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MOF&G Cover Spring 1998

 

 


  You are here:  PublicationsMaine Organic Farmer & GardenerSpring 1998Tips - Spring 1998   
 Tips – Spring 1998 Minimize


Marketing Through Restaurants
Ads as Market Research
More Marketing Tips
The Art of Selling
Selling Exotics
How Much?
Success at Stonyfield
Organic Food Becoming Mainstream
A Place for Invasives
Living Mulches Prepare Ground for Fall Broccoli
Transplanting Sweet Corn
Sheep and Hand Weeding Keep Golf Course Green
Sweet Potato Starts for the North
Strip Insectary Intercropping
Overhead Sprinkling Douses Codling Moths
Ultrasound Doesn’t Repel Mosquitoes
Free Farm Safety Brochure Available
Vitamin C Supplements Deter Cataracts


Marketing Through Restaurants

Help chefs communicate your local, homegrown quality to restaurant customers. You might make signs or table tents that the restaurants can display at the counter, such as: “We’re proud to use local produce from Full Belly Farm.” Table tents can be an effective way to promote your product. The front view of the tent can be a nice picture of your products on a plate, with the description of your products and farm on the back. Table tents can be expensive to print, however.

Probably the most effective and least costly restaurant promotion you can do is to educate the restaurant staff about your produce. Bring them a brochure that describes your farm and your products. When you’re at the restaurant, make it a habit to speak with the waiters and waitresses as well as the chef. These people are your frontline sales staff. Restaurant customers will ask, “What’s good today?” and most often will buy according to the recommendation. Hold a meeting with the restaurant staff, if possible.

Excerpted with permission from Sell What You Sow! The Grower’s Guide to Successful Produce Marketing, by Eric Gibson.

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Ads as Market Research

Use advertisements as a type of low-cost market research. Patti Belmonte, a marketing consultant in Olympia, Washington, relates how a client ran an ad inviting customers to “Send blueberries to someone you love.” The purpose of the ad was to test-promote the gift pack line they were considering expanding. Although the ad cost $600 and did not pay for itself in cash returns, losing a few hundred dollars on an ad was cheaper than investing heavily in gift packs.

Excerpted with permission from Sell What You Sow! The Grower’s Guide to Successful Produce Marketing, by Eric Gibson. Free brochure on request or send $25 postpaid to New World Publishing, 3085 Sheridan St., Placerville, CA 95667. Tel. (916)622-2248.

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More Marketing Tips

Studies show that every satisfied customer tells five friends; every dissatisfied customer tells 10 friends. So instead of plowing money into excessive advertising, spend it on improving products, services and customer satisfaction. Make what you offer a happy experience, and word-of-mouth promotion will follow.

You can do a few additional things to help fuel word-of-mouth promotion. Ask satisfied customers to recommend your services or products to their friends: “I’d sure appreciate it if you would tell your friends!” Set up a referral program to encourage customers to tell others about your farm or market, and reward customers who bring in new customers with a basket of strawberries, a jar of honey, a recipe book, etc.

Another way to remind customers of your products and services is to have your farm logo, along with a map, printed on your paper bags, cartons and other containers. Brochures also are an excellent way to help spur word-of-mouth about your business. A committed customer will be happy to take three or four brochures to pass out to friends.

When someone compliments you – ”Wow, We had a great time at your farm!” – ask: “Would you mind putting that in writing?” Customer quotes in the window, or in your newsletter, are another excellent way to help spread the good word about your operation. Buy an instant camera and interview your clientele. Collect customer testimonials (along with their photos) to quote in your advertising and promotional copy.

Develop a reputation for being a “giver” business. Give customers their money’s worth and then some by giving something away free. Make it something that doesn’t cost a lot, yet is attractive to the customer – food samples, a pumpkin or a small basket of strawberries, hay rides, etc. One market owner gave away free Polaroid pictures of the kids with Santa. It cost $800 per thousand pictures, but sales quadrupled that weekend.

Excerpted with permission from Sell What You Sow! The Grower’s Guide to Successful Produce Marketing, by Eric Gibson. Free brochure on request or send $25 postpaid to New World Publishing, 3085 Sheridan St., Placerville, CA 95667. Tel. (916)622-2248.

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The Art of Selling

Creative touches can enliven a produce display, e.g., carrot wheels, fresh flower bouquets, edible flower arrangements, garden-like groupings of lettuce and greens, baskets within the displays, or hand-stacked potatoes and yams. Enliven your display and avoid monotony with the use of tilted tables, barrels, produce baskets, buckets, paper sacks, burlap, pallets, bulk bins, etc. One inexpensive way to decorate your roadside stand is to nail baskets to walls at a tilt. In addition to creating a charming country look, the baskets will provide more space to display impulse items.

Excerpted with permission from Sell What You Sow! The Grower’s Guide to Successful Produce Marketing, by Eric Gibson. Free brochure on request or send $25 postpaid to New World Publishing, 3085 Sheridan St., Placerville, CA 95667. Tel. (916)622-2248.

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Selling Exotics

Merchandise exotic specialty crops together as a group. Displaying them side by side with ordinary varieties makes customers wonder why they should spend the additional money for them, while placing them in a separate section helps emphasize the products’ premium or exotic quality and makes them look different and interesting.

Excerpted with permission from Sell What You Sow! The Grower’s Guide to Successful Produce Marketing, by Eric Gibson. Free brochure on request or send $25 postpaid to New World Publishing, 3085 Sheridan St., Placerville, CA 95667. Tel. (916)622-2248.

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How Much?

Prices should be clearly marked on or near the display. Most shoppers are in a hurry and will not search out the produce manager to find out how much an item costs. In making your pricing signs, use card stock that contrasts pleasantly with the product, such as yellow for blueberries, or buff for other products. Use red or orange markers to do the lettering. Avoid stark black on white. White card stock shows fly specks and is glaring in bright sunlight.

Use point-of-purchase signs and educational materials throughout your display to promote your products and educate consumers. The more educated consumers are about your produce, the easier it is to ask higher prices for specialty, locally grown or organic products.

Excerpted with permission from Sell What You Sow! The Grower’s Guide to Successful Produce Marketing, by Eric Gibson. Free brochure on request or send $25 postpaid to New World Publishing, 3085 Sheridan St., Placerville, CA 95667. Tel. (916)622-2248.

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Success at Stonyfield

Stonyfield Farm Yogurt of Londonderry, N.H., had a banner year for growth last year. President Gary Hirshberg says the company increased sales 40% over those of the previous year, stretching the limits of plant capacity and forcing seven-day, round-the-clock work weeks for months on end.

Stonyfield’s success has been fueled by surging sales of its line of reduced and no-fat products and its introduction of certified organic yogurts. The firm has been investing in projects to help its suppliers of organic milk boost productivity and practice sound land stewardship.

Source: Weekly Market Bulletin, N.H. Dept. of Agriculture, Dec. 10, 1997.

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Organic Food Becoming Mainstream

Marketing studies, large-chain grocery stores and Wall Street all confirm the same phenomenon: sales of organic foods are increasing tremendously. According to an article by Sharon Mack in the Bangor Daily News (“Demand grows for organic food,” Dec. 6-7, 1997), a 1995 Food Marketing Institute study showed that 25% of all shoppers buy natural or organic foods at least once a week; that 42% of all supermarkets were carrying organic foods in their produce departments; and that 90% of natural foods shoppers also shopped at conventional markets.

Bernard Rogan, spokesman for Shaw’s supermarkets, based in Massachusetts, told Mack, “In every one of our stores, we are offering organic products and are closely watching the enormous growth of sales in the industry.” He added that the organic market is no longer a separate section at Shaw’s but has been integrated throughout the store – a sign of its success.

Likewise, Mack quoted Steven Hoffman, publisher of Natural Business, The Journal of Business & Financial News for the Natural Products Industry: “In terms of Wall Street’s perception of organic foods and products, bigger players are paying attention and buying into organics. The industry has gained respect in the financial market.”

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A Place for Invasives

Derreth Roberts reports that she grows three members of the mint family, Monarda didyma (bee balm), Mentha spp. (mint) and Melissa officinalis (lemon balm), away from her garden and around her chicken house, where they are welcome to grow invasively. If you do this, you should probably harvest from parts of the plant that you know have not been in contact with chicken manure to avoid possible contamination by pathogens.

Roberts also recommends this method for sowing chamomile, which has minuscule seeds: mix the seeds with potting soil, then scatter them over a small area in a sunny, dry location. Press them into the soil lightly, sprinkle lightly with more soil, then gently water.

Source: “More Tales of Tea,” by Derreth Roberts, Convergence, Deep Winter 1996.

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Living Mulches Prepare Ground for Fall Broccoli

Researchers from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and Virginia Tech grew living mulches of foxtail millet; a special cultivar of forage soybean; and millet and soybeans together in early June, flail mowed the mulches in mid-August, then set ‘Emperor’ broccoli transplants into the cover crop plots nine days later. The experiments were done in Maryland and Virginia. Broccoli yields were similar in cover crop plots and in clean cultivated control plots, except in Maryland in the millet plots. Herbicides used in some cover crop plots had negligible effects on broccoli yields.

Source: “Mowed Cover Crops (No Herbicides) Work Well for Broccoli,” Greg and Pat Williams, HortIdeas, Nov. 1997; original reference: Aref A. Abdul-Baki (Vegetable Laboratory, Plant Sciences Institute, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Beltsville, MD 20705), Ronald D. Morse, Thomas E. Devine and John R. Teasdale, “Broccoli Production in Forage Soybean and Foxtail Millet Cover Crop Mulches,” HortScience 32(5), Aug. 1997, p. 836-839. (Amer. Soc. for Hort. Sci., 600 Cameron St., Alexandria, VA 22314-2562.)

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Transplanting Sweet Corn

Using transplants to get quality, early sweet corn pays off for Red and Bruce White, growers and farmstand operators in Rindge, New Hampshire. “It gives us a two-week jump going for early corn, although there’s less benefit from later plantings,” Bruce says. “We’ve done transplants for early varieties, main season varieties, yellows, whites and bi-colors, and all have done well. Another benefit is that the transplanted corn really gets ahead of weeds.”

Two years ago the Whites started 9,000 plugs in late April and set them all out by hand. When they saw the results they jumped the number to 50,000 last spring using a lean-to greenhouse and standard cell trays. They bought a Holland transplanter, which made the field work a lot faster and easier.

They want to have corn by July 15, but it was 10 days later last year, due to poor weather Their 1,200-foot elevation is another factor putting them behind fellow growers in the Connecticut Valley to the west or the Milford area to the east.

One variety, Lancelot, performed exceptionally well, Red says. It yielded three ears per stalk consistently. Plugs go in with about 3 inches of growth, and this year the only gaps in the rows were from skips by the transplanter.

What about those ultra, ultra early corn varieties? The Whites say don’t bother – they taste so lousy, all you get is disgruntled customers.

Source: Steve Taylor, Commissioner of Agriculture, in Weekly Market Bulletin, New Hampshire Dept. of Agriculture, Sept. 3, 1997.

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Sheep and Hand Weeding Keep Golf Course Green

Kudos to Mark Waid, keeper of the green at Oakhurst Links golf course at White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia. Waid has a flock of 25 sheep grazing the fairways of this 100-acre course. He keeps a close eye on them to make sure they are not damaging the greens. The greens “are handsomely lush despite the absence of fertilizers or pesticides,” reports The Golf Journal (Sept.-Oct. 1997). The grass must be tasty, because the sheep never leave the unfenced course. Also at this historically accurate course, the 26,000 square feet of putting surface is weeded by hand.

Thanks to Robert English (Dad) for sending along this clipping.

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Sweet Potato Starts for the North

Mapple Farm is a Zone 5 farm in New Brunswick that offers organically grown sweet potato starts (slips). The varieties are short-season ones, requiring 100 days of frost-free weather. Mapple also offers Jerusalem artichoke tubers, Egyptian onion sets, Chinese artichoke tubers, shallots, potato onions, horseradish roots and some vegetable seeds. For more information, send a self-addressed, stamped (60 cents) envelope to RR 1, Hillsborough, New Brunswick, Canada EOA 1X0 or call 506-734-3361.

Source: HortIdeas, Feb. 1997; published by Greg and Pat Williams, 460 Black Lick Rd., Gravel Switch, KY 40328.

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Strip Insectary Intercropping

Steve Gilman of Stillwater, N.Y., told his audience at NOFA's Summer Conference last year that he was tired of weeding the strips between the beds at his CSA farm, and he knew that the flowering weeds between the beds provided pollen and nectar for insects. He also found out that researchers at Rutgers University found that weedy strips provided habitat for beneficial insects. Thus, Gilman began using the cultural tool called Strip Insectary Intercropping and, as a result, hasn’t had to use any insect controls – not even Bt – on his crops in the past three years.

His 52-inch-wide beds have 28-inch-wide strips between them, where tractor wheels can roll. The strips are mowed several times during the season to keep the weeds and grasses lower than 1 foot but taller than 3 inches in height. He also times his mowings to prevent weedy species, such as dandelion, from infesting his plots. He mows them after they bloom but before they go to seed. A side discharge mower blows the cuttings onto beds, creating an instant mulch. Gilman is careful not to blow material onto beds that grow leafy, easily damaged crops.

Gilman recommended seeding Dutch white clover and hard red fescue in the strips if you are just beginning a plot, then letting other species come in as they will.

Source: "Strip Insectary Intercropping," by Anita Kelman, Country Folks Grower, Oct. 1997.

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Overhead Sprinkling Douses Codling Moths

Overhead sprinkling of apple orchards in the Pacific Northwest cut codling moth injury to fruits by 60 to 90%, according to USDA researcher Alan Knight. Sprinkling reduced flight, egg laying and survival of eggs and larvae during the summer months.

Source: HortIdeas, Dec. 1997; original source: Anonymous, "Overhead Water Sprinklers in Orchards Can Cut Fruit Injury from Codling Moths," Quarterly Report of Selected Research Projects, July 1-Sept. 30, 1997, 8. Agricultural Research Service Information, 6303 Ivy Lane, 4th Floor, Greenbelt MD 20770; Knight is located at Wapato, Washington, Tel. (509)454-6550.

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Ultrasound Doesn’t Repel Mosquitoes

Ultrasound repellers lack any significant effect on mosquito behavior, according to the Ohio State University Extension Service. Electric and black-light bug zappers are useless, too; they kill more harmless and beneficial insects than mosquitoes. The mosquito plant, Pelargonium x citrosum, often sold as ‘Citrosa,’ has not proven effective, either.

The fall 1996 issue of Common Sense Pest Control says that oil of citronella is effective for a short time, and that Neem, a botanical oil, repels mosquitoes when burned in kerosene lamps or applied as a cream.

Source: “Man Versus Mosquito,” Carolyn Steigman, The American Gardener, May/June 1997, Amer. Hort. Society, 7931 East Boulevard Dr., Alexandria, VA 22308-1300.

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Free Farm Safety Brochure Available

Nearly 150,000 farm workers are injured and another 1,200 die each year from job-related injuries, reports the National Safety Council.

No doubt about it: Farming is a dangerous occupation, especially for youths. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of fatal Occupational Injuries, young farm workers lead all other youths in job-related fatalities.

To prevent or minimize accidents on the farm, State Farm Insurance offers these safety reminders:

• Do not allow children or any extra riders on tractors.

• Have rollover protection on all tractors.

• Designate safe play areas for children.

• Determine other unsafe areas that might attract children and discuss with them why they might want to play there, but explain why they shouldn’t.

• Match children’s ages and abilities with the difficulty level of farm chores.

For a free, noncommercial brochure detailing additional safety tips, send a postcard with your name and mailing address to: “Farm Safety Guide,” State Farm Insurance, Public Affairs, One State Farm Plaza, Bloomington, IL 61710.

If you’d like to distribute quantities of the brochure to a club or group, please indicate how many packages of 25 brochures you want.

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Vitamin C Supplements Deter Cataracts

New findings confirm that long-term use of vitamin C supplements reduces the risk of cataracts. Seventy-seven percent fewer early-stage cataracts appeared in women who took the supplements daily for more than 10 years, compared with those who didn't. Cataracts – a clouding of the eye’s lens – are believed to result from oxidation of proteins within the lens. Vitamin C prevents oxidation. The study of 247 women was conducted by scientists at an A gricultural Research Service-funded research center in Boston, in collaboration with the Harvard University Nurses Health Study. Supplement users took at least 500 milligrams of vitamin C daily, in addition to food and multivitamin sources. The findings corroborate a 1992 report linking 10-plus years of taking the supplements with far fewer cataract surgeries among nurses in the Harvard study.

Source: Agricultural Research, Jan. 1998; research by Paul F. Jacques and Jean Mayer, USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston; Tel. (617)556-3237; e-mail paul@hnrc.tufts.edu.

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