Marketing farm products focus of upcoming workshop

It is no secret that farmers face a number of challenges as they seek to remain financially sustainable and good stewards of the land and a positive force in their communities.

Whether a farmer is producing a crop or raising some type of livestock, they are perennially challenged by the uncertainty and the extremes of weather, input cost increases and farm pests including (but certainly not limited to) insects, disease and weeds. Despite these challenges, in most years, they are able to produce a marketable crop.

Those farmers who produce crops such as fruits, vegetables, herbs or flowers; livestock-based products such as meats, honey or eggs; artisanal products such as jellies, jams, butters or baked goods; or perhaps agritourism related to farm entertainment or educational activity, face the additional challenge of meeting the needs of their consumer.

Those needs typically revolve around price, access, convenience and quality and must be met to satisfy and retain that customer over time.

Whether the farmer is selling direct to the consumer or through a wholesale intermediary, it is vital that they anticipate the needs of their consumer and find ways to effectively communicate with them.

Sadly, all too often, farmers are so intensely focused on producing a high-quality product that they neglect the effective marketing of that good product to the consumer.

To help farmers think through the intricacies of the marketing process, Purdue Extension has developed and will offer not one but two programs, Marketing for Success and Wholesale Success, in the coming weeks. Despite the somewhat similar names, the content of each will be very different from the other. In some cases, one or both will be of use to a specific farm.

The first, Marketing for Success, will be conducted on the first day of the Indiana Horticulture Congress, Tuesday, at the Wyndham Hotel, 2544 Executive Drive, Indianapolis.

This program, to be conducted from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., will be suitable regardless of the product the farm is producing and whether the farmer has been marketing for decades or is just starting out.

During this workshop, agribusiness experts will explain how to build sales at farmers markets and food stands as well as online and through wholesale arrangements with restaurants, schools and other institutions.

Participants will learn about effective and efficient marketing tools and strategies for their specific type of business.

The morning session is called Your Farm Business and Your Brand. Topics are:

Marketing your farm business

Building your brand

Pitching your product

Topics for the afternoon session, called Marketing Channels and Your Farm Business, are:

Considerations in selecting regional sales channels

Marketing tools

Building and maintaining customer relationships

This workshop is open to anyone with an interest in expanding their marketing skills. Cost for the session is $90. Registering for the entire three-day conference is only a few dollars more.

To register, go to inhortcongress.org.

The next program, Wholesale Success, will be offered for vegetable farmers who want to learn about wholesale markets.

Some of the topics include wholesale vegetable production, food safety practices, strategies for production, customer relationships and management.

Participants will receive a comprehensive Wholesale Success manual and have the opportunity to network with other growers and wholesale buyers.

These workshops are quite valuable for any size vegetable grower seeking new wholesale accounts in the local and regional food systems.

The trainer, Atina Diffley, is an organic farmer, public speaker and author. She brings a wealth of experience, insight and knowledge to her training sessions and has trained thousands of vegetable farmers.

Wholesale Success will be held on Friday, Feb. 12, at the Smith Family Farm, 7055 W. County Road 675S, in Pendleton. Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m., and the program will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A grant allows vegetable farmers in Indiana to attend the one-day workshops at a cost of $20, which includes lunch, beverages, snacks and the manual.

Registration is available at tinyurl.com/zty24wf.

I hope that one or both of these programs will be of value to you regardless of your crop that you intend to market or how long you have been in the production and marketing of that crop.

Please consider the time and cost of attending these sessions an investment in the future financial success of your farm.