CISA enhances marketing skills of farmers

Feb 12 2014
Published by under Community Resources
Farmers in our region connect to an enthusiastic consumer base using a wide variety of tools – websites, Facebook, newsletters, and interaction at farmers’ markets, farm stands, and CSA distributions. They also use Be a Local Hero, Buy Locally Grown®, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)’s successful buy-local campaign.

Investing in marketing is important, but learning about successful marketing strategies, and finding the time to implement them, isn’t easy for everyone. When farmers need help making marketing and communication plans, using social media tools, or planning events, CISA provides information, feedback and connections, including workshops, promotional materials, and consulting, such as arranging and at times paying for meetings between local farmers and designers.

“I needed an identity,” says farmer Maria Topitzer of Lyonsville Farm, about her work with a graphic designer to develop a logo for her business. “I’m a woman farmer, and I wanted to convey that.” She turned to CISA for help and they connected her with a local designer and paid for the consultation. The beautiful new logo has made a big difference for Lyonsville Farm. “It’s amazing. Every week people at the Greenfield Farmers’ Market say ‘I love your logo.’ I’ve had people ask me if I have t-shirts.” In fact, Topitzer does plan to sell T-shirts and tote bags featuring the logo. As Topitzer points out, the digital format makes it easy for her to transfer the logo into multiple formats.

Staying competitive as a business also means having an attractive, usable website that keeps your customers engaged. As Liz L’Etoile at Four Star Farms explains, “As a business, it used to be you had to have a brick and mortar façade. Now you have to have a website for people to know you exist.” L’Etoile contacted Devon Whitney-Deal at CISA, who gave L’Etoile names of several local designers and paid for one hour of consultation. Like Topitzer, L’Etoile has been thrilled with the results. “The feedback is tremendous: ‘It’s so easy to use. It’s beautiful. It’s great to have updates.’” The website features recipes, a blog, and an easy way to order Four Star products. It is also great for tracking customer patterns and social media sharing, which in turn helps the L’Etoile family identify ways to improve their business.

Both farms are also members of CISA’s Be a Local Hero, Buy Locally Grown® program, which serves as a marketing and promotional campaign for all farmers in the Pioneer Valley. Business members receive promotional materials, listings in CISA’s print and on-line guides, and the benefit of CISA’s ongoing promotional efforts through radio, television, print, and social media. In addition, the program offers individual and group workshops, trainings, consultations, and marketing support in person, on-line, and on the phone. Enrollment is now open for 2014 and materials are available on CISA’swebsite.

Like all farmers, Topitzer and L’Etoile are multi-talented and able to handle many competing demands. Yet there is only so much one can do in a day, especially compared to businesses with entire departments devoted to marketing. “CISA’s educational programming has helped us better establish relationships with customers and market our business more effectively,” remarks L’Etoile. “Their work has been extremely important to farmers in western Massachusetts.”

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