Renewed interest in locally grown, smaller-farmed food has been met by many producers with an increase in gardening, canning, hand-milking and home-processing the foods and products that consumers want. But many farmers are left with the question of, “Where do I market these home grown and homemade products?” Direct marketing is a great answer.
There are two outlets that serve as great direct marketing venues for locally grown food:  Farmers Markets and direct sales to grocery stores and restaurants.
According to the USDA statistics, there are over 7,500 Farmers Markets in operation in America today.
Mark Garner is the Market Manager of the Central Ozarks Farmers & Artisans Market located in Harrison, Ark. The market, which recently changed its name to include “Artisans” has been in operation about 25 years and sells grass-fed beef and lamb, pasture-raised pork, free range eggs, yogurt, artisan breads, a variety of fruits and vegetables, lavender, crafts, jewelry, gluten free baked goods, soaps and repurposed furniture.
He continued, “Farmers markets provide a ‘store front’ at minimal cost and guaranteed traffic.”
Garner also reiterated why farmers markets work, “People come for the highest quality and freshest produce in town. They know they’re supporting the local economy and family farmers and artisans and that there are products not available in local stores.”
Garner pointed out that there are two types of vendors at farmers markets, “Those that produce on the side and have no intention of this becoming their main income source. They do it for fun and love what they do. Secondly, there are those that produce with the intent of building a sustainable business.”
The second group relies on farmers markets as a way of marketing their product to a large audience each week. The best use of market’s for this farmer is to provide samples of their product and build a contact list of customers.”
Another method that will work for the farmer who wants to build a sustainable business is to also direct market to local stores or restaurants.
Bill Griffiths is the owner of the Farmer’s Gastropub in Springfield, Mo. The Gastropub is a “British-style hybrid” restaurant and bar.
He currently buys fresh food from dozens of local producers. “All of our meats except for our duck comes from local farms,” Griffiths noted. The restaurant buys 60-80 dozen farm-raised eggs each week. They also buy loads of produce from local farms.
“I’m always looking for new organic farms to buy food from,” said Griffiths. He said the best way to market to a restaurant or grocery store is just “come knock on the door.” He encouraged producers to be prepared to offer samples and answer a lot of questions.
Particularly, he said, “What do you have, how much do you expect to have, and when do you expect to have it?” Then know that most store or restaurant owners may want to come see your farm. Some owners may need convincing on how buying locally can profit their business, and those reasons are the same reasons why people come to farmers markets – as Griffiths said, “Fresh, local, sustainable and organic.”


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