Marketing Farms - Rural entrepreneurs learn how to spread the news about their unique and special products
Farming challenges in the North Country have been here since the first settler cut the trees and plowed the fields. Today’s entrepreneurs share many of the same problems of early times. Getting together to discuss the problems lets everybody see what the need is and, one hopes, come up with a solution.

Cooperative Extension of Franklin County took the lead recently and sponsored "Marketing Concepts for Rural Entrepreneurs," allowing farmers from all categories throughout Franklin County to share ideas and frustrations.

In any business, the owner has to understand the nature of the business, its strengths and weaknesses. Dee Clark, director of the Small Business Development Center at Plattsburgh State, guided the attendees in dissecting their venture.

"Marketing success is satisfying the needs and wants of the consumer," she said. "You can’t operate in a vacuum. Everything is interrelated and related to the goal you have in mind."



Cornell Cooperative Extension
Franklin, 483-7403, Clinton, 561-7450, Essex, 962-4810

Small Business Development Center, 564-2042

Shady Hill Farm, Dickinson Center, 529-6665

Dave Rotman, Bangor, 483-5266

Valley View Farm, Saranac, 293-7337


She emphasized that owners need to realize their business has certain characteristics that make individual products unique. Market location, the competition, growth potential and the environment in which the entrepreneur operates can all affect the bottom line — profit."

Pounds of meat consumed per person each year:

Poultry: 84.1
Beef: 66.7
Pork: 54
Lamb: 1
Veal: .08

I like to get people to consider the four Ps," she advised. "Product, what are you producing; Place, where are you located; Price, be sure to include your own labor, and Promotion, that’s publicity, paid and free."

Linda Hastings of Shady Hill Farm in Dickinson Center sells wool from the 130 sheep she and her husband, Roger, tend on their farm. Part of her frustration is getting people to want wool to create wool garments instead of synthetic fiber blends.

Clark suggested focusing on the advantages of her product such as the fact that wool keeps the wearer warm even though it gets wet or reminding the public these garments are like grandmother used to make, made to last.

Marty Broccoli, Ag Economic Development program leader with Cooperative Extension in Oneida County, cautioned the small businessperson against going to large chains to sell their wares. He outlined the many pitfalls such as paying for shelf position along with other hidden charges. He also shared statistics on the influence the "baby boomers" are having on product demand."

Baby boomers represent 40 percent of the U.S. population today," he said. "Their likes and dislikes drive trends toward products. One instance is the change in beef and poultry sales from 1975 to 2000. This generation is into low fat. All-natural foods, no hormones or antibiotics are very popular with this group."

He also reflected on the uncertainty of government funding for programs. He said the Farm Bill had proposed millions of dollars for farmers. Today, the federal government has pulled $30 million out, leaving $10 million for all county and state programs, making grant money uncertain.

A trend that is becoming more popular is grass-fed animals. Martha Pickard, grazing technician with the Adirondack North Country Association, has an interest in seeing the producer hook up with local restaurants that will feature North Country products in their menus."

Richard’s Freestyle Restaurant in Lake Placid has helped us spread the word about the quality of local foods," she said. "What the restaurant manager is looking for is consistent quality and quantity. They need to know they can depend on the product when they need it."

Pickard said grass-fed animals have proven to be healthier and have a lower E-coli count. The disadvantage can be it takes longer to mature a grass-fed animal for the meat than grain feeding. Experience with each farming technique is a valuable asset in deciding the best method.

Some farmers in attendance said their experiences with both techniques left them with mixed feelings. Many agreed sometimes individual experience is the best teacher for both raising meat and marketing the product.

"I started out with one sheep 35 years ago," said Warren Newman of Valley View Farm in Saranac. "Before there were trucks to take my lambs to market, all I did was ask people if they had ever tried lamb. Many said no, but once they tried it, I had a customer. I use a homegrown mix of grass and a grain combo. I buy locally from Duquette’s in Cadyville. Don’t forget the cooking method is important to the taste."

Newman raised his prices this year from $90 to $95 for a lamb. He suggested colleges, hospitals and prisons would be good places to sell lamb but cautioned USDA inspections must accompany the meat bound for restaurants. He also said there’s a big market for meat goats, but they are hard to find.

Bernadette Logozar, rural and ag economic development specialist with Franklin County Cooperative Extension, said a whole new frontier has opened up for the rural entrepreneur with e-commerce on the Internet. She suggested it is the future of marketing.

"Instead of a 9-to-5 business day, the consumer can be viewing your market 24/seven," she advised. "Web pages allow a great deal of leeway allowing the business person to tell the story of their product and include a picture of the surroundings. Whether selling lamb meat, running a bed and breakfast or just wanting to display the product, the Internet carries the promo around the world."

She cautioned, however, that not all products are suited for Internet advertising, and the cost can add a burden to small-operation profits."The bottom line is you need sales to survive," she added.

She also explained a new marketing concept that will involve Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. The Adirondack Harvest connection includes listings of locally grown farm-fresh produce and agricultural products with a map for the consumer with producers highlighted."

This project began in Essex County with Cooperative Extension and will include all three counties this spring," said Logozar. "Taking advantage of the Internet, the project also includes a Web site and farmer’s market schedule."

The group of growers, farmers, college students and prospective entrepreneurs compiled a list of strategies they thought would work best in promotion of North Country products.

The list included face-to-face sales, local craft shows and flea markets, a "Buy Local" campaign, recipes for food products and fair pricing. Everybody at the workshop agreed North Country farmers and growers haven’t sold themselves as in other areas of the state.Logozar summed up the day by drawing up a collection of the participants’ thoughts.

"With education, initiative, a good product and community partnerships, North Country producers, growers, farmers and crafts people can show the rest of the country and world the high quality and skills that are here in the most northern part of New York State."

Copyright 2003
Press-Republican, a division of Ottaway Newspapers Inc., all rights reserved.

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