Conferences

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Jena, Nov 5, 2004.

  1. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

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    I went to a conference on "marketing in consumer-driven ag". Sounded right up my alley.

    It was just about worthless. 3/4 of the people there were non-farmers....extension people, reporters and I don't know what all. There was very little info geared towards the producer and when it was, it was worthless.

    They had a session on "CSA's and farmers markets". The folks running it would only talk about hauling stuff to Chicago, not a viable option for many. When I spoke up and said that I had great success in small town markets, they told me I was "unusual". The only reason I'm unusual is that there aren't more folks doing it...mostly because they don't know where to start and go to these worthless conferences!

    Whenever questions came up about regulatory compliance, they answered with "OH! It's so much red tape!!!" like it was a nightmare. It's not. It's actually pretty easy, but it's like they kept it shrouded in mystery to discourage people.

    Maybe I ought to throw my own conference and invite those who are doing it, but not afraid to share the knowledge of how. Even when someone asked a basic question "What is important to be selling at a farmers market?" they just kept going on about how much money they were making and offered no practical advice. They didn't say "Show up every time, try to be in the same place every time, you can't make your display too attractive and samples work great!"

    The only good thing is I met a couple people from Indiana who are going to help me with the farmers market in Terre Haute.

    Waste of $30 and a whole day.

    Jena
     
  2. Mutti

    Mutti Well-Known Member Supporter

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    This might be a better subject for the gardening forum where alot of the folks do go to the farmers markets. We plan to sell our honey and cut flowers at our local one next year so did alot of scouting at different markets when I've been traveling to see what seems to draw the customers....well, I sum it up as my daughter says....she's a sucker for packaging! The stands with a plan to them...attractive,well-arranged, produce in plastic baskets or bins, prices displayed as many people will NOT ask but just walk by and a catch doesn't hurt...we'll have our observation bee hive with us each week--kids stop,parents buy! Also, a customer sign up list where they can say what products they'd like to see(and you get their names). Maybe a little giveaway. Face it, you compete with the chain stores and people are used to clean,well-packaged products....many have no knowledge of anything but basic peas,beans,corn or how to cook 'em. In the past it has been beneficial for us (when we had an orchard) to have info on our limited spray program and when selling grapes mention no sprays...so be sure to mention if you are selling naturally grown products or used the phrase grown using organic methods if you aren't certified. Most customers aren't concerned that you are certified,they just want to know if their child can eat the grapes right now!!! I'm sure lots of people have good ideas on this subject that are actually doing it. DEE
     

  3. caballoviejo

    caballoviejo Well-Known Member

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    Betcha there was federal funding behind the conference. Having a conference is part of the education component requirement of a whole lot of junk-use money grants. If you've been to one conference you've been to them all.
     
  4. mikell

    mikell Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps next time you could hold the conference and charge 50$ and NOT make it a wasted day. I have allways wondered if those get rich scheams work so good why are people still working to tell you how to do it. Because conferences and seminars are where the REAL money is and books of course.

    mikell
     
  5. bethlaf

    bethlaf Homegrown Family

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    quite frankly, the best use of that conference is your proof of attendance, then write a SARE grant for investigating the farmers options of pursuing small town farmers markets :D


    regulations , generally speaking the state dept of ag local rep will help you, these people understand the crisis facing americas farms
    especially small farms, different states have diff regs,
    for EX. i can sell 500 gallons of fluid milk off my farm in Ark. without permit,
    in wisconsin , i cant sell ANY!without permit pasturization , etc.....
    now back in wis i sold aracuna eggs off the farm around easter for 2.00 dozen in the two weeks before easter i made about 300.00 from a flock of 20 hens

    , this time around im looking into marans dark brown/red and aracunas for the blue and greens, as well as my orpington eggs light brown/tan...

    i found a company that sells clear plastic egg cartons, what a better way to show off these eggs....
    planning on not 2005 but 2006, making at least as much as i did in wisconsin
     
  6. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

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    Don't know what the deal is in ILL, but in VT each county has an "Economic Development Corp." These offices are funded through a combination of state grants, private donation, membership dues, and the interest they earn placing low interest loans to start up firms.

    They have (drum roll please) budgets. And sponsors. People who will not only pay you to put together a lecture or symposium... but will help you find the space, and advertise it.

    You might have a similar organization in your area. Here these people are charged with "mantainining and supporting a vibrant business community." Nothing about how large the business has to be to secure support... and a bunch of small producers in a farmer's market is as important (to those households) as a retail store, tourist attraction, or small manufacturer.

    So... they pay me to teach farmers and small businesses about break even points and low cost branding solutions.
     
  7. 3girls

    3girls Well-Known Member

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    Jena, I have so admired your git up n' go attitude about your meat business. You are making a real success in a number of areas, not least of which is something a woman can do. I'm not sure what, if any, help you have on the growing end, but you have certainly made a market for yourself and your goods.

    Frankly, I see a conference happening, or a winter speech circuit. A group in WA state had an early March conference in Seattle that had many classes, usually 1/2 day in length, or several strung together. They ranged from growing to marketing to Farmer's Market issues. Many were taught by successful farmers, some by the Extension people, etc. One year, there were a few flower growers, followed by one of their customers, a high-end florist telling how she buys, what she looks for, etc. We attendees picked out the classes that most suited our needs. There were also several all inclusive speeches about general subjects such as new regulations, pending legislation, building soil, etc. There was a book room with freebies, booklets, videos, and books for sale. Eric Gibson ran it one year and may still. One class I remember attending was put on by a grocery chain's display manager. He had good and bad examples and took us thru Pike Place Market for "live" illustrations.

    I would guess that other states have similar gatherings. I would think in a "long" state such as IL that two could be supported for the north as well as south ends of the state. From the liveliness of your postings, I think you would be very good on the speaking circuit. I would have loved hearing about your operation in Seattle, and I knew several others that would have also. A big set of slides or the computer equivalent, a big smile, and a willingness to share would go a long way. These conferences are desperate for speakers and are almost all held in winter months.

    I also see a book here. If you will write the book about how you got started, a little history about getting to the land, how you were raised (farm? city?) why you wanted to live on the land, etc. (people want to know a little about you and your family). Then how you arrived at then grew your business, lessons you learned, a little on how to raise each animal, some about your marketing, why growing "clean" and on a small family farm is preferable to all and a final chapter on where you hope to go with your business. You sell your books while you are on the speakers circuit. A visit to Lynn Byzynski of Growing for Market would probably be quite useful. (www.growingformarket.com)

    I would not fear local competition. In the first place, it takes some time and money to get started, while you already have a reputation. By the time someone else with less git up n' go would finally be in business, you will have more good reputation, as well as a long waiting list. There is plenty of business to go around for quality, integrity, and pure food. If your system works in your small town, why wouldn't it work in other small towns? I sure wish you lived here--you'd have all our meat business.

    Great to hear about your truck sign. I'm glad you had a sign pro do it. It is one more thing that sets you apart from the crooked sign in the front yard. I remember a discussion on your business cards, but not how it was resolved. I would have relatively simple cards made, make a brochure with farm photos included with more complete info. Expensive, relatively speaking, but well worth it. Have framed farm photos (please do NOT give the names of the animals!!) around your truck, perhaps on sandwich boards. Have a banner made that will be identified with your business, so that people can check, while in a car driving by, if you are there.

    Go for it!!

    Sandi
     
  8. Taylor

    Taylor Well-Known Member

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    Been to a few of that kind of conference. Went to one session where the presenters were a couple who ran a "CSA" over around Cincinnati. They supposedly sold tons of fruits and veggies, etc. to the public, avoiding the middleman. Except I could not for the life of me imagine buying FOOD from two such greasy-looking, sloppily dressed characters. They didn't even look remotely clean. They give those of us who make sure to scrape the manure off our boots a bad name. I think they were selling hype, just to get the presenter's fee. Wasted time for us audience folks. But another session by Judy Schad (s. Indiana goat-cheese maven) was very good and she is an excellent businesswoman, so she was very informative about the realities of getting where she is today.
    By the way, Farmer's Market?? Terre Haute??? Would like to know more. That's not very far from us. Our neighbors drive their farmstead cheese over to Indy & Bloomington each week to markets; there hasn't been much opportunity of that sort around here. Can you tell more about your plans, it sounds interesting. We just produce wool, lamb, and various eggs, - would love to hear what you are putting together. The direct sales market is such a good way to build repeat, loyal customers, besides the added perk of educating people about farming and about food. Best of luck with this endeavor. :)
     
  9. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Jena, There's a farmers Mkt in Lafayette In every Sat during the summer. I'm not sure about winter. They mostly dealt in garden produce. My son sold there for a couple years. The group had rules that said everything you sold had to be produced by you. They weren't organic, but strived to follow the organic guidelines.
    They got great prices for their stuff, and yes presentation of your product sells it.
    If you need to know more, I can check on it for you.
     
  10. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I have to agree with the suggestion that you do it yourself. Be the speaker, I mean. I'm sure a civic group in your area would be willing to sponsor a seminar, especially if it cost them little or nothing to do it. If you could arrange to make a day of it and bring in two other "speakers". A modest fee could be charged, and see to it that everybody ends up learning something. Once you have done a couple of these you will become more professional in your presentations and be able to go to larger venues. They will even pay you (remember, fifty miles from home and a briefcase makes you an expert). Since you decide when and where you speak, you get to arrange your speaking schedule around your farm schedule, as well as attend "conferences" that have subjects you would be interested in as a consumer. I know in my area people would welcome you and treat you very nicely.

    I know what you mean about wasting the day. I hate spending the time at something like that and leave feeling that I could have taught the class myself.