PLAINVIEW, Neb. – Farmers in this region believe that word of mouth is their ultimate and preferred method of promoting the locally-raised food and farm products they sell to area customers. A recent survey of farmers and rural business owners in Nebraska and Southeast South Dakota, conducted by the directors of Farm to Family Connection - a project seeking to help farmers in direct marketing efforts - found that farmers who direct market believe that satisfied customers are the best way to promote the products they raise.
Of the farmers who said they were farmers market vendors, the most successful promotional campaigns included signs at their stands pricing their food, offering samples at their tables and offering a discount for bulk sales. Many of the farmers market vendors wholesale to restaurants, grocery stores and processors. They price their food products matching other vendors at the market, comparing with grocery store prices and using a cost plus markup system.
Most of the farmers and business owners responding to the survey do at least a portion of their sales through direct markets and farmers markets, with some having retail stores and roadside stands as well. These farmers, many of which have participated in a weekly local food and farm product radio show, Farm to Family Connection, airing Thursdays on KK93, 93.1 FM based in Yankton, SD, also list radio, print ads, fliers and brochures, press releases, websites and participation in Farm to Family Connection as valuable types of promotions.
Farmers participating in the survey raise fruits and grains, vegetables, meats, poultry, eggs and fish, nursery plants and trees. They also produce baked goods and preserves, wine and honey as well as processed meat products. Most of the farmers surveyed said they market their products as farm fresh and natural, without antibiotics or hormones. But there were also those who were certified organic, grassfed and were marketing unprocessed food products. Survey respondents said the main challenges to the growth of their businesses was marketing and promotions and cash flow. They also listed challenges in developing a marketing budget, handling regulations, production techniques and peer pressure.
A large majority of those responding said they are farming because of a love of the land and a passion for growing things. Farmers and business owners are also in their rural businesses because they are utilizing their creative and marketing skills and carrying on a family tradition in the business.
Of the respondents who participated in the Farm to Family Connection radio program, a majority received 1-5 customer contacts or sales because of their participation on the program. Of those who received 6-10 or more sales from the show, those who participated two or more times, observed more contacts.