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Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016

Farmers selling directly to consumers

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mike Milam
The new Amber Waves e-magazine has been posted to the Internet. This is a publication from the USDA Economic Research Service and can be found at http://www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/Septe....

One article that caught my attention was ?Urban Areas Prove Profitable for Farmers Selling Directly to Consumers.? This was written by Steven Vogel and Sarah Low. The article indicates that farmers who sell directly to consumers represented only .4 percent of the total farm sector in 2007. However, they point out that this segment has grown by 104.7 percent between 1997 and 2007. These are farmers who sell directly to consumers through farmer?s markets, roadside stands, and pick your own operations.

During the summer months in Southeast Missouri a consumer will likely see many roadside stands operated by local farmers and a group of entrepreneurs referred to as peddlers.

In 2007, $1.2 billion of farm products were sold directly to consumers by 136, 800 farms or 6 percent of all U.S. farms. Not surprising, is the fact that most of the farms are located near urban areas. The most activity of these small farms that sell a value added product is located along the urban corridors in the Northeast and on the West Coast.

There are opportunities for farmers in Southeast Missouri to develop market plans for expanding into the value added market of direct sales.

This last year, the University of Missouri offered the Grow Your Farm program in the Southeast Region for a low fee. This course Grow Your Farm is designed for prospective farmers, beginners with some experience and seasoned farmers who want to make a "new beginning" with alternative farming methods. MU Extension specialists and experienced, innovative farmers teach the sessions. Grow Your Farm meets 11 times over a 16- to 18-week time frame. Classes include eight seminars with three farm tours.

By selling directly to consumers, farmers are able to take advantage of the value added products by capturing part of the money that would have gone for transportation, processing, and retailing firms.

Direct selling to consumers is not a new concept. One of the leaders of the movement to sell locally and direct to the consumer was Dr. Booker T. Whatley. He was a professor at Tuskegee University. Since he was working directly with minority and small farmers, he developed a plan to help them succeed with small acreages. His plan had 4 key components, (1) creating a biodiversified pick-your-own farm between 10 and 200ˇacres; (2) producing at least 10 diverse products (agricultural and/or artisanal) on a year-round basis that are supported through a Clientele Membership Club and operating in a county-wide area having a population center of about 50,000 residents; (3) marketing to these club members for 40% of supermarket pricing; and (4) yielding a profit.

After retirement, he was recognized by the sustainable agriculture movement?s Mother Earth News, Organic Gardening Magazine and New Farm Magazine. He also had a monthly newsletter, Small Farm Technical Newsletter, which reached about 20,000 subscribers in fifty states and twenty-five foreign countries.

In 2005, after Whatley?s death, Jeff Helms with the Alabama Farmers? Federation wrote a story entitled, ?Dr. Booker T. Whatley: His Seeds and Ideas Are Still Taking Root.? This article can be found at http://www.alfafarmers.org/neighbors/nei....

He writes, ?Almost 20 years ago, Whatley was writing about U-pick operations, community supported agriculture (CSA), drip irrigation, rabbit production, farmer-owned hunting preserves, kiwi vines, shiitake mushrooms, veneer-grade hardwood stands, on-the-farm bed and breakfasts, direct marketing, organic gardening and goat cheese production. What?s even more astounding is that he was advocating many of these ideas in the 1960s and ?70s.? The entire article can be found at http://www.alfafarmers.org/neighbors/nei....

We are indebted to Dr. Whatley for his contributions to the sustainable farm movement. He wrote a 180 page book, ?How to Make $100,000 Farming 25 Acres. Emmaus, PA: Regenerative Agriculture Association, 1987. This publication can be found on the Internet. Amazon has 15 used books beginning at $51.20.

Three publications available from the University of Missouri on direct marketing to consumers are G6221, Marketing Vegetables in Missouri, and G6223, Starting and Operating a Farmers? Market: Frequently Asked Questions, and G6222, Selling Strategies for Local Food Producers. These publications are available on line and are available from local extension offices.

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