CA Farmer Survey: Preliminary Results & Invitation to Participate

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This post is Part 2 of 2 re: “A Year of Learning.”  Also see Part 1: “Sobering, Inspiring Results from Agriculture Organization Strategy Session” posted July 29, 2015.

Thank you to everyone who has already completed the short Farmer Survey over the past several months. Below are the preliminary results.

If you haven’t taken the survey yet, please share your thoughts!  Your opinion matters, and it only takes about 10 minutes.  Plus, there’s one last $250 prize for respondents.  (Congratulations Steve Fitch of Pocket Creek Farm for winning the first of two prizes!)

Background: On January 21st, folks from FarmsReach CommunityMultinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA)Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF)Center for Land-Based Learning (CLBL)ATTRA/National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT)UC Cooperative ExtensionFarmer Veteran CoalitionSustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE)Rogue Farm CorpsFull Belly FarmNorth Coast Opportunities (NCO), and Ag/Tech Mixing Bowl came together to design new, shared tools to more effectively serve small- and medium-scale California farmers and ranchers. The original context was educational curriculum for farmers, and MESA and FarmsReach had invited the primary organizations that offer these services in California.

Better understanding farmers needs and preferences was one of many priorities. (For more details on the convening, see Sobering, Inspiring Results from Agriculture Organization Strategy Session.)

Preliminary California farmer survey results are below:

* New questions were added to the survey based on initial farmer responses. Results will be shared once we collect more data.  If you already took the survey and wish to submit your responses to these new questions, you may do so here.

Farmers:  We invite you to take the survey.  It takes less than 15 minutes, and you could win $250!


Acreage

Percentage of respondents with different farm acreage. For context, below is the USDA’s report on farm size and cropland distribution.

 

Farm Size Distribution

This USDA graph included for context only. The data has nothing to do with the CA farmer survey.

Sales Channels

Percentage of respondents selling through each channel.

 

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Sobering, Inspiring Results from Agriculture Organization Strategy Session

This post is Part 1 of 2 re: “A Year of Learning.”  Also see Part 2: “CA Farmer Survey: Preliminary Results & Invitation to Participate” posted October 4, 2015.

On January 21st, FarmsReach Community, Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA), Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), Center for Land-Based Learning (CLBL), ATTRA/National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), UC Cooperative Extension, Farmer Veteran Coalition, Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE), Rogue Farm Corps, Full Belly Farm, North Coast Opportunities (NCO), and Ag/Tech Mixing Bowl came together to design new, shared tools to more effectively serve small- and medium-scale California farmers and ranchers.  The original context was educational curriculum for farmers, and MESA and FarmsReach had invited the primary organizations that offer these services in California.

Shared GoalsIn the months that followed, I met individually with many of the folks above as well as other agriculture organization leaders to dig deeper into obstacles and opportunities in our shared sustainable agriculture ‘movement’, specifically regarding farm technical and business assistance.  Realizing there is no standard language to describe this farm focus, we started using the term “Farm Education & Support Services”.

A summary of the sobering results is below. Overall, there is consensus that many fundamental components for our collective success are lacking, resulting in a disconnect among farmers, organizations, and funders; duplication of effort; lack of strategic focus in fundraising and program development; insufficient organizational capacity; few explicitly shared metrics of success; and a general feeling of “dysfunction” among various organizations.

And yet, of all the groups in the convening above, all but two expressed a willingness to work together in some form of a collective impact framework to systemically improve our effectiveness and impact. (If your agriculture organizations is interested, please contact me.)

We are planning to review the results of our co-designed Farmer Survey before deciding on next steps.  So, a lot more to come.  (Please do share the Farmer Survey with your networks if you haven’t already.  Later, we’ll post the results for everyone here.)


Sustainable Agriculture Movement ~ “Farm Education & Support Services” Goals: Results of January Convening

Movement Needs

From literally hundreds of ideas to Improve Connections & Collaboration, Increase Quality & Quantity of Farmer Learning, and Improve Effectiveness & Impact, five distinct categories emerged.

Within each, I’ve summarized the group’s proposed areas for improvement.

 

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New Marketing & Sales Toolkit Resources!

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We’re excited to announce that we recently added a whole new slew of resources to our Marketing & Sales Toolkit! As always, these resources were recommended, and many of them written, by our amazing community of farmers, ranchers and subject-matter experts. A big thank you to all of our contributors!

For a taste of what’s new, check out several of the resources highlighted below. To see the entire list, visit our Toolkits page. If you have a great resource to share, please send them our way.


Choosing Sales Channels

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Marketing Tip Sheet
Tips, advantages and considerations in choosing a marketing channel, including farmers markets, institutions, restaurants and wholesale.
Source: NCAT/ATTRA

Pricing Your Product

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 2.13.12 PMPricing Your Products & Tracking Sales
Basic tips to improve your pricing strategy, competitively price your products, and track sales.
Source: FarmsReach

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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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Labor Series: Pt 10 ~ New FarmsReach Labor & Worker Safety Toolkit!

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We’re excited to focus the final installment in our Labor & Worker Safety Series on the FarmsReach Labor & Worker Safety Toolkit. It provides checklists, info sheets, spreadsheets, and detailed practical references to help you better manage your employees.

All of our Toolkit resources were recommended by our Featured Farmerspartners and the community, and are categorized by topic:

We hope these resources provide practical ideas and tools to start thinking differently about managing your team!

Below is just a sampling from the new Labor & Worker Safety Toolkit.

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FarmsReach Partner Roundup!

FarmsReach is wholly based on partnerships and collaboration with organizations, businesses, institutions and individuals who also work to help farmers and ranchers become more successful and environmentally sustainable. We are very excited to have such an amazing group of allies!

To show our support and let everyone know about all the exceptional work being done, we think it’s important to highlight many of the useful and time-sensitive programs, events, workshops, research and campaigns our partners have underway for the first part of 2014.

Enjoy our first quarterly Parter Roundup!

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Water Series: Pt 3 ~ Practical Tools & Resources ~ FarmsReach Water & Irrigation Toolkit!

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We’re happy to focus our third installment in our Water & Drought Management Series on the FarmsReach Water & Irrigation Toolkit. It provides checklists, info sheets, calculators and more detailed, practical references to help you better conserve water resources, improve water quality and efficiency, and learn more about water issues in California in general.

All of our Toolkit resources were recommended by our Featured Farmers, partners and the community. Below is a sampling of just 10 of the resources…We hope they provide some practical ideas and tools to start thinking differently about water management in your operation! And, be sure to check out the rest of the Water & Irrigation resources list, including more information on the Bay Delta Tunnels and Fracking.

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Yolo Women Farmers Kick Off the New Yolo Farmers Guild!

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Four of the Yolo Farmers Guild founding members

It’s no secret that women are the most rapidly growing segment of the nation’s changing demographics in farming. Maybe you’ve checked out the great resources in our brand new Women in Agriculture Toolkit, but if you want to see these stats in person, look no further than the Yolo Farmers Guild! The driving force behind the latest addition to the Guild Network is a feisty group of female farmers and allies that have taken the reigns and gotten the Guild up and running.

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Farm Hack Davis ~ Highlights from a Creative, DIY Weekend

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Visualization of an open-source food distribution website

Farm Hack is a community-driven movement that brings farmers together with engineers, builders, welders, architects, software designers, and other skilled non-farmers to develop, document and build accessible, appropriate technology for more resilient agriculture. It’s based on the principles of sharing, open publication, and the evolution of design.  And, the recent Farm Hack Davis - the first in Northern California – booked up completely weeks before the actual event!

Cross-pollination was the word of the day! And not just among the one group collaborating to design an innovative new apiary. Another group was crowded around big sheets of paper sketching blueprints for a small-scale grain elevator, while another was devising a new website to connect farmers to local markets. From theoretical to practical, this day was about tapping into a wide diversity of creative ideas, to create tangible solutions to many on-farm challenges.

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Featured Farmer Spotlight: Jim Leap of Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS)

Every week, we’ll spotlight a FarmsReach Featured Farmer. Our Featured Farmers are brimming with great ideas and knowledge to share with the farming community. Feeling a spark of curiosity? There’s no question too simple or tough. Ask a question or add a Conversation and we’ll be sure it’s answered within a day or two. 

Jim LeapThis week, we’re featuring Jim Leap, a long-time passionate farmer and educator. With a variety of experiences in agriculture from researcher and activist, to educator, and then farmer, Jim lives and breathes farming.

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