Agriculture: Sales & Marketing
Farmers and other agriculture professionals share a common bond: the desire to grow. From the fields to their financial holdings, farmers strive to blossom the green stuff. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), there were 3.2 million farmers in the U.S. at last check. With an expanding global food market and farming experiencing a decisive “paradigm shift,” farmers are having to dig deep to make their operations productive and sustainable. This means sales and marketing. Fortunately, a number of nonprofit organizations and government-backed programs offer marketing guidance to keep agriculturalists’ feet firmly planted in the ground. The following provides a glimpse of some available resources:
- Market Access Program (MAP)
The USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation provides money to help the nation’s producers, exporters, private companies and various trade organizations pay for promotional activities for U.S. agricultural products. The program finances several areas, including consumer promotions, market research, technical assistance and trade servicing. Agriculture industry professionals can submit a MAP proposal at AG Box 1042, USDA, 1400 Independence Ave., Washington DC 20250-1042.
- Foreign Market Development Program (FMD)
Likewise, the USDA Commodity Credit Corporation also funds the FMD. Commonly called the Cooperator Program, this resource gives money to campaigns that create, expand and maintain future export markets. In order for the program to work, the USDA formed a trade promotion partnership with a number of agricultural associations dubbed Cooperators. Together they team up to put their technical and financial resources toward marketing U.S.-raised products overseas.
In turn, the FMD helps folks in the farming community capitalize on untapped foreign markets, while boosting shares in those that already exist. Before being approved for the program, however, those interested must submit a strategy outlining a viable, long-term plan for economic growth. Once approved, participants must keep an itemized list of expenses incurred during the program year and submit them to the USDA for reimbursement, according to the government agency.
Quality Samples Program (QSP)
Each year, the Commodity Credit Corporation puts roughly $1 million or more toward the QSP. This effort lets agricultural trade organizations provide samples of products to importers in up-and-coming overseas markets. Designed to rouse foreign demand, the QSP helps farmers showcase the quality of U.S. goods to prospective foreign consumers. According to the USDA, the program also lets overseas manufacturers conduct product test runs, ultimately determining how U.S. commodities might meet their production needs.
For those interested in using the program, the USDA annually sets up an application period then publishes the dates in the Federal Register. According to the USDA, once a submittal receives funding approval, the applicant must obtain commodity samples, export them and provide the importer with the necessary technical assistance to use the sample. When a particular project reaches its conclusion, the government agency reimburses the participant for the costs of procuring and exporting.
Gone to the Farm
In today's competitive agricultural industry, many farmers harvest the fruits of their labor through agritourism. As more vacationers seek value-added, educational activities for the entire family, the idea of heading to the country for solitude continues to grow in appeal. Aiming to cash in on the trend, certain farms now market their products by inviting the public for tours, meals and more.
Since most agritourism functions require only a handful of workers to perform, the concept presents the perfect solution for small operations looking for added sales. Uses often range from elaborate bed and breakfasts, youth camps, rental cabins and wedding reception hubs to horse riding trails, corn mazes, biking paths and more. A number of farms involved in agritourism prefer to keep it simple, letting visitors just come to hand pick their own seasonal produce.
Other operations actually provide tours of the land and facilities, educating the audience about the daily tasks. Weekly demonstrations like how to produce cheese – and routine festivals – often keep customers coming back and put the business on the map. Nonetheless, a city or county might require certain zoning regulations for agritourism. Those wanting to establish such operations should contact their local government or Cooperative Extension representative before further pursuing the business.
For those who prefer focusing on crop yields rather than entertaining, regional farmers’ markets also provide a great outlet for driving up sales. Usually for a minimal fee, these events allow area agriculturalists to display and sell their fresh goods. Farmers’ markets tend to draw not only locals but tourists as well. They allow the public to put a face with the name, and help vendors build community presence and brand.