Consumers have shown an increasing amount of interest in where their food comes from, requiring agriculturalists to become more involved in educating them. Many farmers have begun to utilize social media outlets, blog posts, etc., as tools that help marketing their local agriculture products.
When it comes to marketing agriculture commodities, is direct marketing to the consumer the best option in today’s world? Marketing products directly to the consumer can empower an operation and add significant value. According to the Agriculture Marketing Resource Center, marketing directly to the consumer requires three different things.
First, a producer must make a direct connection with the consumer. This can be accomplished through different settings; however, many growers and producers turn to their local farmers market. In recent years farmers markets have grown increasingly popular, mainly due to desire of the consumer to learn where their food comes from. Direct contact cultivates loyalty between consumer and producer, usually resulting in returning business. They also require essentially no overhead from the producer, unlike a storefront, and they don’t require a mandatory sales volume. A farmer is allowed to bring however much product they are able to and sell whatever they are capable of. This is a huge advantage. With the exception of transport and a small fee, farmers markets are a great direct marketing source for local producers.
The next step in successful direct marketing is determining consumer wants and needs. The majority of consumers have an idea of what is important to them when shopping for produce, meat and many other products. Consumers have more control now than they ever have regarding what they’re putting into their bodies and they are now asking more questions to agriculturalists. Direct contact with the producer builds strong rapport, even if it requires them to pay a little bit more for what they deem is a quality product. Not only can direct marketing empower the producer, but also the consumer. Take “u-pick” operations for example. Many growers utilize these operations for products like strawberries, corn, blackberries and many more. Not only does the consumer get to literally hand-pick what they want, but they also help maintain the fields and relieve some work from the producer. The final recommendation from the Agriculture Marketing Resource Center is offering products that meet the needs of the consumer.
There are advantages to local marketing for the producer. Not only is there an opportunity to find a niche market, the opportunity to sell product for a higher price, but there is also the opportunity to eliminate the middle man. Is this the best tactic?
Discussions with ranchers indicates that they believe direct marketing is the best tactic for their operations.
“We don’t always take our calves to the sale barn if we can make our own contact with a buyer and work out an agreement, but that fluctuates from year-to-year,” said commercial Angus ranch owner Melissa Ogden.
Direct marketing can also give true ownership of a product and give ranchers the opportunity to educate the public. Former agriculture education instructor, Christy Langston of Mount Vernon, Mo., says “I think direct marketing in the future of our farm. We currently have bees and I would like to direct market honey.”
All in all, there may be some threats and obstacles with direct marketing, including: developing a customer base, ensuring all regulations and guidelines are met, and the risk involved with working directly with the consumer; however, the positives seem to be more prevalent amongst producers.