The locally grown food movement is expected to reach a value of $7 billion this year. The figure includes sale of produce made directly to consumers as well as to supermarkets and restaurants. Some local growers link the market’s rise to consumers understanding where their food comes from but others say it’s all about smart marketing and there’s more of that to come.
Federal researchers report that about $1.2 billion of the sales in this industry are made directly by farmers to consumers. These sales are made via farm stores, farm stands or subscriptions to community-supported agriculture programs. The rest of the industry revenue is generated when farmers sell to distributors, restaurants or food stores. Currently, about 40% of fruit, nut and vegetable farms are selling at the local or regional level. This growing market has resulted in a near doubling of farmers’ markets across the country in the past 20 years with over 5,000 establishments now in operation. And about 136,000 farmers now sell directly to consumers.
Selling produce directly to consumers means farmers must develop new marketing plans. “Marketing and promotion are imperative to the success of any farmer-driven marketing and distribution business,” according to a study carried out in Minnesota. To stand out, farmers are being encouraged to develop a memorable brand story and to promote this story in local marketing campaigns. Local farmers with recognizable brands can sell not only to consumers but partner with local retailers and distributors, entities which may help with ad campaigns in order to increase their own sales.
A related report in Farm and Ranch guide indicates that farmers need help understanding how marketing tools work. As this industry grows, media companies have an opportunity to increase revenue by educating and working with local farmers.[Sources: Suhr, Jim. USDA: ‘Locally’ Grown Food. Boston.com. 14 Nov. 2011. Web. 25 Nov. 2011; Opportunities for Foods Grown Locally. Auri.org. Web. 24 Nov. 2011; Consistent marketing significant to ag bankers. FarmandRanchGuide.com. 7 Jun. 2011. Web. 14 Oct. 2011]