Buy Local Campaigns
Cooperative Marketing | Buy-Local Campaigns
|Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaigns sponsored by Food Routes (www.foodroutes.org) boost sales of local products across the United States.|
Public campaigns can engage consumers and promote purchases from farmers and ranchers. In 2003, California vegetable grower MaryAnn Vasconcellos approached the Central Coast Resource Conservation & Development Council (RC&D) with the idea of launching a campaign informing consumers why and where to buy local. Vasconcellos, who had spoken with many area growers while conducting workshops for the nonprofit Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), reported that many were asking how they might better market their products.
To Vasconcellos, the time seemed right to approach California consumers with messages about how they could convert a growing interest in food to supporting local farmers. If consumers were willing to pay for open spaces by supporting local producers, why not help connect growers and consumers by branding their food, fiber and flowers as local?
With a farmer/rancher grant from SARE, Vasconcellos and the Central Coast RC&D designed and launched a Website, designed a “buy local” label and created a marketing structure that farmers could see working. The “Buy Fresh Buy Local” campaign was designed to reflect the wide array of products and the diversity of their operations, which included u-pick, farm stands and markets and such varied goods as alpaca fleeces, grass-fed beef and lamb, as well as fruit and vegetables.
“Buy local” campaigns are underway in many parts of the country. Nationally, the FoodRoutes Network offers low-cost and customized publicity materials to help you or your group start a “buy local” campaign.
In remote rural areas, farmers banding together have strengthened market development. Ten farmers markets representing 150 small farms in western North Carolina joined forces to form the Mountain Tailgate Market Association (MTMA), bringing the power of a group behind promotion and performance. The term tailgate market, in fact, may be unique to the rural South, referring to lots and school yards where farmers drop their tailgates to reveal fresh-picked bounty. Since tailgate markets lean toward a show-up and set-up style, the small venues can be challenging to promote for farmers, many of whom have limited resources, as well as their small rural communities.
A SARE grant provided the resources to develop a logo for the association, conduct a multi-media promotional campaign, survey shoppers and vendors at all 10 markets, and conduct a workshop for the vendors. According to project leader Charlie Jackson, a farmer who is also on staff of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, the SARE activities resulted in heightened visibility of the markets, brought many new customers, provided a strong base of information on customer and vendor perceptions of the markets and strengthened the cohesiveness of the group.
Surveys were particularly valuable, considering that about 1,600 customers and 60 vendors responded. The rapid feedback guided future promotional decisions. For example, the surveys indicated that most new customers found the markets through word of mouth, so the vendors capitalized on that by asking customers to bring a friend on a particular market day designated as Summer Celebration. That day was the season’s high point for traffic and sales.
“It’s inspiring to see a group of farmers sitting down and planning together,” Jackson says. “Group promotion is a major benefit of the association.” That cooperation has led to plans for a 100-vendor market in Asheville, N.C.