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Archive for the ‘farmers markets’ Category

For the very first time, the 2016 Census of Agriculture asked, “did this operation sell any agricultural products directly to consumers for human consumption?”  With this simple question, we now have a glimpse into direct sales of Ontario’s local foods that we’ve never had before!

Ontario leads the country with 7,474 farms reporting direct-to-consumer sales, followed by British Columbia and Quebec with 5,667 and 5,459 farms respectively.  Overall, 15.1% of Ontario’s farms are making local foods available for direct purchase by consumers.

At the regional-level, fascinating patterns emerge in the prevalence of direct-to-consumer farm sales.  Click to see maps by the number and percentage of farms reporting direct sales.  Ontario’s Central West Region is a direct marketing powerhouse with over 330 farms engaging in direct-to-consumer sales in each of Grey, Wellington, Niagara, Simcoe, and Waterloo.  It is also notable to look at regions with the highest proportion of farms engaging in direct-to-consumer sales.   By this metric, Haliburton leads the province with 53% of farms engaging in some form of direct sales, followed by Muskoka with 48%.  In Thunder Bay, Algoma, Parry Sound, and Kenora, roughly 40% of all farms are engaging in direct-to-consumer sales – an indication of the importance of direct marketing as a sales channel for Northern Ontario producers.

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Top 5 Regions for Number of Farms Selling Value-Added Products Direct-to-Consumer
  County/Region # of farms
1 Niagara 54
2 Simcoe 45
3 Grey 41
4 Durham 36
5 Prince Edward 32

What is being sold?

Nearly all of Ontario’s direct marketers (97% or 7,265 farms) are selling unprocessed agricultural products, while only 12% or 907 farms are selling value-added products.  This represents a potential area for growth as Ontario is lagging behind Quebec, most Maritime Provinces and the national average of 14%.  Niagara Region has the highest number of farms reporting direct sales of value-added products at 54.

How is it being sold?

The predominant sales channel for Ontario’s direct marketers is on-farm retail (farm gate/stand/kiosk/u-pick) with 90% (6,709 farms) using this channel.  Farmers’ markets are the second most common channel: 1,619 farms sell their products at one or more farmers’ markets.  This represents 3.3% of all Ontario farms, just above the national average of 2.8%.  In Ontario, Niagara Region has the most farms reporting farmers’ market sales (122 farms) while Kenora, Thunder Bay and Algoma have the highest proportion of farms reporting farmers’ markets sales.

Top 5 Regions for Number of Farms Selling through Farmers’ Markets
  County/Region # of farms
1 Niagara 122
2 Simcoe 85
3 Haldimand-Norfolk 72
4 Wellington 67
5 Grey 65

Across Ontario, 403 farms report selling through Community-Support Agriculture or CSA.  These farms are fairly evenly dispersed throughout the province; every county/region has at least one farm reporting CSA sales, with the exception of Rainy River.  Grey, Durham, and Wellington have the highest number of CSAs at 19 farms each.

Of the 24,510 Canadian farms reporting direct-to-consumer sales, 30% call Ontario home!  This Local Food Week, let’s celebrate the value of our direct farm marketing sector, not only for the economic opportunities it creates, but also for the access to local food it affords, the community it fosters, and the agriculture and food literacy it builds.

Note: all data for this blog was sourced from CANSIM Table 004-0244 Census of Agriculture, farms reporting selling agricultural products directly to consumers in the year prior to the census.

 

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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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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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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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Direct Marketing Strategies, Part 2

Social Media Strategies

Social media is an important marketing tool that is constantly evolving and it is important to keep up with its changing opportunities. Social media provides farmers with an inexpensive direct two-way channel of communication between themselves and their customers. Social media can be a very useful marketing device if used properly. Here are some tips on using social media effectively:

  • Informative: Get to the point, and tell consumers what they need to hear.
  • Frequency: Frequent posts help to keep your business on your customers’ minds. However, try not to annoy customers to the point where they unfollow/unlike you.
  • Incentives: Offer incentives to customers in return for a follow on Twitter, or a like on a Facebook page. This may cost more money initially, but that constant connection with the customer is important and will pay off.
  • Photos: Try to add in photos where possible. This shows customers what is being sold and good looking food is often hard to resist. Putting in a photo also makes the post appear larger on the news feed, helping to draw attention to it.

Helpful Social media tool: HootSuite is a social media management tool that allows users to schedule and post updates to pages and profiles of social media sites such as Facebook. Hootsuite allows farmers to plan their online posts in advance and stay organized. Additionally, farmers can connect their different social media channels to their website, which is another way to improve organization and save time in the busy summer months.

General Business Strategies

Forming relationships with other local businesses that sell complimentary products can lead to benefits for both parties. Forming business relationships can help businesses:

  • Save costs
  • Reach more customers
  • Form a sense of community

Farmers must make certain that the products their business partners’ sell complement instead of compete with their own products and do not take away potential business.

Consumers prefer locally grown food and buy directly from farmers for a number of reasons, some of which are:

  • Food quality
  • Atmosphere at the point of purchase
  • Intimate shopping and interaction with farmer

It is important to provide these three listed attributes because this is what makes the direct selling experience unique and helps to ensure differentiation.

Adding value to the products being sold is another method to form a connection with consumers and to keep them coming back. Methods of adding value include:

  • Offer more than just the product (include recipes, suggested uses)
  • Add nutritional information
  • Suggest other local attractions in the area
  • Have fun events (Wagon rides)
  • Build infrastructure (Shelters)

These social media and general business strategies will help to ensure that farmers have the opportunity to meet with their customers face-to-face. Through this interaction farmers can form meaningful connections and hopefully instill brand loyalty among customers.

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Direct Marketing and Brand Loyalty, Part 1

As the warmer months approach farmers are presented with new opportunities to better connect with their customers. These connections could help farmers to form meaningful and long lasting relationships. Some methods used to form these connections with customers include:  roadside stands, on-farm shops, pick your own produce and participation in farmers’ markets.  These types of selling methods give farmers the opportunity to personally interact with customers and to directly market themselves and their products.

If done right, these selling methods will help to ensure a strong relationship between farmers and their customers. A strong relationship will help farmers to retain customers and create brand loyalty. There are many benefits to instilling brand loyalty among customers.

On average brand loyal customers makeup approximately 80 per cent of a company’s business, so retaining these customers should be a priority. It is three to five times more expensive to replace a brand loyal customer than to retain one.

Brand loyal customers are a huge aspect to any business and direct marketing is a great way of retaining current loyal customers and to create brand loyalty among new customers. In order to create the opportunity for face-to-face interactions (direct marketing) customers must be aware of your product and where it is sold. Social media and other forms of marketing present farmers with an opportunity to build brand and product awareness.

How to Directly Market Your Product

Customers must be aware of when and where products are sold and social media can play a large role in giving customers constant updates on product availability. Different social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs provide an important opportunity for a two-way communication channel between farmers and customers. These social media channels allow farmers to provide instant and up-to-date information. A consistent online presence with regular product updates will help to remind customers of your business and its quality products and services. In attempts to create and maintain relationships with customers farmers should:

  • Create a customer database (Customer Information)
  • Provide frequent social media updates
  • Educate customers
  • Listen to customers
  • Create customer surveys (For feedback)

Farmers should always attempt to put their customers first by focusing on their satisfaction and forming personal connections. Farmers should interact and engage with customers, entertain them and educate them about agriculture and their business. Forming these personal connections will help build relationships and lead to brand loyalty.

Another method to improve customer satisfaction involves reviewing customer complaints. Complaints should be looked at as an opportunity to improve the brand, service or product. Complaints that are addressed and corrected on the spot have an average customer retention rate of 82 per cent. This further illustrates the importance of customer service and direct interactions with customers.

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Bigger isn’t always better in the eyes of one businessman.

Why did we decide to focus on local? Because it’s difficult for the big players to do.” That’s the business strategy used by Jim Beveridge of B&H Your Community Grocer, an independent retailer in Kemptville.  His grocery store uses its small size to its advantage in the David and Goliath struggle for market share and sales.

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 has a one-day workshop in March bringing together farmers and small food processors to learn how to address those gaps.

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 few hours to learn about different market opportunities and what customers expect. The Selling Food to Ontario workshop is available: March 2nd in Smiths Falls, March 3rd in Renfrew and March 9th in Vineland. Space is limited for this free workshop so register today at www.ontario.ca/chbi.

 

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