This article shares information on the 2nd iteration of CFAP funding and ways growers can use the funds in marketing their products to local consumers. Marketing recommendations are based on a focus group study conducted by the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education to explore consumers’ perceptions of local food.
What is CFAP2?
The second USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP2) provides an additional $14 billion for agricultural producers (farmers, ranchers, aquaculture producers, nursery growers, etc.) continuing to face market disruptions because of COVID-19. CFAP2 offers financial assistance, so that producers can absorb some of the increased marketing costs associated with the pandemic. Since the first version of CFAP, many more commodities have been made eligible, including hemp and eggs. Signup for CFAP2 began on Sept. 21, 2020 and continues through Dec. 11, 2020.
To learn more, visit the USDA’s CFAP2 website or reach out by phone to the USDA FSA Call Center at 877-508-8364. Producers can apply via online application, by downloading the application forms, or by completing an application directly with the local USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) office. FSA is working with agricultural producers by phone and using email and online tools to process applications.
Marketing Your Product to Local Consumers
With COVID-19 market disruptions and uncertainties, what is the best way to market your products, and who should you market them to? Depending on the situation, growers may be returning to restaurant sales, evaluating whether to continue selling online, seeking a new wholesale distributor, adding vegetable seedlings to the products offered, or adapting in a number of other ways. However your operation may be adapting, marketing will be key to success.
Marketing to local consumers may be a good way to adapt, depending on your operation. In the spring, when the pandemic first impacted growers in our area, some were able to successfully navigate the disruption by marketing their products to local consumers. In talking with growers and wholesalers, the transition seemed easiest for those who already had established connections with consumers before the pandemic. They had a brand and a recognizable name and consumers often sought them out. For some of the growers who didn’t yet have direct connections with consumers, retailing their products locally has been more difficult. Whether you’re experienced or new to marketing with local consumers in mind, here are some ideas that may help. If you need assistance getting started with any of the suggestions listed below, reach out to your local UF/IFAS Extension office. We are here to help.
Develop marketing materials and promotional campaigns for your products
Marketing materials and promotional campaigns will be most effective if they appeal to the values and desires of the buyer. The UF/IFAS PIE Center focus group study found the following messages were important to consumers purchasing local foods.
Emphasize local. Consumers view their local food purchases as a way of supporting the local economy, providing jobs and income for people in their community (Roper and Rumble 2017). Consumers also see local food purchases as getting money directly into the hands of the producer. The definition of “local” varies, and consumers are often willing to expand their definition of local for products that are not available locally, but still grown within the United States. So, whether you are marketing to people in your county or further out, talk about the local people you employ, where your agribusiness is located, and how you engage with your community.
Communicate the benefits. Quality and freshness, great taste, reduced carbon footprint, less packaging materials, low transportation cost/distance, affordability, and reduced waste are among the benefits consumers associate with local foods (Roper and Rumble 2017). Consumers feel that because the local growers are within the community, they will offer high quality products to maintain their good reputation. Producers can communicate benefits to consumers by:
- providing information on when and where their product was harvested;
- being transparent about how their pricing compares to average grocery store prices;
- using fewer packaging materials; and
- sharing any additional steps the producer has taken to protect the environment, contribute to the economy, and ensure excellent quality and freshness.
It’s important to note that affordability was also sometimes seen as a barrier to purchasing local. Let your customers know the ways you care for people, the environment, and the product you are supplying. Though you may need to charge more than grocery stores, the added benefits you offer can draw consumers who are willing and able to pay higher prices.
Consider joining with other producers to sell local food in one location
Consumers list convenience as one of their biggest barriers in purchasing local foods (Roper and Rumble 2017). Focus group participants shared that though they appreciate the value of local food, sometimes purchasing local foods can be an inconvenience. Having to stop at multiple stores or travel across town were barriers to local food purchasing. To overcome the barrier of convenience, groups of producers sometimes sell their products together at farmers markets, through CSAs, at local food stores, online, or through other outlets. By selling a diversity of products at one location, producers can make buying local more convenient for the consumer, while also creating an advantageous market for their products.
Look at ways to bring your product into retail grocery stores
The PIE Center study found that some consumers sought out local foods at chain and non-chain retail grocery stores. Producers can consider forming co-ops or distribution channels to get their product into retail grocery stores. Grocers have a captive audience, including people who prefer local foods, offering a potential market channel for local producers.
Engage with local consumers
Consumers are drawn to local food purchases in large part because of the social interactions they have with the producers. Getting to know their local farmer, asking them questions about their growing practices, and hearing first-hand stories about farming were all part of an enjoyable purchasing experience, according to focus group participants (Roper and Rumble 2017). Producers can engage with consumers by talking with them when selling products, sharing information with consumers via social media, and answering their questions.
Build Your Agribusiness Network
To help producers strengthen their connections with one another and with other food system participants (consumers, restaurants, distributers, value-added producers, processors, retailers, food banks, etc.), UF/IFAS Extension is hosting a series of “Good Food Connections” virtual meetings throughout the 2020/21 growing season. Participation is free and open to anyone in the food system. To learn more or to register for our next session visit our December 2020 Good Food Connections page on Eventbrite.