EXPERT TIP: Marketing Your Organic Grain Crops

by Thomas Moore, CFSA’s NC Food Systems Coordinator

wheat interplanted with clover

There are two main markets in North Carolina that organic grain suppliers are able to sell their products into: food-grade grain (used to make value-added products for human consumption) and feed-grade grain (for animal consumption).  Organic grain is beginning to see a lot of growth within these two markets, with the feed-grade grain projecting to grow exponentially over the next five years within the state.  Both markets require differing methods of marketing, quality control, and production planning.

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EXPERT TIP: Making SMART Farm Marketing Decisions by Developing a Strong Business Plan

By Thomas Moore, NC Food Systems Coordinator

Savvy shopper at the Durham Coop

Ready to expand into grocery stores? Run it through the SMART test first.
Photo by Anna MacDonald Dobbs

I work with a lot of new farmers who sell their products at multiple farmers’ markets, and are eager to add restaurants, grocery stores, local distributors, and a CSA program to their marketing channels.  While I applaud them for wanting to diversify their customer base, I do caution them that sometimes utilizing different marketing channels requires adjustments to their business plan, or in some cases a different business plan altogether.

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The Importance of Marketing, Branding and Agritourism

 CFSA’s 2014 Sustainable Ag Conference

by #SAC14 blogger, Maya Jackson of UDI Urban Farm

1620926_10152697501749014_9158804158834724587_nLike many of the folks here at the Sustainable Ag Conference, I am in this business because I love the land and good food. But, to make it in sustainable farming, marketing our businesses and the products we produce is crucial. At City Roots Farm, based in Columbia, South Carolina, they understand the power of marketing and how it affects their farm’s bottom line. Marketing should not be feared by farmers and should not be overlooked in your farm’s budget either. Marketing is a tool to create several sources of income for your business. Here’s what I learned from City Roots’ co-owner and farm manager, Eric McClam, in his Conference workshop on Marketing, Branding and Agritourism:



Branding is not about what your logo looks like.  It’s conveying your message and creating value for everyone to see in your farm’s business. Your farm’s message should clearly convey how your mission, vision, and philosophies benefit the community you support. Consistent branding creates a loyal following and customer base.


Marketing Collateral

When meeting with retailers and wholesalers for the first time, you should make sure that you bring some essential items. Never underestimate the value of the collateral: business cards, brochures and flyers about your farm, one-sheets and sales sheets about your product with information along with the UPC code, and, most important, samples of your product to taste.


20141111_085718 (1)Packaging

How your product is packaged will determine if a retailer or wholesaler believes that your product is a good fit for their market. At City Roots, Eric explained that they have 3 sizes of their microgreens for chefs and farmers markets, but they use clamshells for big retailers, such as Whole Foods Market. They do this for presentation and to ensure a longer shelf life of their produce in the store.


Finding Your Niche

Urban farming is still a bit foreign to most people in the city. City Roots Farm has found several ways to use this novelty to attract their ideal customer. They meet their community on common ground at places like the local Farmers Market, or provide them with options to obtain locally grown food through the the Community Supported Agriculture program they have formed. For added value, City Roots packages all of their CSA items in a reuseable bag with their logo. This is free advertising for them, said McClam. It doesn’t matter if their customer is at the Farmers Market or at the local chain grocery store, people in the community are able to recognize the farm’s brand when they see it.



Social media and newsletters are useful inexpensive tools to use for your business. City Root sends out 2 distinct letters, one for members of the CSA and another for Chefs and Retailers, to keep them up-to-date on the farm’s latest activities and products.



For a farm, unless your business heavily relies on agrotourism, you don’t need to do a lot of traditional advertising, according to Eric. The key to get people to come to your farm or farm stand is good signage. If you make it difficult for people to read what your product is about or your signage isn’t visible in the right place, then there’s a chance that you are going to lose a customer.



At City Roots they provide guide tours for students – from elementary school to college; they have You-Pick and hosted events. All of these activities complement the farm’s mission – and add to their brand value.


“All of these tactics were carefully adjusted through trial and error to make them work best for their farm,” stated McClam, “but, once you get a consistent winner, you will start to see the return on your investment.” Agritourism has played a significant role in their business, so much so that they have hired a professional event planner to manage this area of their business.


To learn more about City Roots Farm, visit their website at