Tips for successful marketing at farmers markets at one of the most demanding cities in the US by GrowNYC's FARMroots

Excerpted from an article by Chris Wayne, Maria Rojas and Margaret Gifford:

Consumer demand for local foods has been increasing for over a decade. The proliferation of farmer’s markets, farm-to-table restaurants, farm to institution efforts, and locally sourcing grocers reflects a local food movement. Nevertheless, sales of local food products have remained stagnant at between 2% to 4% of the consumer food dollar, resulting in increased competition between both farmers and other retailers.

One issue that has played a role in the sluggish growth of local food consumption is the lack of strategic marketing by farmers. Traditionally, farmers grow a quality product first and worry about their marketing later. Mixed amongst the huge variety of different skills required in diversified agricultural, marketing often slides to bottom of the priority heap. Many farmers also perceive marketing as costly, time-consuming, and difficult to measure. These assumptions, and subsequent lack of action, leave farmers at a disadvantage in the competitive local food market place. 

Since 2011 FARMroots (Farm Assistance Retention and Management), a program of the non-profit GrowNYC, has responded to the wide range of farmers’ business development needs. An outpouring of marketing requests led staff to develop a more robust marketing program in 2013. GrowNYC, which houses the FARMroots program, shares a vested interest in the marketing success of its Greenmarket farmers as this insures farm viability and the consistent supply of fresh local food to the people of NYC. 

In 2014 FARMroots was generously awarded funding through the New York Farm Viability Institute to develop the Marketing Enhancements for Greenmarket Farmers project. The intent was simple: work with 10 Greenmarket producers to increase sales of a diversity of farm products, through the development and implementation of marketing plans. Basic marketing weaknesses were identified in the following key areas: distribution channel assessment, customer service, consumer buying habit research, brand recognition, market displays, and product positioning in relationship to competition. A goal was set of a 10% increase in overall gross sales with minimal increase in marketing labor, materials, or expenses. 

Consolidated results from the project showed that:

• 40% of participating producers reported an increase in sales of more than 20%, with the remaining 60% of producers reporting sales increases between between 6-20%

• 100% of participating producers would recommend participating in this program to other producers 

To learn about the experiences of ten diversified farms serving the New York City Greenmarkets, read the full article here

By Chris Wayne and Maria Rojas of GrowNYC and Margaret Gifford, Watervine Impact

No reproduction without permission from the authors. © 2015