Phone : 530.458.5131     Email : info@colusarcd.org

Colusa County Grown Farmer’s Market Promotion Grant

Project Info

Project Description

Farmers Market Promotion Program 

2011-2013

Final Performance Report

 

Date: October 31, 2013
Recipient Name: Colusa County Resource Conservation District
Project Title: Colusa County Grown
Grant Number: 12-25-G-1312
Project Location: Colusa, California
Amount Awarded: $ 56,003
Contact: Mary Fahey / 530.458.2931 X117 / mary.fahey@ca.nacdnet.net

 

Goals & Objectives

Funding was necessary to increase awareness of access to, and benefits of, local, healthy food. Agriculture is the main economic driver in Colusa County, yet access to locally grown products was limited due to lack of community awareness and lack of local marketing resources for producers. The Colusa County Farm Bureau acknowledged that there was a large disconnect between producers and consumers in the county. Language barriers and a lack of consumer knowledge played significant roles in creating this condition. Local grocery stores in the county are spread thin and generally do not carry or showcase local products. The majority of Colusa County residents travel long distances to do their shopping. Colusa County producers were losing out on income opportunities and consumers were spending money and time on travel, and coming home with aged food products that were produced out of the area, perhaps even out of the country. These products lack the nutritional quality and flavor of local foods. The goals of the Colusa County Grown project were to support and market our local agriculture, and to educate consumers on where they can purchase local agricultural products and the benefits of eating fresh, local food and supporting local farms. Through the execution of the Colusa County Grown project, we expected to see an increase in vendor and consumer participation at the two county Certified Farmers Markets by: vendors-50% and consumers-150%, an increase in sales at individual direct-to-consumer operations by 20%, and increased consumer knowledge of the health benefits of eating local healthy food by 60%. Our strategy was to develop a marketing campaign and blanket the county with information about Colusa County Grown agricultural products. The Marketing campaign included development of a logo, printed materials, advertising, a website, and a 24-page Local Farm & Food Guide. Consumer education and outreach at local events was also part of our strategy.

Activities

  1. Advertising and Outreach to Stakeholders
  2. A stakeholder meeting was held in March, 2012 to introduce the program. Articles were written and published in local publications. Social media and email were utilized to publicize the Colusa County Grown project. The CCRCD newsletter and website regularly featured Colusa County Grown updates. Presentations were made to local community groups and email was utilized to outreach to producers. Partners helped with our outreach efforts by including Colusa County Grown in their e-blasts and newsletters. The Colusa County Department of Agriculture featured Colusa County Grown on the cover of the 2012 Crop Report, and also included an article on Colusa County Grown in the report.
  3. Website Development and Maintenance
  4. The Colusa County Grown website (http://www.colusacountygrown.org) was developed and regularly maintained throughout the project. We also set up a Colusa County Grown listing on the Local Harvest website in October, 2012 as a means to give the program even more internet exposure.
  5. Develop, design and print promotional materials
  6. The Colusa County Grown logo, theme and verbiage were developed with stakeholder input. The following promotional materials were designed, printed and distributed throughout the county: yard signs, road signs, 24-page Colusa County Grown Farm & Food Guide, tote bags, posters, flyers, postcards, bumper stickers, labels, recipe cards and nutrition cards. Due to a high number of Spanish speakers in our community we enlisted volunteers to translate our flyer and “The Top 10 Reasons to Eat Fruits and Vegetables” into Spanish to include in our promotional materials.
  7. Distribute/install promotional materials
  8. All promotional materials were distributed through local businesses, post offices, at our two Certified Farmers Markets, Colusa County Fair, California State Fair, Colusa County Ag In The Classroom Seminar, May Surprise, Colusa County Farm Bureau and other local venues. A Colusa County Grown flyer, printed in both English and Spanish, was inserted in the Colusa Sun Herald newspaper in the beginning phase of the project. The Local Farm & Food Guide was inserted in The Colusa Sun Herald and the Williams Pioneer Review (WPR), Colusa County’s two local newspapers. Six ads were placed in the Colusa Sun Herald advertising our two local Certified Farmers Markets. One ad for our website and Local Farm & Food Guide was placed in the Colusa Sun Herald and one similar ad was placed in the WPR.
  9. Promote CCG at local events
  10. The Colusa County Grown promotional booth was displayed and tens of thousands of people were exposed to our Colusa County Grown displays and several thousand people received copies of our promotional materials during these events;
  • February, 2013: Colusa Farm Show
  • May 4, 2013: Colusa County Garden Club’s “May Surprise” event
  • June – September, 2013: Colusa County booth was displayed regularly at the Arbuckle and Colusa Certified Farmers Markets
  • June, 2013: Colusa County Grown was a feature booth at the Colusa County Fair
  • June & July, 2013: Colusa County Grown was the theme for the Colusa County exhibit at the 2013 California State Fair
  • October 5, 2013: The Arbuckle Pumpkin Festival
  1. Recruit New Growers & Provide Marketing Assistance 
  2. A workshop called “Small Farm Marketing and Business Essentials” was facilitated on March 7, 2013. We continued our outreach efforts to recruit new growers via email blasts, articles, advertising, and featuring Colusa County Grown at local events throughout the project. At the end of the project we had 29 participating growers. This is a very good number as the majority of farms in Colusa County are large and do not sell direct-to-consumer.
  3. Sustainability Action Plan
  4. A Sustainability Action Plan was completed (attached). One grant proposal was written to sustain the project for a year and producers were polled as to their willingness to either volunteer time to dedicate to the program or pay yearly fees to keep the program going.
  5. Analyze project effectiveness 
  6.  
  7. Consumer, Producer and Farmers Market surveys were utilized to analyze project effectiveness. Surveys were distributed at the beginning phase of the project and towards the end of the project to analyze changes over the project period. We also utilized qualitative means, such as observation and personal conversations, to gage project effectiveness.

Accomplishments

  • Stages 1, Advertising and Outreach to recruit growers: Small farms were not organized in the county and 0 producers were signed on at the beginning of the project. 29 producers were signed on to the program by the end of the project period.
  • Stage 2, Develop, design & print promotional materials: 0 Marketing materials for small farms in the county had been developed prior to project implementation. 28,729 Marketing materials were printed during this project: (2 wooden signs, 5,000 flyers, 50 posters, 10,000 postcards, 2 banners, 25 yard signs, 50 bumper stickers, 1000 logo labels, 600 reusable tote bags, 5000 recipe cards, 7000 Farm & Food Guides)
  • Stage 2 Website development & Stages 3 & 4 website maintenance: Colusa County did not have a website dedicated to local agriculture prior to project implementation. The Colusa County Grown website was developed, launched and regularly updated during the project period. The website has received an average of 71 hits per month over the last ten months of the project.
  • Stage 3, Distribute/install promotional materials: More than 15,000 marketing materials were distributed throughout the county, and will continue to be distributed by local businesses. (2 Wooden signs, 2500 flyers, 50 posters, 700 stickers, 35 Bumper Stickers, 2300 Nutrition Cards, 2300 Recipe Cards, 2700 postcards, 600 tote bags, 19 yard signs and 5,125 Farm & Food Directories).
  • Stage 3, Promote Colusa County Grown:
    • 5 formal Colusa County Grown presentations were given by the Project Manager (Colusa County Rotary Club, Colusa County Garden Club, Colusa County Farm Bureau, Small Farm Marketing and Business Workshop, Colusa County Ag Seminar)
    • Colusa County Grown was promoted at 20 community events (14 Farmers Markets (Arbuckle & Colusa), May Surprise, Farm Show, Farm Bureau Dinner, California State Fair, Colusa County Fair, Arbuckle Pumpkin Festival)
  • Stage 3, Recruit new growers and Provide Marketing Assistance: 1 grower workshop was facilitated, titled Small Farm Marketing and Business Development. 30+ stakeholders attended.
  • Stage 4, EBT Needs Assessment: Prior to project implementation, there were no EBT machines available at our 2 county farmers markets. 1 EBT Needs Assessment was completed and it was determined that it would be difficult to facilitate use of EBT machines at our markets.
  • Stage 4, Sustainability:
    • 1 Sustainability Action Plan was completed
    • 1 grant was written that would have helped to sustain the project for a year (the proposal was not awarded funding). We continue to seek means to sustain the project.
  • Stage 4, Analyze project effectiveness:
    • 72.7% or producers surveyed said that their sales increased over the past year.
    • Six new direct-to-consumer ventures launched during this project period, including: Jeffreys Ranch Pecans, Charter Family Olive Oil, Rosita Ranch CSA, Ben’s Grass Fed Beef, Organic Roots Olive Oil and California Crawfish Company. These new ventures were not necessarily the result of the Colusa County Grown program, but all of them have participated enthusiastically in the program and they have found Colusa County Grown to be a valuable support system for their start-ups.
    • 87.9% of consumers surveyed said that the Colusa County Grown program increased their awareness of choosing locally grown agricultural products.
    • We realized a 47% increase in vendor participation at the Arbuckle Certified Farmers Market this year, including the first two Hispanic vendors and first Hmong vendor (from past average of 8 vendors to an average of 15 vendors this year).
    • According to our survey results, 72.7% of our participating producers saw an increase in sales over the last year, 18.2% stayed the same and 9.1% saw a decrease.
    • Consumer participation in our local Farmers Markets increased. We anticipated an increase of 150%. Increased consumer participation was significant (approximately 125% increase) at the Arbuckle Market, where the Market was more crowded and many new consumers attended, overall sales were better, and the Market’s food vendor increased dinner sales from an average 50 dinners per Market to an average 65+ dinners per Market.
    • As stated above, we anticipated an increase in consumer participation at our local farmers markets of 150%. We saw a 42% increase in vendor participation at the Colusa Certified Farmers Market (from past average of 7 vendors to 12 vendors this year).  
  • Stage 4, Analyze project effectiveness:

Producer opinions about the program

  • 72.7% felt the program was successful, 27.3% were not sure, 0% found it unsuccessful
  • 72.7% increased sales, 9.1% decreased sales, 18.2% stayed the same
  • 27.3% tried new sales opportunities, 72.7% did not
  • 90.9% planning to expand business, 9.1% planning to keep business the same size
  • 54.5% would be willing to pay a minimal fee to keep the project going, 9.1% would not, 36.4% were not sure
  • 50% would volunteer time to the program, 20% would not and 30% might

Consumer attitudes

  • By the end of the project, 91.7% of respondents were familiar with the Colusa County Grown program while 8.3% were not.
  • By the end of the project, 87.9% of respondents said that the Colusa County Grown program increased their awareness of choosing locally grown products, while 12.1% said it did not.

Beneficiaries

  • Producers
    1. Small and medium sized producers – 29 local producers benefitted from increased exposure to their products, increased sales and profit, increased marketing knowledge and opportunities to expand their business. Producers were also connected to other producers, given an opportunity to direct market their products and perhaps start up a new farm-based business.
    2. Small acreage landowners More than 30 people benefitted from the Small Farm Marketing and Business Workshop by being exposed to new ideas for utilizing their acreage for agricultural production, realizing that there are opportunities to direct market specialty products.
  • Consumers
    1. Community members – more than 5,000 people gained increased knowledge of the benefits of eating local, healthy food by receiving our Farm & Food Guide. Unknown numbers benefitted through greater access to local food resulting from new awareness of local outlets.
    2. Local Spanish-speaking population benefitted from greater access to local food and nutrition information, and new vendor opportunities.
  • Colusa County
    1. The communities of Arbuckle and Colusa (Populations 2,000+ & 5900+, respectively) benefitted from the activities of larger and more vibrant farmers markets in town.
    2. Colusa County (population 21,000+) benefitted by the formation of the Colusa County Grown Food Council, which partnered with Colusa County Grown to foster healthy lifestyles and community pride and involvement.
  • Farmer Markets
    1. The Arbuckle Certified Farmers Market benefitted from increased exposure and advertising, increased vendor participation and increased community support.
    2. Colusa Certified Farmers Market programs benefitted from increased exposure and advertising, increased vendor participation and increased community support.
  • The Colusa County Resource Conservation District benefitted through recognition and pride in facilitating a successful campaign that had a positive impact on communities, preservation of agriculture and wise use of natural resources. They also benefitted from new and strengthened partnerships with county agencies, organizations and stakeholders.

Lessons Learned

If we could do it again, we would figure out a better way to measure results via surveys. The surveys were still important, but it was difficult to get people to participate. Perhaps offering an incentive would help, or dedicating more funding for time in the grant proposal to developing and implementing surveys. Another idea would be to hire a professional.

We would definitely make the Farm & Food Guide a priority as it was extremely informative and extremely popular throughout the county.

We would have cut down on the number of flyers and postcards printed and put those resources into the Farm & Food Guide.

    1. The only strategy that did not work as well as expected was that we were not able to collect as many surveys as anticipated. We anticipated gathering 200 consumer surveys and were only to gather half that amount. It was difficult to get people to take the time to participate in the surveys, even after efforts were made to make the surveys easily accessible online and to make them short and to-the-point. We do feel confident, however, that we were able to gather enough information to adequately evaluate the program. We received a lot of verbal feedback, which helped to supplement the surveys. This gave us a mix of quantitative and qualitative feedback and we feel that the information gathered is representative of the local population as a whole.
    2. The Colusa County Grown Farm & Food Guide was extremely popular throughout the county. Prior to project implementation, no such publication existed in our county, but similar publications were available in surrounding counties. A few people who have lived in the county their entire lives told the Project Manager that they loved the Guide because it made the county “look really good!” Many businesses and County agencies requested multiple guides for distribution from their offices/businesses. We will make it a priority to find a way to print future editions of the Colusa County Grown Farm & Food Guide. This has proven to be a valuable community publication, and by far our most successful outreach material.
    3. The Small Farm Marketing and Business Workshop was a great success. We were able to find very knowledgeable and informative speakers who all provided valuable information that was relevant to producers and landowners with varying amounts of experience and interests. The day-long workshop was attended by more than 30 people, which is an excellent turnout in our very small community. Feedback on the workshop was remarkably positive.
  • The project as a whole was very successful at bringing producers, consumers, businesses, local organizations and county departments together. It was a wonderful community-building program. The program was very well received by growers, consumers, the local health and human services department, the Farm Bureau, many local businesses and others. This was demonstrated by verbal feedback and through a willingness from these stakeholders to help distribute materials. The Colusa County Resource Conservation District gained recognition and new partnerships throughout the program.

 

When we started the Colusa County Grown program, there was no cohesive program or information in Colusa County that focused on farms that sell their products directly to the consumer. We had one Certified Farmers Market and one non-certified Farmers Market in the County. There were a couple of seasonal farm stands and one CSA. It was common that local consumers were unaware of the existence of Farmers Markets in the County. There was an even greater lack of general knowledge about where locally grown farm products could be purchased. The Colusa County Resource Conservation District received a Farmers Market Promotion Program grant to shift these trends towards greater consumer awareness of our local agriculture and the importance of shopping locally for farm products. We utilized strategic marketing and branding of Colusa County-grown products in tandem with a consumer education campaign to provide a link between the producer and the consumer and create increased consumption of local food. Based on community feedback, a noticeable increase in support for local agriculture, and expanding Farmers Markets over the past year, we believe this project has been a great success. Both of our local Farmers Markets are now certified and we realized a 47% increase in vendor participation at the Arbuckle Certified Farmers Market and a 42% increase in vendor participation at the Colusa Certified Farmers Market. Consumer participation in our local Farmers Markets also increased, especially at the Arbuckle Market where we saw a 125% increase. We saw six new direct-to-consumer ventures spring up during this project period. According to survey results, 72.7% of our producers felt that the program was successful, 27.3% were not sure, and 0% found it unsuccessful. The majority of costs for the program went to staff salary for outreach and educational endeavors as well as developing the marketing campaign and materials, and to print costs for our marketing materials.

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