by Marie Ann Tipton
Farmers are skilled at growing food, but knowing how to choose the right market for a product can be a real challenge. Luckily, there are a lot different types of markets farmers can access locally. At the February Field School, we had a series of great speakers, including a panel of experienced farmers, a wholesale buyer, and a representative from the Center for Profitable Ag!
The farmer panel informed us about their businesses experiences and the journeys they have gone through to find profit. On the panel were Jamie Dove of River Creek Farm CSA, Jack Woodworth of Ziegenwald Dairy, and Chris Wilson of Clover Creek Farm. Each farmer had a diversity of markets that they accessed, including farmers markets, CSAs, online sales, restaurants, retail, wholesale, and even contract seed growing. There are pros and cons of each market, but they all emphasized the need to explore a diversity of options.
River Creek Farm – River Creek Farm offers CSA subscription in the Johnson City and Kingsport area.
Ziegenwald Dairy – Ziegenwald Dairy, located in Gate City, VA, offers a variety of goat milk and cheese products, as well as Alpine Goat breeding stock.
Clover Creek Farm – Located in Jonesborough, Clover Creek Farm offers AWA (Animal Welfare Association) certified meat lambs and wool as well as breeding stock.
We then heard from Adam Pendleton, who brought a lot of information to us from Appalachian Harvest. According to Pendleton, there is a 50% higher demand for crops than are actually grown, so there is business even if you just have a two acre plot.
Appalachian Harvest is a subsidiary of Appalachian Sustainable Development, and has operated as a wholesale buyer and distributor since 2002. In that time, they’ve helped local farmers sell over $12 million worth of local product. It is a great place for small farmers to start because it can accept even small quantities of produce and aggregate them with other growers to fill a tractor trailer load. Appalachian Harvest provides GAP (Good Agricultural Practice) training and can help growers to become Certified Organic through their group certification program. Being certified organic is not required, but prices paid for organic produce can often be double that of conventional. When it comes to the bottom line, this can easily make the certification process worthwhile. They have checklists that provide information and support through that first year of growing organically. Visit http://asdevelop.org/ah/ to learn more about Appalachian Harvest and how they can get you to market.
Other beneficial programs from Appalachian Sustainable Development include:
The Appalachian Farmers Market Association publishes a yearly local food guide offering both consumers and producers a catalog of restaurants that buy local products and regional farmers markets. Through continuously surveying both producers and consumers, the organization strives to stay on top of changing markets to continue support farmers markets across our region. The yearly food guide can be downloaded directly from the site. The Association also hosts events at farmers markets across the region including cooking demonstration and hands on family activities.
“Looking for a sustainable way to earn income from your land? Don’t know where to start?”
Appalachian Sustainable Development offers a whole farm planning service with a holistic approach, assessing everything from fields to forest. This is done through land assessments, forest stewardship, farm plans, and whole farm business and marketing plans.
According to the ASD website, forest farming is described as the intentional cultivation of botanicals including herbs, mushrooms, fruits, nuts, and floral products on the forest floor. The Agroforestry program offered by ASD, as part of the Appalachian Beginning Forest Farmers Coalition, gives farmers access to a variety of trainings tools, workshops, and demonstrations to bring quality sustainably grown product to the market.
Marketing Methods with Megan Bruch Leffew of the University of TN Center for Profitable Agriculture
The last presentation of the evening was from Megan Bruch Leffew, a marketing specialist at University of TN’s Center for Profitable Agriculture. As always UT Extension is a great resource for farmers. Here are just a few tips directly from Megan’s presentation on Marketing Methods to Make Money.
1.) Make a good first impression
2.) Create signage that sells
3.) Tell your story
4.) Provide excellent customer service
5.) Work the wonders of word of mouth
If you have any questions about becoming more customer friendly and better targeting the consumers feel free to contact members of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture team.
Our region, the Central Appalachian Highlands is making great strides in growing a local food economy.With so many resources, now if the perfect time to join this movement toward agriculture sustainability. There are always opportunities even if you are just starting out, so be creative when looking for markets you never know what you might find