The marketing model used in conventional agriculture is not easily applied to organic systems. Currently, local elevators that accept organic grains are not common, though they do exist in some areas. Farmers that transition to organic production must also transition their marketing strategies. Whether growing organic grains, herbs, fruits and vegetables, or raising organically certified livestock, marketing becomes an additional consideration. Producers who have always sold to local elevators will find that quality time will be needed to do a good job with marketing organic products.
That said, marketing organic crops and products can bring high premiums, and can provide farmers with a stable customer–base and market. Local marketing, in particular, allows farmers to avoid the vagaries and fluctuations of commodity markets. When the farmer can set product prices, he or she has more control over farm profits. Establishing personal connections with customers, another aspect of local marketing, can be both personally and financially rewarding.
Use the presentations, videos and online resources below to answer questions about increasing soil fertility using organic methods. Visit the Organic Resources page for more information.
Marketing to Restaurants
YouTube’s eOrganic channel includes several videos about organic farming. Topics such as weeds, machinery, and marketing are all addressed. This video, Marketing to Restaurants, focuses on Dave and Chris Colson, from New Leaf Farm in Durham, ME. It provides a sample of the 49–minute dvd, Farmers and their Diversified Horticultural Marketing Strategies, which can be purchased from University of Vermont Extension.
Organic Farming from the Isle of Man
This video is from the Organic Guide website. “Andrew Moore is an organic farmer from Balladoole on the Isle of Man. Concerned with the quality of food available, Andrew switched to organic farming several years ago. In this video he explains why he made the switch from conventional to organic farming, what the switch entailed for him, as well as the traditional seven year crop rotation cycle he now uses to maintain soil fertility. We’re also introduced to the beautiful Belted Galloways he rears on his farm.”
Growing Against the Grain
Growing Against the Grain chronicles farmers who are finding their own ways to success in farming, financial and otherwise. Gunder-friend Productions produced the videos. From the site: “Growing against the Grain is a 30–minute video about farmers in Audubon County, Iowa, who are working to build healthy food systems and farms, put the culture back in agriculture, and restore a lost spirit to their communities. They are doing this through sustainable farming practices and direct marketing their products to the consumer.
Shadow Brook Farms
“ShadowBrook Farm is a small, family owned specialty vegetable farm. We are committed to sustainable farming practices and are devoted to being good stewards of our land. We want to help move towards a ‘regional food system’ where food is sold directly to the consumer rather than traveling many miles to reach your plate.”
This presentation from Shadowbrook Farm outside of Lincoln, NE describes their marketing strategies.
Organic Marketing Basics
Robert D. Halman from Collier County UF/ IFAS Extension in Florida offers this presentation, Organic Marketing Basics, which includes all the basics that should be considered when planning and marketing organic products.
Marketing Organic Grains
ATTRA’s document library is an invaluable resource for organic farmers, both new and experienced. The document linked describes the ins and outs of marketing organic grains: “Organic grain marketing differs from conventional grain marketing in several key ways. Producers generally benefit from contracting a large portion of their acreage before planting the crop. Relationships with buyers should be cultivated early on and be maintained by meeting expectations consistently ... To achieve the best prices, growers need to understand and build relationships with buyers, find markets for most of the crops in the rotation, meet quality standards, be able to store the crop if necessary, and be able to contract most of their crop to reliable buyers.”
Marketing organic grains may require marketing strategies that are unfamiliar and require different thinking than those for more well–known organic products like vegetables. For example, it is impractical for a grain farmer to use a farmers’ market or a CSA operation. In this situation, grain can be contracted for market prior to planting time, and a relationship can be forged with grain traders. In Nebraska, there are several options for organic grain producers. Iowa State University Organic Agriculture website has a list of buyers for organic grains.