Research on Local Growers’ Associations Research on Local Growers' Associations The purpose of this research report is to give some background about the nature of the industry and the marketing needs of small farm growers involved in local growers’ associations. We have discovered that small farmers tend to market their produce wholesale or direct sell to restaurants and/or families who will be the end-users of the products; some farmers do both. Some small farmers engage in marketing activities on their own, which can range from placing ads on Craigslist to selling at local farmers’ markets. Some growers market their products directly to restaurants and wholesalers.1 From what we have learned after conducting research, we believe that the focus of the Texoma survey should be to discover the nature of the growers’ businesses, how they view their strengths and weaknesses (including barriers to selling in various markets), what marketing activities they already conduct and how valuable they see the Texoma Council of Governments (TCOG) to be to them as growers. We also want to discover how TCOG can better meet the growers’ needs as a liaison for marketing efforts. We learned about many local growers’ associations and their marketing programs for farmers and will highlight two here: The Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association’s Georgia Grown program and the Maine Department of Agriculture’s Get Real Get Maine! program.2 Georgia Grown is similar to the initiative of TCOG (even in name). Its stated goals include; advocacy for its members with government, member education and services to help reduce costs and marketing programs.3 Though we were not able to find any information about specific member surveys that Georgia Grown has conducted, the Texoma Grown team may be able to use information about this program to formulate survey questions as it sheds light on what a program of this nature might accomplish. Similarly, the Maine Department of Agriculture’s Get Real Get Maine! program works to promote the growers of both produce and dairy in Maine by holding agriculture fairs and providing market development and business 1
Organic farmers rely on new markets, innovation to aid profitability. Ken Levy. The Idaho Business Review. Boise:Jan 18, 2010. https://dbproxy.udallas.edu/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?did=1947318021&Fmt=3&clientId=27993&RQT=309&VName= PQD 2 Georgia Grown can be accessed at http://gfvga.org/georgia-grown/. Get Real Get Maine! is at http://www.getrealmaine.com/. 3 See Georgia Grown: Membership at http://gfvga.org/membership/.
Research on Local Growers’ Associations planning services (links to these programs on the MDA’s website were broken). 4 As mentioned previously, looking at sites from various local growers’ associations can provide insight into developing creative survey questions. We did find two articles reporting on actual surveys conducted to assess opinions of small growers. One was a 2002 study of growers in Tennessee which sought to understand the marketing behaviors of these small farms. It focused on determining where farmers primarily marketed their products and what barriers they experienced selling into different markets (like restaurants or wholesale). It asked about grower characteristics (the demographic information that we will gather as recommended by the sample questions in the Texoma Growers project information sheet), where the farmers sold their products, why they didn’t use other alternatives, and which fruits and vegetables they perceived to have the best marketing opportunities now and in the future. The study asked many questions about farmers’ opinions of how various industry conditions affected marketing of their products. The other article discussed a study by USDA regarding small-scale grower cooperatives in the Northeast.5 This study was very interesting in that it was very extensive, covering topics ranging from member characteristics and marketing activities to how useful they found their local cooperatives to be. Since it will be important for TCOG to find out how valuable it currently is to its members and how it could be more valuable in the future (and if members even want TCOG to play a larger role in their marketing efforts), using some of the sample questions provided in that section of this article could be helpful. The next step is for the Texoma Grown team to use the goals of the study and the efforts of similar organizations around the country to formulate study questions. Using sample study questions from the USDA Northeast growers study will also be useful, especially in finding out how much perceived benefit the growers receive from TCOG.
See Maine Department of Agriculture: About page at http://www.getrealmaine.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/home.showpage/pageID/7/index.htm. 5 “Small-Scale Grower Cooperatives in the Northeast United States.” United States Department of Agriculture. August 2006. http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/27138/1/35010057.pdf.