While I spent most of the conference coaching new farmers, Elizabeth Theriault, RAFFL's Community Engagement Coordinator, attended some interesting sessions and has provided us with a summary: The 8th annual NOFA direct marketing conference this year offered a wide variety of workshops that provided expertise, experiences, and opportunities to stretch your mind with new ideas and directions for farmers in the state to expand.
As with most conferences there is always the dilemma of what workshops to choose between. I attended three different workshops and one networking session. The first workshop was a basic introduction to DigIn VT an agritourism website. The website was launched two years ago as a venue for people to easily tap into Vermont’s food experiences as if they were a local. The website offers listings of all the farmers markets in the state, and has three main categories: places, events and trails (anyone can make up a “trail “ for an area that links lots of great places together that you might visit at the same time in one region). The site is also a great way for food hubs and farms in different regions to promote special events or host a farm tour. This website was a great new resource for me to think about using as a promotional tool and reaching out to a much wider audience, they market primarily outside of Vermont. The website is also in the process of being translated into French!
Next I went to a workshop led by Abbie Nelson education coordinator of NOFA Vermont and director of Vermont FEED. Abbie gave an overview of NOFA’s recently completed research on institutional demand and statewide infrastructure for local fruits, veggies, and eggs. We reviewed the report and discussed how farmers can use this research to identify institutional markets and different models for selling to institutions. The report is available here on NOFA’s website.
Then I checked out a fun workshop on hosting successful on-farm events. Two vivacious farmers, Cat Buxton from Cedar Circle Farm and Jinny Hardy Cleland from Four Springs Farm gave us a run-down of what you need to think about when hosting an on-farm events including but not limited to: marketing, insurance, pricing/ profit, educational material, programming, scheduling and much more. It was great to have some tips of the trade and from two farmers that seem to have found two very different ways to really make it work.
Want to get more info about direct marketing? You can find recorded webinars on marketing strategies, articles, factsheets, and other resources in the Marketing Toolshed at the Vermont New Farmer Network website. There is also some helpful resources available here from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.