they are easy to grow with little space, time and effort. PanAmerican Seed suggests consumers are willing to invest in potted herbs plants that offer earlier and prolonged harvests. ¹ Greenhouse growers can increase sales by offering multiple herb plants in culinary collections. Popular herb collections include a pizza garden of chives, oregano and parsley, and a tea garden of chamomile and mints.

Value-added product trend: Fermented foods
Health conscious consumers seek fermented food to improve gut health. An article in the New York Times notes several grocery store chains are packing shelves with pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi and other canned ferments. ² Fermented vegetables and fruits are an opportunity for farmers to create value-added products that complement their produce operations. Value-added products can also provide an outlet for imperfect produce and help farmers reduce food waste.

Meat trend: Oxtail and organs
Cuts consumers used to consider undesirable are trending in 2019. Pintrest searches for oxtail recipes have increased by 209 percent. ³ Organ meats: heart, liver and kidney are popular with paleo and carnivore dieters. Ground meat blends including organ meats provide the health benefits without the strong flavor. Farmers can work with meat processors to create ground meat blends or packaged organ meats for direct to consumer sales.

Bread trend: Sourdough, designer doughnuts and specialty grains
The spotlight on fermented foods has spiked consumer demand for sourdough bread. Designer donuts are the new cupcakes. Breads baked with alternative flours such as rice, spelt and einkorn, are gaining ground according to a Facebook trends report. ⁴ Farmers can partner artisan bakeries to offer specialty breads at the farm stand or as an add-on to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscriptions.

Farm to table trend: Buyer-seller partnerships
Chefs and retail buyers are sourcing local and regional food to meet customer demand. Buyers need a consistent supply of high-quality food and food products. Nation’s Restaurant News suggests buyers partner with farmers to plan production and delivery. Buyers benefit from priority access to the supply they need, while farmers gain a dependable market for their products. ⁵

References

  1. Josephson, C. “Looking Forward to 2019.” Jan 2019. PanAmerican Seed. Retrieved from https://www.panamseed.com/Blog/2019/01/02/looking-forward-to-2019.html
  2. Severson, K., “A Peek at Your New Plate: How You’ll Be Eating in 2019.” Dec 2018. New York Times. Retrieved from  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/21/dining/food-trends-predictions-2019.html
  3. Wahlgren, E., “100 Pintrest Trends for 2019.” Dec 2018. Retrieved from https://business.pinterest.com/en/blog/100-pinterest-trends-for-2019?utm_medium=2023&utm_source=31&utm_campaign=5fbf16#Food
  4. “The 2019 Topics & Trends Report.” Dec 2018. Facebook IQ. Retrieved from https://scontent.fdet1-2.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t39.8562-6/48606515_2199769090237778_5979666736092282880_n.pdf?_nc_cat=111&_nc_ht=scontent.fdet1-2.fna&oh=99550e34ded1d6d28d998b2a27e706b4&oe=5CD9B039
  5. Luna, N., “15 Trends to Expect in 2019.” Dec 2018. Nation’s Restaurant News. Retrieved from https://www.nrn.com/place-table/15-trends-expect-2019/gallery?slide=6

*Article originally published in Farm and Dairy Newspaper

3 Ways to Elevate your Farm Marketing in 2019

Get ready for retail: Selling farm products at grocery stores and restaurants

Retail and restaurant sales are an opportunity for farmers and food businesses to increase sales volume and revenue, while building brand awareness in the local marketplace. But selling farm products to retail buyers isn’t as easy as showing up with samples. Before approaching grocery store and restaurant buyers, farmers must understand the market, obtain required insurance and certifications, and comply with industry standards for packaging and labeling.

Understand the market: products, people, promotions and pricing

Visit the grocery store(s) you wish to sell product to. Survey the store’s current products, customers, promotions, and pricing. Pay special attention to similar products that your products will compete against, noting the price range. Typical retail mark-up is 40%; if the retail price of fresh asparagus is $2.89 per pound, the grocer paid about $1.73 per pound.

Enjoy a meal at the restaurant you wish to sell products to. Look for language or signage that promotes local sourcing. Notice fellow diners- will your products appeal to the restaurant’s typical customers? Review the menu and consider if your products are a good fit. Make note of prices on the menu. Restaurant industry food costs average 30-35%, depending upon the style of restaurant.

Insurance and certifications

Retail and restaurant buyers may require vendors to maintain a level of product liability insurance, worker’s compensation and/or other insurance policies. Grocers may require vendor farms to be Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certified. Buyers will appreciate a copy of your farm’s food safety plan, and an invitation to perform an on-farm food safety inspection.

Be prepared to provide buyers with documentation proving your products are USDA Certified Organic, Certified Natural, Verified Non-GMO, Animal Welfare Approved or other specialty certifications. You may need to explain terms like “grass-fed”, “pasture raised”, “natural”, “antibiotic free”, and how those terms can be used to market products to customers.

Packaging and labeling

Grocery stores and restaurants require product to be delivered in packaging that complies with industry standards. Packaging may need to include USDA or industry grading, sizing and quality standard information.

Understand legal regulations for labeling retail products, including Country of Origin labeling, USDA inspection seals, label claims, weights and business contact information that allows for product traceability. Many grocers require a price look up (PLU) or universal product code (UPC) label.

Pitching your farm products

Farmers that understand the market, obtain required insurance and certifications, and comply with industry standards for packaging and labeling, can approach buyers with confidence! The first successful sale is the start of a long-term mutually beneficial buyer-seller relationship.

Need help getting ready for retail?

Join the Ohio State University Direct Food and Ag Marketing Team for MarketReady Producer Training.

Dates: Two-part training on Thursday, November 1, 2018 and Friday, November 9, 2018

Time: 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. both days

Location: OSU Extension- Cuyahoga County, 12200 Fairhill Rd. E Bldg. Cleveland, OH 44120

Fee: $30 covers both days (lunch is provided)

Register: Contact gardner.1148@osu.edu or 740-289-2071 ext 132 by October 30th.

*Article originally published in Farm & Dairy Newspaper

10 Ways to Advertise your Agritourism Event (for Free!)

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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Community board. Local businesses and libraries showcase events on community boards. Ask to post a flyer.
  7. Press Release. Write a press release about your agritourism event. Submit the press release to local publications. Free press release templates are available online.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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

 

Join Us Friday 3/23 to get MarketReady!

Attention Farmers and Foodpreneurs:

MarketReady training is headed to SW Ohio! Learn how to evaluate and navigate various market channels, and establish an effective business strategy for your farm products.


Friday 3/23/18
8:30-3:30 p.m.
OSU Extension- Clermont County
1000 Locust Street., P.O. Box 670, Owensville, OH 45160
To register contact Pam Clark, clark.2652@osu.edu, 513.732.7070