Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 8 ~ Agritourism as a Value-Add to Your Farm Business

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Wagon tours at Full Belly Farm’s annual Hoes Down Festival in Guinda, CA

Written by guest bloggers, Penny Leff, Agritourism Coordinator for the UC Small Farm Program, and Scottie Jones, Founder of U.S. Farm Stay Association.

Today, our Marketing & Sales series continues with tips on the many things to consider when offering an agritourism experience on your farm. Agritourism continues to grow in popularity across the US and abroad as farms and agricultural businesses realize the potential for additional revenue and an enhanced customer experience. There are many types of agritourism – farm tours, U-pick, barn dances, and even overnight stays – each having its own set of considerations, benefits, and drawbacks.

Read on for some great tips to prepare you to add an agritourism element to your business. From a business plan to insurance, permits, and making sure your neighbors are on board, these tips will help ensure your new endeavor is a success!


1. Sell the experience; the products will sell themselves if your guests are having fun.

Think about what you, your family, and friends enjoy doing on your farm or ranch, and what aspects you are passionate about. It could be gathering eggs from your pastured chickens, picking fruit, making music under the stars, riding horses, distilling lavender oil, pruning trees, helping with the harvest, or just watching birds.

Think about how you might offer these experiences to the public for a fee. Could you offer tours or demonstrations? Workshops for do-it-yourselfers? A U-Pick operation? Farm dinners with a local chef? A fishing or hunting club? A festival? Farm camp for kids? A farm stay? A farm stand? A corn maze or pumpkin patch? An event facility for weddings, parties and retreats? Tastings?

And consider multiple agritourism offerings. If you’re offering a cheese-making classes, for example, maybe those same guests would love to stay overnight. How about U-Pick and then a Farm-to-Table Dinner with a cooking class for the preparation? How about a sheep shearing demonstration and then a weaving class with already cleaned roving from the farm.

Think about ways to add value to your venture so you can step up the income. This might not happen right away, but listen to what your customers are saying, and ask them for suggestions about what else they would love to do on your farm. You don’t need to charge for everything, and a package price is often better overall. Be creative and look for those added-value opportunities.

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Member Spotlight: Mark Tollefson of Fairview Gardens

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This week in our Member Spotlight, we are heading south to Goleta, CA to meet Mark Tollefson, the Executive Director of Fairview Gardens. Fairview Gardens is a non-profit educational farm 100 miles north of Los Angeles.

Mark originates from Alberta, Canada and comes from many generations of farmers. He is a chef, owned his own restaurant, and has been a survival skills instructor. He is the past Executive Director of another non-profit – Wilderness Youth Project, and has traveled worldwide, including helping open an international high school in New Zealand, and building a sustainable agriculture organization in Belize.

Since the late 1800′s the land in and around Fairview Gardens has been used for agricultural purposes and rests on some of the richest topsoil in California. In 1997, the farm manager, Michael Ableman purchased the farm with a group of local activists, formed a non-profit and placed it in the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County. Today, the farm runs a robust CSA program, farm stand, hosts classes for adults and children, camps, and tours.

Read on as Mark talks about his views on wilderness, urban communities, and how places like farms can be the pillar of a community.


FarmsReach: Wow, that is a broad background! What inspired you to begin working for Fairview Gardens?

Mark Tollefson: Being a non-profit education farm, Fairview Gardens offered me the perfect foil to be able to blend my talents and passions into one place.

While I was working with youth and adults in wilderness settings, I realized that I could help them effect powerful transformation in a very short time. Then we would get back to our camp or vehicle and they would open a bag of Doritos potato chips.

I realized that not only do we have a huge disconnection between people and nature, we have an even bigger disconnection between people and food.

If we were lost in the wilderness, the first things we would do is find shelter, water, and then fire. These three things would need to be accomplished in the first 3 – 5 days. After that, 80% of our time would be spent gathering food.

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FarmsReach Policy News Roundup

On the FarmsReach Newsroom page we post a variety of timely news stories from around the country, every day. 

For those who are too busy to track all the latest headlines, we’ve decided to give you a distilled roundup of the latest policy updates affecting farmers in California.

Feel free to visit our Newsroom to get the latest stories or if you like, you can “Like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter to access even more great information. Otherwise, we hope you enjoy our digest of the latest updates!


Historic Groundwater Bill Passed in CA

Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a trio of bills to set in motion statewide regulation of CA’s underground water sources in response to the devastating effects GWcanal1000from this three-year drought. Since CA’s founding, water has been considered a property right and this is the first time that groundwater will be managed on a large scale. However, in spite of the new restrictions, it might take decades before CA’s most depleted basins recover.

Many agricultural interests are opposed to the Bill, including the CA Farm Bureau Federation, under the grounds that it will harm food production. However, other agricultural interests are pleased because the bill allows the water to be managed locally, which means individual counties can monitor water use. Learn more about this bill.

The Farm to Fork Movement in CA is Sprouting Office Space

la-me-pc-gov-brown-signs-farm-to-fork-measures-001Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed seven pieces of legislation referred to as the “Farm to Fork Bills”, including the creation of the Office of Farm to Fork within the CA Department of Food and Agriculture.

The bills have been collectively described as coordinating efforts to encourage fresh food access and identify under-served areas for new farmers markets, and other non-profit food delivery operations. Additionally, included in these bills is a state review of neonicotinoids, which may play a role in the decline of bee populations. There will be an evaluation period of these neonics and control measures will be taken if needed to ensure they do not harm bees, and affect the pollination of CA’s food crops. Learn more about this bill.

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Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 7 ~ Tips for Creating an Inviting & Usable Website

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Smolak Farms website, North Andover, MA

Written by guest blogger, Myrna Greenfield, founder of Good Egg Marketing

Creating your first website or considering a relaunch? Whether you hire a professional or build it yourself for free, having a website is still one of the most effective ways to market your farm. Often farms will set up a Facebook page instead of build their own site. Remember, social media sites are great way to get the word out about your brand, but can’t house all of the information potential customers might need.  So, don’t use them instead of having your own site; consider using them as a supplement to your site.

If you can, it can be helpful to hire a professional to set up your website, but if it’s not in your budget, there are several free or inexpensive web platforms that are surprisingly easy to use. In addition to WordPress, the favorite of most small businesses, sites like Weebly, Wix, and Squarespace, have lots of attractive features.

No matter which platform you choose to use, here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind as you’re planning your site!


1. Keep it simple. Visitors to your home page should be able to “get” you in one glance.

  • Keep your topline navigation menu short, with easy-to-understand tabs.
  • Choose images that make your offerings as clear and compelling as possible.
  • Don’t use too many colors, fonts, flashing images, or boxes.
  • Be careful about using photographs as background images for your site. They can be distracting and compete with the main images on your page. Unless you’ve got good contrast between the background and the rest of your site, use a matching color instead.
  • Make sure the text is easy to read – no shadow typefaces, limit your use of italics and white type reversed out of dark background.
  • If your name of your farm isn’t self-explanatory, a tagline or brief descriptor can help explain what you do.

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FarmsReach Social Media Roundup

On the FarmsReach Facebook and Twitter pages, we post a mix of news, inspirational quotes, photos and more each day.

For those who shy away from the information overload of tracking each of these social sites, here is your monthly “best of” roundup of posts.

If you like, you can “Like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter to access the information flow. Otherwise, we hope you enjoy our digest of best picks!


More Crops Per Drop: No-Till Farming Combats Drought, Civil Eats
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Paul Kaiser of Northern California’s Singing Frogs Farm, grows fruit and vegetables completely without machinery, a system he refers to as “non-mechanized, no-till.” He said goodbye to his tractor and tiller seven years ago after he felt he was unnecessarily harming wildlife, saw too many machines break down, and watched his soil quality decrease. Now, his eight-acre farm has a robust community supported agriculture (CSA) program, and his soil is full of life.

Overdrawn Groundwater, Overdue Legislation, CalCAN
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California is facing a groundwater crisis. The Central Valley alone has lost about 41 million acre-feet of groundwater since the 1990s. Three bills currently on Governor Brown’s desk would, for the first time, put in place comprehensive groundwater management regulations. CalCAN supports these bills as a necessary step forward to improve local groundwater management and provide greater certainty for agricultural and urban water users at a time of increasing water scarcity.

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Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 6 ~ New Farmers Market Resources Added to Toolkits!

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We’re excited to announce new farmers market resources in our Marketing & Sales Toolkit! Whether you’re new to this direct marketing channel or currently sell at many markets, these resources will help you think about your pricing strategy, improve the look and feel of your stall, begin to introduce mobile payment options, and more.

All of our Toolkit resources are recommended by our Featured Farmerspartners, and the community. We hope you use the checklists, info sheets, spreadsheets, and detailed practical references to make the most of your markets and maximize sales. Below is a sampling of our new additions. We’re adding more resources to this Toolkit all the time, so stay tuned for updates!


Getting Started with Farmers Markets
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Comprehensive guide for beginning to sell at the farmers markets, including tips on what to know before you begin, choosing a market, finding your niche, and understanding your competition.
Source: Wallace Center

Farmers Market Break-Even Calculator 
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Loosely adapted from Richard Wiswalls’ popular book The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, this simple worksheet helps you quickly calculate your required daily sales at each farmers market to break even.
Source: FarmsReach

Pricing Your Products & Tracking Sales
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Basic tips to improve your pricing strategy, competitively price your products, and track sales.
Source: FarmsReach

Mobile POS Payment Options for Your Customers
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Basics of mobile point-of-sale (POS) systems, recommendations on the best systems on the market, and options to increase your customer base with recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT).
Source: FarmsReach

Vendors: Increase Your Sales at Farmers Markets
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Video webinar covering in-depth strategies to increase farmers market sales, including product placement, time management, and signage.
Source: Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP)

Farmers Market Supplies
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Simple checklist of common farmers market supplies to bring for your market stall.
Source: FarmsReach

The Art & Science of Farmers Market Display
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Tips for creating a visually inviting, abundant, and customer-friendly market stand to attract more customers and increase sales.
Source: UVM Extension

Farmers Market Vendor Guide for Preparing & Offering Food Samples
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Quick tips on how to avoid contamination and properly clean and sanitize equipment, surfaces, and your hands during market sampling.
Source: Colorado State University Extension

How to Keep Your Customers and Your Money Safe
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Quick reference of safety and security issues at a farmers market, including using canopy weights, hiding electrical cords, and keeping your cash safe.
Source: Growing for Market

Farmers Market Insurance: An Introduction to Policy Types & Common Themes
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Guide to understand basic policies, what those policies cover, and how to guarantee you are purchasing a policy that provides the right coverage.
Source: Farmers Market Coalition

Farmers Markets: Marketing & Business Guide
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Guide for farmers market organizers on how to develop, promote, structure, and evaluate a new farmers market, including do-it-yourself worksheets and examples of surveys, SWOT analysis, and customer evaluations.
Source: NCAT/ATTRA


Be sure to check out the complete Marketing & Sales Toolkit for more resources on choosing your sales channels, wholesale marketing, sales, and cottage food laws. 

We’re continuing to expand the Marketing & Sales Toolkit, so stay tuned for more resources.

If you happened to miss them, check out our other features in the Marketing & Sales series:

If you have questions or words of wisdom about selling at the farmers market, visit FarmsReach Conversations and post a question or comment!

If you have other great resources to share, get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 5 ~ Tips to Improve your Brand and Market Value

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Today, our Marketing & Sales series continues with tips on how to think about your brand strategy. We’ll walk you through the basic process of creating a brand by identifying your audience and the messages you want them to receive about your farm business.

Whether you’re new or experienced with the idea of branding, it’s incredibly valuable to create a brand for your farm that stands out in the marketplace and to periodically assess the appeal of your brand with your customers. These tips will also help you think about your big picture marketing strategy and how to eloquently talk with your customers about what you do and how you do it.


This feature was excerpted from the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture’s (CISA) Marketing 101 Manual. Since 1993, CISA has been working to strengthen the connections between farms and the community, by creating and running programs that link farmers, community members, and markets. 

What is a Brand?

The most basic component of a marketing effort is a brand. Your brand is the story that you tell about your farm, the values that you communicate, and the sense that customers have of your business. And this is refined over time, so even if you have a branded farm now, there are always ways to improve the look and feel of your product.

Ask yourself: “When someone thinks of my farm, what comes to mind?” The answer defines your current brand: your brand is what your customers think of your farm business. If your current brand does not align with your self-perception, your values, or your goals, then it is not as strong a brand as it could be.

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Grocery Delivery Service Instacart Partners with FarmsReach for Delivery from Local Farmers Markets

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Below is the press release that went out today announcing our partnership with Instacart. Later today we and Instacart will be starting deliveries from the Berkeley Farmers Market from 3pm-7pm.  Exciting times!


San Francisco, Calif. – September 11, 2014Instacart, the only service that can deliver groceries from multiple local stores within an hour, announced today that it has partnered with FarmsReach, a platform for small and medium-scale farms to access the products, support and services they need to be successful.

Instacart will begin delivering groceries from Farmers Markets in San Francisco’s East Bay and plans to expand beyond that area soon.

Initially, Instacart will be delivering from Farmers Markets on:

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Announcing the Interactive FarmsReach Community Map!

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After many months in development, our new, interactive Community Map is live! Check it out and let us know what you think.

In either a Map or Grid View, you can use robust filters to easily browse and find just who you are looking for among the growing FarmsReach community:

  • Farmers
  • Seed Stakeholders
  • Agriculture Advisors
  • Organizations and Advocates

Get the most from our Community Map by logging in and completing your Profile.  It helps expand the map and extend your network. 

There are many ways to use our new map and its filters. Below are just a few examples:

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FarmsReach Newsletter ~ September 3, 2014

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Check out our latest newsletter! Topics in this edition:

To receive member newsletters, all you have to do is Join! It’s free and takes 1 minute!

Note: If you’re not in the agriculture industry, please sign up for our general newsletter.