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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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New year. New start.

New proposed food safety requirements.

Does your business import food into Canada, export food to another country, or sell food across provinces?

If you do, or may in the future, read on.

Strong, flexible regulations that focus on prevention will go a long way in helping businesses uphold their reputation, keep customers healthy and loyal, and avoid costly recalls.

The CFIA recently launched a 90-day consultation on the proposed Safe Food for Canadians Regulations to better protect the health of Canadians.

What would change?

If you import food or prepare food to be exported or sold across provinces, you would be required to have preventive controls in place and you may need to write them down in a plan. Preventive controls would allow you to identify and manage food safety risks before products are sold to consumers. Strong preventive systems, such as traceability and food safety controls, could boost your competitiveness here in Canada and abroad.

You may also need to obtain a licence and meet certain traceability requirements. Learn more about the key elements of the proposed Regulations in this video.

Learn

Regulations can sometimes be difficult to understand and apply. The CFIA website is home to resources to help you determine how the proposed requirements would apply to you.

Find out if you would need a licence, a written Preventive Control Plan or what your traceability requirements would be under the proposed new rules by answering a few questions using our interactive tools.

Participate

Get involved and stay connected on this important initiative:

  • Visit gc.ca/safefood to register for a webinar or in-person information session near you.
  • Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook or sign up to receive email updates.
  • Join the food safety conversation online using #SafeFoodCan.
  • Have a question? Call 1-800-442-2342 or send it to gc.ca/contactus.

Have your say

Once you’ve learned about the proposed Regulations, let us know what you think. Go to inspection.gc.ca/safefood and submit your feedback before the consultation closes on April 21, 2017.

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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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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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The Ontario government wants your help to identify opportunities to grow the Agriculture, Aquaculture and Food Processing sector in Northern Ontario.  Tell us your ideas on how industry and government can work together to drive growth of the sector.

The Growth Plan for Northern Ontario identified the Agriculture, Aquaculture and Food Processing sector as one of eleven priority sectors that can contribute to the diversification and growth of the Northern Ontario economy.  The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) is developing a strategy for growing the sector and has posted a discussion paper to its website and to Ontario’s Environmental Registry.

Your ideas are important to the development of a strategy for the sector. First, read the discussion paper .

Then, share your ideas with us in one of several ways listed below. Comments must be submitted by July 3, 2016.

Economic Development Policy Branch

1 Stone Road West

2nd Floor NE

Guelph, Ontario

N1G 4Y2

  • By Fax: (519) 826-4328 (addressed to the Economic Development Policy Branch, OMAFRA)

OMAFRA will develop a strategy for the Agriculture, Aquaculture and Food Processing sector based on the ideas generated at meetings and comments submitted to the ministry by July 3, 2016.  The strategy, along with other plans and strategies for Northern Ontario, can be expected to drive policies, programs and investments in Northern Ontario over the next 20 years.

In addition, OMAFRA will follow up with willing proponents on promising opportunities to understand how the government can help them move forward with their plans.

If you have any questions, please contact northernagrifood@ontario.ca

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