An Analysis of Vegetable Farms’ Direct Marketing Activities in New York State
Farm retail marketing or farmer-to-consumer direct marketing is an important outlet for many New York vegetable products. Marketing direct to consumers takes special skills and abilities on the part of marketers, and also requires a favorable location with respect to land resources and local markets. Since many farmers and direct market managers lack the resources and experience to compete with supermarkets, it is important for direct marketing operators to differentiate themselves from the mass marketers. The goal of this study was to analyze the effectiveness of direct marketing activities and marketing strategies used by New York vegetable farms. A survey designed to collect information on farm retail marketing practices from New York vegetable farms was conducted during the winter of 2000-20001. Results were analyzed based on business profiles of New York vegetable farms with direct marketing activities, marketing channels used, retail seasonality, product mix, importance of different direct marketing activities, effectiveness of different marketing and business management tools, and future plans for various marketing activities.
The surveyed vegetable farms had average total farm sales of $274,311 and average retail sales of $123,612. Direct marketing to consumers was an important source of farm income for a majority of the surveyed New York vegetable farms with retail marketing activities. Sixty-nine percent of the respondents received more than half of their farm gross income from direct sales to consumers. However, vegetable farms with direct marketing activities generally did not rely on retail alone. Farms with higher gross sales utilized more marketing channels and depended more heavily on wholesale. May through October is the most important sales season for farmer-to-consumer direct marketing activities. The surveyed farms retailed more than just the items they produced. Purchased items for resale were an important avenue to expand product line and increase the volume of products available for retail. Three most commonly used direct marketing methods were roadside markets, farmers’ markets and pick-your-own. Among all the direct marketing components, fresh farm products – including fresh vegetables, fruits, and meat products - were rated as most important to the operation by most surveyed farms (83 percent). Ice cream stand had the second highest rating but was only rated by 3 percent of the surveyed farms. Ornamental plants and holiday crops were rated number three by 43 percent and 54 percent of farms, respectively. The most commonly used promotion tools were “word-of-mouth” and “newspapers”, and “labor related challenges” and “competition in the markets” were the two major concerns among survey respondents.