Farmer Marketing

Simple, inventive ways to increase the value of farm fresh products through direct marketing, internet marketing, and creativity.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

"Certified Organic" vs. The True Intent of Organic Produce

I first thought of just updating my last post on the benefits of organic produce, but my recent reading in the blogosphere has motivated me to elaborate further on what the term "certified organic" means versus the spirit of organic.

Certified Organic

The term "certified organic" was introduced by the government to regulate the growing market for produce grown without the use of artificial pesticides, herbicides, etc. This was in response to valid complaints from strict organic growers that the term "organic" was being used by unqualified producers. I believe the intent was correct even though I don't believe the government needs to do everything for consumers. Anyway, it was intended to indicate producers that were truly committed to organic produce and help consumers identify and buy from those producers.


Of course, it wasn't long before big businesses realized that the "certified organic" label meant a higher price premium and more profits. So many large corporations now are pursuing "certified organic" labeling for their products. This allows them to get their wares in small, health-oriented stores as well as on the shelves of your local superstore. I don't necessarily disagree with the labeling or the increasing availability of "certified organic" products. However, I believe the spirit of organic production is being lost in a battle of definition and regulation.

The True Intent of Organic Produce

In my 15 years of selling produce at a small farmers' market, I have realized that growing produce naturally is only about half of the story for customers wanting organic produce. Of course there are the health benefits, but the other half of the story is what I want to emphasize. When customers come to me week after week they develop a relationship with me as the grower of their produce. They have purchased great tasting, fresh produce from me in the past and so they keep coming back for more. So you might say the superior quality, both taste and freshness, is what keeps my customers coming back. But again you would be missing what I feel is the biggest point: they TRUST me! They know I am a local grower from a heritage of farming who pulls weeds by hand, picks by hand, and doesn't apologize when the produce is less than perfectly shaped or a little dusty. They are willing to eat what I grow because they know where it comes from, not because they know the government has been keeping tabs on me for their protection. This relationship of trust between consumer and producer is what I feel is the heart of "organic" and this is what people need to be looking for. Not a label slapped on fancy packaging, but a producer they know and trust.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Why Organic Produce?

With so much publicity about the benefits of organic produce, I though I would add my two cents on the matter. Just to avoid confusion, I am not referring to the government's standards on "certified organic". I believe organic means locally grown by responsible stewards of the land that avoid the use of artificial herbicides, pesticides, etc.

Organic Produce Tastes Better

This is the best reason. When produce is locally grown you get it only hours from when it is picked. This means that tomatoes are picked red, cucumbers are crisp, and your carrots still have a little dirt on them. In my 15 years of experience with the Southeast Idaho Farmers' Market ( ) I have seen hundreds of repeat customers who won't buy anywhere else because it just tastes better.

Organic Produce Is Healthier

I acknowledge that there is a lot of material out there that both sides of this argument will use to support their point. However, I base my opinion on the fact that people born in the early part of the 20th century, who grew up on farms the better part of their lives, and had access to the improved medical care of the late 20th century continue to amaze me with their longevity and quality of life. I know there are probably examples the other way, but I think they had something right and science will continue to support that.

Final Thoughts

In short, I hope that consumers will be willing to go to their local farmers' markets or roadside vegetable stand to get locally grown, organic produce. If you grow organic produce and are interested in how to successfully market your products direct to consumers, bookmark this blog and keep reading in the coming weeks as I post a series of articles on improving sales and building a strong customer base for organic produce.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Fitness of American Agriculture

With all the media hype concerning the poor health of Americans in general, I think it necessary to discuss the health of American agriculture.

Corporate Takeover

The small, family-operated farm in the United States is on life support. Census statistics continue to point out that fewer and fewer Americans are involved directly in production agriculture activities. One cause is the increasing number of large corporate farms. These large farms are able to produce at a lower cost than the traditional family farm, leading to the exit of more and more small family-operated farms.

While control of American agriculture continues to become more focused in the hands of a few powerful corporations, the potential for abuse also increases. Factor in the availability of foreign-grown farm products and soon these large multi-national corporations may move most of their agricultural operations into emerging agricultural superpowers such as Brazil.

Farm Survival

Currently, the majority of successful small farms are focusing more on local markets and exploiting profitable niches. Joel Salatin is a fantastic example of how a small operation can succeed while using agricultural processes that sustain and protect the environment. If you would like to see some other successful small farmers, visit a local farmers' market. I doubt that you would need to go very far, and I further believe you would enjoy the superior products available at these local markets.

Many small farmers are also capitalizing on the increasing market for organic and naturally grown products, and I don't mean just fruits and veggies. These growers also offer natural beef, lamb, pork, poultry, and more. Though growing at a rapid rate, I see this niche expanding in the next 5-10 years at an even faster rate given consumer attitudes regarding pesticides, herbicides, etc.

So What?

A question asked all too often, but often not out loud. The changing complexion of American agriculture will have a serious economic and physical effect on the health of this nation. How? That remains to be seen, but I look forward to your posts to see what you think.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Welcome to Farmer Marketing!

Thank you for coming to visit Farmer Marketing. My intent in this blog is to give insights and observations on topics relating to sustainable agriculture, organic gardening, and marketing farm fresh products.
I grew up on a small family farm growing hay, barley, grass, and cattle. My father also started a commercial greenhouse and nursery with a produce garden. This has given me the opportunity to see many facets of agriculture from production to marketing at a farmers' market. My experience with marketing has been augmented by my current pursuit of a business marketing degree and my recent role as marketing intern for a farmers' market.
Please leave your posts and feel free to recommend other sites on the topics presented. Thanks for stopping by.