Category Archives: Hot Topics

Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 12 ~ ‘Speed Dating’ Connects Farmers and Schools

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Today, we conclude our Marketing & Sales series with a great article from Civil Eats on San Diego’s “Let’s Go Local” event. In its second year, this meet-and-greet or ‘speed dating’ event brings together farmers, food distributors, and representatives from dozens of area school districts to build connections and have conversations that lead to sales.

As San Diego’s farm to school programs continue to grow, events like this are a great way to build relationships and get more local food into school district kitchens. Read on to learn more and perhaps consider hosting an event like this in your area!


Written by  on October 30, 2014.

On a recent Friday outside San Diego, California, 26 farmers and eight food distributors set up tables at a local ranch. Representatives from dozens of area school districts (plus a few folks from universities, hospitals, restaurants, grocers, senior centers, and preschools) shuffled from booth to booth, tasting growers’ products, shaking hands, and hashing out potential business deals. When asked how he’d done at the end of the day, Colin Bruce, salesman for the award-winning hydroponic farm Go Green Agriculture, pulled a wallet-sized stack of business cards from his pocket and fanned them out. “This is a unique event,” he said.

The “Let’s Go Local!” produce showcase was sponsored by the San Diego County Farm to School Taskforce, a project of a local obesity prevention program. The event was designed to make possible what many farms and institutional buyers have trouble navigating on their own—conversations that lead to sales. Call it speed-dating for farmers and institutions in a place where the farm to school movement has officially taken off.

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Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 11 ~ GAP 101, Group GAP Certification & Online Food Safety Tools

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Today our Marketing & Sales series continues with guidance and tools to help you improve on-farm food safety. We hear from Raman Maangat, Food Safety Program Manager with the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) on the ins and outs of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), Jeff Farbman, Sr. Program Associate with the Wallace Center on a new Group GAP (GGAP) certification program slated to launch in 2016, and Conor Butkus, Business Development Program Coordinator with familyfarmed.org about their easy-to-use food safety tool.

Read on to learn more about why GAPs are important, ways to easily incorporate them into your on-farm practices, and how Group GAP certification and a user-friendly online food safety tool can save you time and money!


Written by Raman Maagnat.

Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) are practices that growers adopt/adapt on their farm in order to minimize the risk of contaminating the food they produce. The key for growers is to understand their own practices and how they may be impacting the safety of the produce they are growing, and where necessary, adapt/adopt new practices.

The push to implement GAPs may be driven by a number of factors including your customers, insurance companies, and changing regulations, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to be finalized in 2015 and/or state laws like California’s AB 224 (direct marketing and CSAs) & AB 1871 (direct marketing and farmers markets).

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Effects of Organic Insecticides on the Bagrada Bug

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The invasive stinkbug known as the bagrada bug has been aggressively moving north through California. First discovered in LA County in 2008, it has now been identified as far north as Yolo County. The FarmsReach Conversations have been active with concerns, questions and suggestions for how to deal with these persistent pests. See what others are saying and chime in!

Shimat Joseph, PhD, IPM Advisor for UCCE Monterey County, has published findings on the devastating effects bagrada bugs have on brassicas and offers some possible solutions for pest management. Read on to learn more about dealing with this pest and possible ways to prevent [further] damage.

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Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 10 ~ Labeling Solutions & the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI)

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Today, our Marketing & Sales series continues with information on the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), including a Q&A with Top 10 Produce founder, John Bailey.

Many members of our farming community are already familiar with PTI regulations and have found labeling solutions that work for them. However, if you’re new to these requirements or are thinking of selling your product outside of direct to consumer sales channels, this is important information to know.

Read on to learn more about how the PTI was developed, what type of labels are required for your product, and why Top 10 Produce may be a great starting point if you’re a small farmer looking into labeling solutions.


Why was the PTI developed?

Federal and state agencies and the produce industry have had difficulty quickly identifying the source of foodborne illnesses, as shown by the difficulty of backtracking outbreaks in recent years. This has prompted the produce industry to work nationally and internationally on an industry-wide, voluntary, electronic Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI). This initiative was started by 48 leading produce companies and is endorsed in the US by the Produce Marketing Association and the United Fresh Produce Association.

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Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 9 ~ CA Takes a Bite Out of Farmers Market Fraud

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Our Marketing & Sales series continues today with an article on the new legislation to fight farmers market fraud. This new law, aimed at vendors trying to cheat the system by reselling wholesale items they didn’t grow, is the latest in an effort to maintain the farmer-grown reputation of farmers markets across California.

Read on to learn more about the rules of the new law, how it came to be, and why the punishment for false claims should have everyone paying attention!


Written by Brie Mazurek, Online Education Manager at CUESA.

Most people take it for granted that all the fruits and vegetables at the farmers market are grown by the farmers who are selling them. And with good reason: the purpose of farmers markets is to foster direct relationships between producers and consumers. Values like knowing your farmer, transparency, and nurturing the local foodshed are at the core of why people shop at farmers markets.

But recent reports of fraud threaten to undermine that foundation of trust. In 2010, an undercover investigation revealed farmers purchasing wholesale produce from Mexico to sell at Los Angeles farmers markets. Last year, LA County boosted enforcement at markets and rooted out 19 vendors selling produce they didn’t grow.

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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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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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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

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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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