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Communicating the Message of Local Agriculture

Communicating the Message of Local Agriculture

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The Big Picture: Communicating the Message of Local Agriculture

 Kathy Smith, marketing director of The Farmer’s Cow, and Amanda Freund of BuyCTGrown, share advice on communicating the message of local agriculture.


BuyCTGrown  is campaign to enlist business and institutions to pledge to buy 10% locally grown products to support Connecticut food, farmers and businesses.

The Farmer’s Cow is a group of six Connecticut family dairy farms working for the future of our families and dairy businesses. Together, they produce milk, half and half, eggs, coffee, cider, summer beverages, ice cream sandwiches and ice cream.

A List of Must-Haves

Have an online presence: While it’s difficult for many farmers to maintain an active website, they can connect with other organizations such as BuyCTGrown, which has  an active website. Farmers can submit profiles stories and videos, and list an event. Establishing a Facebook page is easy, effective and critical; link it to a Twitter account.

Cross pollinate: By becoming a promotional partner with you can use their logo on your website, at your farm stand, or at your CSA to further promote locally grown and add value to your product.

Tell Your Story:  Farm profiles are especially popular with consumers; they are extremely curious about who their farmers are an what they do. Create a compelling brochure, or an online story or blog, that chronicles your farm. People are interested what your do. Being a farmer to some people is like running away with the circus. Share that excitement. Enlist someone to get your story out.

Photos, Photos, Photos: A picture is worth a thousand words. Great photos are the holy grail, and they shared the most on social media.

But even photos of everyday farm activities posted on Facebook page are likely to be shared, thus building your audience of potential customers. The most popular posts shared are: good looking farmers (!!), baby animals and tractors, tractors, tractors.

Invite People, or Partner on a Farm Tour: Partner with a local 4-H group to be part of a farm tour and invite people out to your farm to educate them about agriculture.

Demo Your Products: Bring your products or produce to stores and to consumers and demonstrate how to prepare them, and give out samples. Pick an underserved vegetable like Kohlrabi and showcase how it can be prepared.

•Adopt a Chef: Invite a restaurant chef and his staff to visit the farm; it gives them an emotional connection to the food.

Branding: Develop a logo or image for your farm that says what and who you are. This may be one area where the cost of hiring a graphic designer may be worthwhile.

Be the Face of the Farmer:  Be an advocate in your community for all agriculture. Be knowledgable about other farms and what they offer. Be an expert in your field or specialty.

Value-added branding: Be the farmer who can provide consumers information on how to plant, how to make butter out of cream, and other useful information.

Push the Message: 98 per cent of the eggs that consumers eat are from factory farms so push the message that local eggs are better by providing interesting backup data. Have a blog about your product and why they are better and why they might cost more using statistics.

Develop a Cooperative: Meet with other farmers in the community to share ideas and net venture by sharing equipment and resources.

Celebrate Agriculture: Partner with an agricultural commission or park and recreation commission to sponsor an event such as Harvest Day or Heritage Day that includes activities  centered around locally grown food and agriculture legacy.



Growing your Business

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Marketing locally grown from Connecticut’s Young Farmer of the Year


Stacia Monahan, a Shelton farmer, who operates Stone Gardens Farm  along with her husband, Fred, was recently named Connecticut’s Outstanding Young Farmer of 2014. based on her achievements in agricultural enterprise, conservation practices and involvement with the community,

The family-operated Stone Gardens Farm, one of Fairfield County’s largest vegetable growers, also sells farm-raised chicken, turkey beef and pork.

Stacia began farming 16 years ago planting vegetables on a two-acre lot and  selling them on a farm stand. The operation since has expanded to 50 acres, including a greenhouse and a year-round CSA.

Stacia’s Marketing Tips:

•Email a weekly newsletter to customers telling them what available at the farm and provide useful information: recipes, how to clean and prepare produce, nutritional tips, history and fun facts.

•Hire a knowledgable staff: train them, and hope that they love what they do as representatives of your farm.

•Offer field trips to schools and organizations to help spread the word and market your business to new customers.

•Partner with local chef and restaurants to offer educational and cooking workshops using locally-grown food.

•Profile a vegetable of the month through social media and explain how to cook and prepare it.

•Package and label value-added products that can be sold during winter months to keep your brand name visible

•Chat it up at the local Farmer’s Market. This is an opportunity to share the story of your farm, and to build a loyal customer base.

•Sell your product in a variety of outlets: CSAs, farmer’s markets, on-site greenhouse, restaurants, specialty shops.

•Capitalize on the local foods movement by educating consumers on your products and by mentoring new farmers

• Connect with your customers. “This will be our 7th year providing a CSA  for our customers and its the best way to connect the actual grower with the people consuming the product,” said Stacia.


More about Outstanding Young Farmers:

  The purpose of the Outstanding Young Farmers program is to bring about a greater interest in the farmer to foster better urban-rural relations through the understanding of the farmers endeavors, to develop a further appreciation for their contributions and achievements, and to inform the agribusiness community of the growing urban awareness of the farmers importance and impact on Americas economy, according the organizations website.

The state winner will be invited to compete nationally in the National Outstanding Young Farmers Program, which is sponsored nationally by John Deere.

The last 4 Connecticut winners, Jamie Jones of Jones Family Farm in Shelton, Russell Holmberg of Holmberg Orchards in Gales Ferry, Matt Peckham of Elm Farm in Woodstock, and Joe Geremia of Wallingford, have been national Top 10 finalists.


For more information:



CT Farming: Past and Future feat. Kip Kolesinskas

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Kip Kolesinskas, Consulting Conservation Scientist, talks about CT Farming: Past and Future


Despite being the fourth most densely populated states in the country, Connecticut is well suited for agriculture.

 •Agriculture in Connecticut has always been diversified and innovative.  The state was famous for growing red onions, for growing tobacco, and at one point the state raised more sheep than any other northeast state.  We were the first commercial fruit growers, the first to plant corn hybrids, the first to establish an agricultural society and the first to create an extension service.

•How we planted: Seventy-five per cent of the land in Connecticut was cleared for farming and pasturing by the 1800s. By 2007, it was down to 2 million acres. Today, the state has 284,100 acres in cropland and pasture, almost as much as Vermont. Thirty-nine per cent of that is forested; 34 percent is agricultural fields and grass; 22 percent is developed with small farms within developments.

•Farmland is more than soil: It supports agricultural products, local economies, sustainability, habitat, biodiversity, flood storage and protection, scenic beauty, cultural resources and quality of life. Twenty-eight percent of the northeast’s food producer are beginner farmers; 14 percent of the nation’s food is generated in the Northeast. 

•Complex soil landscape: Some of the state’s best soils are in flood plain areas. Our diversified climate is also good for growing different types of crops, this combination of soils and climates make our agriculture special and gives our food  “terroir” – the flavor of the region. 

  • Recent Climate Changes: Warmer temperatures mean changes in plant hardiness, along with a longer growing season and more precipitation. All good indicators for Connecticut farmers.
  • New England Production Capacity: Less than 10 percent of our fruits and veggies are produced here; and barely 50 per cent of milk and cheese. We can do better.
  • We’re at the heart of the marketplace:  Within 2 hours of Connecticut is New York and Boston. Local food is a trend, not a fad. The state is well positioned for this because historically our agriculture land has been expected to do so much beyond just growing one crop.
  • The state’s farmers will excel: By using innovations, understanding the market for local foods, and using the support systems like those listed below:

                     CT Dept of Agriculture, Governor, Legislature, CT  Congressional Delegation
                     CT Ag Experiment Station
                     UConn, UMASS, URI, UVM, UNH, Cornell, Yale
                     Agriscience programs, magnet/charter schools
                     USDA NRCS, FSA, RD as partners
                     S&W Conservation Districts, Eastern CT RC&D
                     Ag organizations, CTFB, CTNOFA, NEW CT Farmers Alliance
                     Land Trusts, National and State Conservation organizations
                     Ag Commissions, some municipal officials
                     Growing public interest and support



Farm Hubs

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Whats a Food Hub?

The USDA defines a hub as a “centrally located facility with a business management structure facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and/or marketing of locally/regionally produced food products.”

So how does that help farmers?

– Opportunities and Benefits
– Can our area support a food hub?
– Nuts and Bolts: how to get started


More income:  For small to mid-sized farmers, hubs offer an economic way to create value-added products such as processed apple sauce and tomato sauce, and speciality and organic products. It creates consistent income from the sale of reliable supplies of locally- produced foods. Franklin County Agriculture Development Corp. in western Massachusetts was one of the  first regional hubs to partner with school systems selling local frozen vegetables year round.

Training: Hubs can double as training sites where farmers can learn about new technology, food processing, marketing strategies, and business management practices.

Promotes Individual Farms: Hubs build education and awareness in the community about supporting local farms by creating a visual presence.

Promotes buying local: A central location for processing and an established drop-off point and pick-up point makes it convenient to buy local more often.

Boosts the Economy: Hubs create jobs and promote tourism by branding the town or municipality as the regional “go-to place” for local agricultural products. Read “The Town That Food Saved,” a book that chronicles how the town of Hardwick, VT transformed itself by capitalizing on its agriculture. Hartford’s Regional Market, which is being renovated and expanded, is a self-sustaining a 32-acre state-owned and operated facility that produces meat, milk, cheese and dry goods and employs 500 people with 68 farmers in a year-round market.

Holistic benefits:  A community can get much more from a food hub than food and employment.  Beside providing superior nutrition, a food hub  It can be a place for the community to coalesce. A place of education. A place where families can learn about where their food comes from. A place where families can community compost and garden.

Can We Support a Food Hub: Determining Factors

Location, Location, Location:  Regional hubs market to a larger metropolitan area as well as small communities. For example, the Hartford hub services the Hartford region and beyond, and located near I-84 and I-91.

Got Product?: Determine how many regional farmers would contribute or

benefit from a hub.  Have clear sense of the consistent volume of products they produce. Is there enough to support a year-round hub?

Accessibility:  Is the site easy for regional farmers, distributors and customers to reach?

Sites: What structures are already available with kitchen and freezing facilities?  A food hub doesn’t have to be large, but it needs adequate parking for drop off; a loading dock; and other considerations. What will planning and zoning allow?


Nuts and Bolts: The Hard Stuff

Partner, Partner Partner: Establishing a hub often requires partnering with several organizations including economic development and conservation commissions, and other non-profit agencies whose missions will benefit from the involvement. The East Haddam Center for Community Agriculture is a 12-acre site on conserved land that is evolving into a multi-use community resource center. For more:!visit_us/cl4l

Build it and they will come: Or, revitalize an existing structure into a hub. Or, determine whether the region or town has available land it is looking to conserve as agriculture.CLICK, a non-profit in Willimantic, solicits state and local funding in renovating a 1,000-square-foot building into a sustainable food system.

Show Me the Money: Farming is growing by leaps and bounds in the CT, and there are various grant opportunities to keep the momentum. Grants are available to municipalities seeking to improve farmers markets, which can be a viable piece of a food hub. Towns often have financial incentives for projects that stimulate local economy.

Seek Anchor Businesses: Many regional hub gain financial support through tenants by renting warehouse or processing space.  Franklin County’s hub has a local cheese and pickle producer as tenants.

It Takes a Village: Create synergies by identifying key leaders from various parts of the region who are passionate about local food and enlist them in a collaborative effort. For state input contact:



New York Times on Preserving Farmland

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