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Grocery retailers, chefs, and other food buyers are looking for local product and they want to buy local says Jessica Kelly, a direct farm marketing specialist at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).  “Yet, when it comes to buying from farmers and small food processors, they say there’s often a gap between what they need, when they need it, and how they do business” she adds.

OMAFRA & Town of Georgina has a one-day workshop February 2nd, bringing together farmers and small food processors to learn how to address those gaps.

OMAFRA is also partnering with the City of Quinte West to host a workshop March 1st.

Ministry specialists in business management, business development, food regulation and food safety can help business owners and managers learn more about different sales channels and how they work so participants can ultimately decide if there is an untapped sales channel that is right for their business. Each workshop is customized to local interests with subjects ranging from market channel opportunities, food regulations, food safety, pricing for profit, packaging and labelling. Participants will also learn where to get more information and support.

Your business might benefit from selling to a local grocery store or other retailer, a restaurant or public sector organization like a university or school nutrition program. The key is to invest a few hours to learn about different market opportunities and what customers expect.

The Selling Food to Ontario workshop in the Town of Georgina is available on February 2 from 8:30 am – 3:30 pm and is being held at The Link, 20849 Dalton Road, Sutton, Ontario L0E 1R0. Registration is now open.

The Selling Food to Ontario workshop in Quinte West is available on March 1 from 8:30am -3:30pm and is being held at the Trent Port Marina, 15 Creswell Drive, Quinte West, Ontario K8V 3S8. Registration is now open.

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Enjoy a lively day chock-full of ideas and insights on mentoring, merchandising and marketing from one of Canada’s leading retail & farm market experts! You will leave armed and dangerous with loads of insights to try out in your operation. Your customers won’t know what hit them! (But they’ll be loving it!) We will conclude the day with an interactive “up close and personal” chat with Pete, where you can ask questions or discuss those managing, merchandising or marketing perils that keep you up at night! Don’t miss this opportunity to attend!

Topics include:

1. Building a Team
2. Merchandising
3. Marketing

Tuesday, February 21, 2017, 9:30am to 3:30pm

Marriott Gateway to the Falls, Niagara Falls , ON

Investment cost: OFFMA Members $89 + HST
OFFMA Team Rate(3) $225 + HST
Non-members $150 + HST

Click here for the registration form:

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Wondering how to get to the top of Google? There are almost 5 billion searches per day on Google. If you are not online, or easy to find, your business is missing out on huge potential.  Many businesses rely on their website and social media profiles for their advertising and marketing- for some their online presence is their only form of advertising. So how do you improve the effectiveness of your website and make sure that customers can easily find you?

Search engine optimization (SEO) involves creating a website in a way that will help draw traffic to your site from search engines. Search engines are the primary means of finding information on the internet- by using SEO techniques you can increase the ranking of your site and thus increase the number of people visiting your site. There are a number of SEO techniques and best practices that can improve your rankings on search engines, and help to make your website as effective as possible.

The government of Ontario has published an E-Business Toolkit, including an on-line booklet Increasing traffic to your website through search engine optimization techniques. This booklet is targeted towards small businesses that are looking to learn how to attract more customers to their website. It includes best practices for search engine optimization, pitfalls, and different considerations for implementing an SEO strategy.

Best Practices:

Key word search:          Determine what words and phrases your customers are looking for. Google’s Keyword Planner can help find the right keywords. Add your keywords in the title, content, images, meta description, title tags, URL, and internal links. Include a meta description tag on each page, and an alternative tag (alt tag) for each page.

Quality Content:      Content is very important- algorithms look at length, frequency and value. The longer your content is and the more often you post, the higher ranking you will achieve.

SEO Local:                Design your website to attract local visitors. Add location addresses and include local links to your pages. Use Google Places and choose the appropriate categories.

Social SEO:              Use Twitter shares, Facebook likes, and social bookmarking to increase search rankings.

Link Building:       Let link building happen naturally through customers sharing and retweeting your content and articles. Getting listed on other quality sites can draw traffic to your site and increase search engine ranking.

Pitfalls:

Marketing:             Make sure you adjust page content when adjusting page titles. Avoid aggressive SEO techniques (loading too many keywords in the website’s content), which could exclude your site from a search engine.

Technical:            Remove any broken links. Do not use videos or images without alternative tags. Do not load your page with too many links, as Google may view this unfavourably.

Considerations:

Before deciding to do this yourself instead of hiring an SEO expert, determine if you have the web development skills necessary for SEO. SEO requires specific technical and marketing expertise; without this expertise, or if your time could be better spent elsewhere, seeking professional help is an alternative.

For more information and detail on search engine optimization, and how to increase traffic to your website, visit the e-Business Toolkit.

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Looking for information on agri-tourism, marketing plans, or direct farm marketing? Three updated factsheets are now available on OMAFRA’s Business Management page:

Developing an Agri-Tourism Operation in Ontario

Are you interested in opening your farm to the public? Does your farm have the potential to integrate agri-tourism into the business? This factsheet discusses what it takes to run an agri-tourism operation, how to define your target market, and the first steps in marketing your business.

Find this factsheet on our website for more information on:

  • The different factors to consider and what it takes to develop a successful agri-tourism operation in Ontario (i.e. physical resources, operations and management, activities);
  • The benefits of identifying your target market and focusing your business on attracting them to your farm;
  • The different types of activities you can offer on your farm (i.e. roadside stands, mazes, classes, bed and breakfast).

This factsheet also poses important questions to ask yourself before opening your farm to the public, including:

  • Do you like dealing directly with the consumer?
  • Are you prepared to spend every weekend during peak season tied to the farm?
  • Are you prepared to accept the liability of having the public on your farm?

After determining if you have what it takes to run an agri-tourism operation and you have defined your target audience, the next step is marketing. This factsheet helps you with the basics of marketing and the importance of public relations and relationship management.

If you and your family are looking at expanding your business into an agri-tourism operation, this factsheet will help you take the first steps.

 Developing a Marketing Plan

If you are looking for information on how to develop a marketing plan or have ever wondered if a marketing plan is necessary, the newly updated Developing a Marketing Plan factsheet is a must-read.

This factsheet provides the basics to developing a marketing plan, starting with defining the 4Ps of marketing: Product, Price, Place, & Promotion. This factsheets then expands into the different steps to take to create a successful marketing plan:

  • Know yourself, your customer, the marketplace
    • Focus on a specific segment or niche market
    • Conduct market research on your customers and competitors
  • Marketing Strategy
    • Where your business is headed, and objectives to meet this goal
  • Implementation Strategy
    • Set out exactly what you will do to meet the needs of your target customers and attract them to your business

After developing a strategy, how are you going to promote and market your product? This factsheet provides a run-down on the different advertising options available to you, including websites & social media, print, electronic, signage, direct promotion, special events, public relations, etc.

Our factsheet provides detailed information on the steps to take when developing a marketing plan, promoting or marketing your product, creating a marketing budget and more.

Direct Farm Marketing in Ontario- A Primer

Have you ever wanted to shift gears and become a price maker, not a price taker? Does direct farm marketing appeal to you? Similar to agri-tourism, there are many different considerations to take into account when entering the direct farm marketing business.

There are different forms of direct farm marketing, including on-farm shops, pick-your-own operations, farmers’ markets, and roadside stands. But they all have something in common: direct consumer relationships.

This factsheet helps you with a number of considerations:

  • What type of consumer will I be targeting?
  • Is your farm located near a population base/market large enough to support the direct farm marketing business?
  • Do you/could you produce a product/service that consumers would be interested in buying through a direct farm marketing channel?
  • Are your family members/employees interested in having direct contact with consumers?

Developing a marketing plan can help answer a few of these questions, and get your business started in the right direction.

Don’t forget about the potential implications of moving beyond primary production and into direct farm marketing and/or value-added agriculture. Regulations covering taxation, land use planning, signage, labelling and public health all need to be taken into account when starting a direct farm marketing venture.

While there are many different factors to consider when starting a direct farm marketing operation, it can be very rewarding for you and your customers. Local food is not a passing trend and there is a lot of opportunity for those willing to invest the time and energy necessary to make it work. For more information on direct farm marketing and how to take the first steps, read more from our Direct Farm Marketing in Ontario- A Primer factsheet.

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Established in 2014, the Food Donation Tax Credit for Farmers, gives farmers a tax credit valued at 25 per cent of the fair market value of the agricultural products they donate. Community food programs, like the student nutrition program, also benefit by receiving more fresh local food for distribution to Ontario families.

This credit helps to ensure that more locally grown food ends up on people’s plates, and that includes the people who need it most in our communities.

To get the credit, you must:

  • be a resident of Ontario
  • have a farming business in Ontario
  • have donated agricultural products to an eligible community food program in Ontario.

Eligible products include:

  • meat and meat by-products
  • eggs and dairy products
  • fish
  • fruits and vegetables
  • grains and pulses
  • herbs, honey, maple syrup and mushrooms

To receive the donation, community food programs must:

  • be registered as a charity under the Income Tax Act (Canada)
  • be able to issue receipts for the fair market value of food donated by farmers

More details on the tax credit are available by visiting: ontario.ca/fooddonation

If you are a farmer, reach out to your local community organizations and see how you can work together to bring more fresh, local food to people in need.

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Team members vs. employees

While many people classify their staff as ‘employees’, it may be beneficial to adjust this mindset and start hiring team members. Having teams and team members will lead to an open and honest work environment, while having employees can lower morale and lead to a high turnover. Having employees can limit the ability to have an enjoyable environment where people are excited to go every day and give 100 per cent.

Is there really a difference? See if you recognize any of these traits in your staff members:

Employees:

  • Have a ‘get it done tomorrow’ attitude, and will treat urgent issues as if they will always be there.
  • Love making excuses or blaming others.
  • Are internally focused- the effort they put into tasks will depend on how the outcome can benefit them.
  • Need a checklist, no more, and are comfortable working towards this checklist. There is rarely any excitement from the employee on the task.
  • Are dependable to do the same tasks and are easily replaceable.

Team members:

  • Will have a ‘we’ mentality.
  • Are focused on finding solutions.
  • Focus on a shared goal among the team.
  • Will be excited and willing to learn and develop their skillset within the organization.
  • Willing to align their goals with the organization’s goals.
  • Are integral to your team- without them your business would not run as smoothly.
  • Work together to improve your business. They believe that everyone succeeds together.

By hiring team members instead of employees you create a culture that is enjoyable for everyone, more accountable, and more productive. To create this attitude begin with an exercise where everyone refers to each other as team mates and team members, and see how the workplace changes. However, this isn’t enough- for your staff to really feel like team members, your will have to treat them as such. Teams, unlike employees, don’t need managers, but leaders, who work with the team to complete the job.

Hire team members who have a shared passion and vision of your business. This will benefit your business in the long run by creating a happier work environment, where team members don’t dread coming to work, which will ultimately create a lower turnover rate among staff. A lower turnover rate means less time spent training new employees and less inexperienced employees, leading to increases in productivity.

Methods to create a team:

  • More recognition and reward for good/extra work.
  • Listen to everyone’s ideas.
  • Trust your team and give them more responsibility/flexibility.
  • Create common goals and show the benefits of teamwork.
  • Create a task which requires teamwork to accomplish.
  • Let everyone have some fun (team bonding activities).

Resources:

http://reliablewaterservices.com/2016/01/employees-vs-team-members-theres-a-difference/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/erik-harbison/team-members-vs-employees-whats-the-difference_b_6926436.html

 

 

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Five Reasons to Shop at your Local Farmers’ Market

  1. Strong Sense of Community/Support Family Farmers

Farmers’ markets contribute to a closer and more meaningful sense of community.  They bring community members together for business purposes that are conducted in a social and relationship oriented manner. They are a great method for famers to establish a direct line of communication with consumers and form meaningful relationships.

Farmers’ markets are beneficial to local economies. Consumers spend money within the community and buy locally grown produce instead of purchasing mass produced food that has been transported from thousands of kilometres away. This contributes to the job security of farmers which helps them to remain a successful business in the community. Buying locally grown produce helps to avoid major changes and the loss of farming businesses and farm land.

Farmers can also form mutually beneficial partnerships with other local businesses which help to strengthen the business community, reduce business costs and reach more customers.

  1. Food Quality: Taste Real Flavours

Typically, the food found in farmers’ markets is fresh and high quality. Since the food is grown locally, it spends very little time in transit and in some cases may have often been picked hours before being purchased. This can be compared to the major grocery stores where food often travels for thousands of kilometres over a number of days before reaching consumers. Locally grown food ripens in the field, is picked in season and reaches consumers at its best nutritional quality and taste.

  1. Know Where it’s Coming From

Farmers’ markets allow consumers to ask questions directly to those who are responsible for growing the food. This opens up an important communication and information channel for consumers. It allows them to ask about food quality, the growing process, what was involved with making the food, if chemicals were used in the process and other important questions that may not be easily answered in a grocery store.  Many consumers find this information reassuring at the point of purchase. This interaction builds trust between the farmer and the consumer.

  1. Intimate Atmosphere at the Point of Purchase

Farmers’ markets provide an intimate and fun environment for the whole family. It is unlikely that you will see families go to the grocery store for the day as a family outing. Instead farmers’ markets are often viewed as fun social attractions, which make for good family outings. Many offer fun events or games for entertainment purposes.

A study showed that on average a shopper will have 15 to 20 social interactions at a farmers’ market, compared to one to two at a grocery store.

  1. Adding Value

Farmers’ markets often add a great deal of value to their products in different ways. Value adding to products is any enhancement that helps to increase its economic value. Adding value helps to build customer satisfaction and increase the likelihood of them returning.  A few examples of farmers’ markets adding value to their product include:

  • Add nutritional information
  • Provide recipes
  • Suggest other local attractions in the area
  • Offer fun events (wagon rides or agri-tourism)
  • Small-scale food processing (personal)
  • CSA community supported agriculture (weekly food boxes)

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