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Sustainable Agriculture: Programs

Where and How to Sell Locally

Picture of locally grown apples and vegetablesSome of the top reasons that consumers cite for buying local foods are freshness, the desire to support local farmers, and a concern for the environment. This demand can provide opportunities for many farmers. Farmers should think carefully about their operations and which opportunities might suit them best. Marketing takes time and resources although it can bring higher prices. You should also be aware of labeling and other regulatory restrictions that can apply to certain products, particularly meats, eggs and dairy (More info).

Smaller farms are frequently able to receive the highest return for their products through marketing directly to consumers. Marketing options that offer these higher retail prices include farmers markets, on-farm sales, and CSAs (More info). In farming regions with access to urban areas, sales to restaurants, grocery co-ops, health food boutiques and specialty grocery store chains also present opportunities for direct marketing. A good overview of direct marketing opportunities can be found in Marketing Strategies for Farmers and Ranchers.

 

Farmer's Markets

The number of farmer's markets in Georgia is increasing. Markets are typically open on Saturday morning and sometimes are open on a weekday evening. Farmer's markets provide an outlet for a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables when these are in season. Some markets also sell honey, crafts, or other items. You can locate a farmer's market near you through Market Maker.

 

Specialty Retailers

Both small and large farms frequently have questions about selling to specialty grocery store chains. The demand for organic products is rising rapidly as evidenced by large mainstream companies now looking for organic farm goods. Retailers are also promoting locally grown foods. Selling to retailers requires good agricultural and post-harvest handling practices to maintain food safety and quality (More info). Retailers may also want consistent packaging or quantities. An example of specialty retailer requirements can be found here (More info). This summary provides a good starting point for anyone considering selling local goods to wholesale markets.

 

The Internet and Farmer Cooperatives

The internet is increasingly being used as a marketing tool for local foods. The University of Georgia’s Center for Agribusiness helped develop the Market Maker website as a tool for farmers to market their products while also providing a venue for potential buyers to locate farm products (More info). Also, the Georgia Tourism Foundation is promoting it's new Georgia Made Georgia Grown website. This free website is is available to link sellers and buyers of Georgia made and/or Georgia grown products (more info).

Farmers are also beginning to pool their resources in creative ways by developing more effective marketing and distribution tools through the formation of local food cooperatives, as evidenced by several diverse examples of these efforts across the state. One of the most successful examples is Farm Fresh Tattnall, a cooperative of nine roadside and u-pick farms located in Southeast Georgia’s Vidalia Onion region.

Internet based farmer cooperatives in the Atlanta and Athens regions of north Georgia provide customers the opportunity to order farm products from multiple farms using an on-line ordering system. Farmer deliveries and customer pickups are coordinated at a central location so that customers can receive a diversity of foods. Click here for the websites for the cooperatives of which we are aware.

 

Distributors

As demand for local foods continues to increase several food distributors are serving as a link between producers and retail outlets as well as the growing number of institutional buyers such as universities and hospitals. Several of these distributors are beginning to develop specializations for coordinating local, sustainable and organic food sales. Although this is not direct marketing, it is providing an opportunity for Georgia growers. Click here for the websites for the distributors of which we are aware.

 

Institutional Buyers

Several institutions are starting programs to buy more local food. At the University of Georgia, the Savannah Room at the Continuing Education Center features Sustainable Fridays. One of the lunch menu items on Sustainable Fridays features locally grown foods. Lunch specials have included certified organic produce grown by students in the Organic Agriculture Certificate Program and other foods from Georgia producers. Information on how to become an approved vendor can be found here.

Emory University has lead an effort to provide more local food in their cafeterias. You can read about their sustainability initiative here. For more information on their criteria for purchasing click here.

 

Restaurants

Many restaurants are interested in local produce; however, selling to restaurants successfully requires consideration of several issues. Developing a working relationship with the chef depends upon developing a reputation for providing good quality products consistently. Marketing Produce Direct to Restaurants can give you tips on how to access this market successfully.