Direct Farm Marketing and Tourism Activities: Keeping the Farm

Enhance Economic Opportunities for Agricultural Producers
Research Year: 
2005
Issue: 

For many small and medium-sized farms, traditional commodity marketing channels no longer provide sufficient returns to support a family through farming. The value-added contribution by U.S. producers of consumer food expenditures has fallen from 22.8 percent in 1950 to only 7.9 percent in 2000. By allowing farmers to retain a higher share of consumer food expenditures, direct marketing, along with agritourism, has proved to be an alternative for keeping these farms economically viable. Global competition and modern production technologies have pushed the price of raw agricultural commodities downward so that many farmers and ranchers have found it difficult to remain in production agriculture. However, some farmers and ranchers have mastered the art of obtaining a higher profit margin from their agricultural land holdings by marketing food products and farm recreation directly to the consumer.

Description of Action: 

Two UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty members convened the first annual Arizona Direct Farm Marketing and Tourism (DFMT) conference in 1995 at the same time they finished putting together a 250-page layman’s publication on the topic. The educational curriculum was designed to provide producers with an A-Z publication for finding the essentials needed to start and develop a direct farm marketing enterprise. Producers have been able to network and learn from each other at the annual conference by sharing their failures and success stories.

The 10th annual conference was held at the Prescott College’s Wolfberry Farm, located near Chino Valley Arizona in the summer of 2005. Issues related to zoning amidst urban growth and organic certification issues were addressed. The Arizona Legislature is currently considering “right to farm” legislation that may limit some of the zoning regulations that small direct marketers near and within urban fringes are facing. The event draws both regular and new participants who are investigating whether they should try direct farm marketing. Generally 50 to100 individuals attend the annual conference and the handbook curriculum has reached thousands of people.

A web portal for connecting direct marketers with consumers has been developed. The site allows consumers to enter their zip code and a radius that they are willing to travel or secure the selected agricultural products from. Producers can input harvest and production calendars so that consumers can see when their most active harvest is occurring. Producers will also be able to monitor the level of requests for products that may not exist in their area.

Other publications for direct farm marketers were released in late 2004 and 2005 entitled, “Western Profiles of Innovative Agricultural Marketing: Examples from Direct Farm Marketing and Agri-Tourism Enterprises” and “Certification and Labeling Considerations for Agricultural Producers.”

Impact: 

Participants at the direct farm marketing conference (DFMT) in 2005 not only rated the topics presented as being relevant to their operation but 84 percent reported that the information presented would likely be used as part of their business strategy in the future. Participants are excited to meet with others who are experiencing similar production and marketing challenges that go along with a direct farm marketing operation. For example, “right to farm” legislation implemented in Oregon and explained by a representative from Oregon’s Department of Agriculture was used as a reference for what could benefit Arizona.

More than 3,500 and 2,800 hard copies of Western Profiles and Certification and Labeling Considerations have been distributed throughout the U.S. These publications are also available for free on the Internet and producers have been accessing the publication online. On-line access of the printed editions are available at http://cals.arizona.edu/arec/wemc/wemc.html. More than 12,000 downloads were made during 2005 of the entire book or an article in the book. Thus, more than 30 individuals a day have been served with this publication (even after reducing downloads from robots).

Western Profiles is “a timely topic and one that has not received a great deal of research in recent years. I applaud the authors and the WEMC for taking a look at this issue.”

“The publication on third party certification and labeling requirements is one of the most thorough I have seen on this topic.”

The Direct Farm Marketing Handbook is still widely accessed and maintains the #1 listing for “Direct Farm Marketing” on the Google search engine (rank is based on cross-listings of the web site and sites selected by users). Requests to utilize the handbook for a short course or class have come from other Western states in addition to Arizona, and Australia, Canada and South Africa. During 2005, over 60,000 downloads of the online version of the book were logged, including the whole book or parts of the book. I actually used the information from your website to begin looking into marketing my eggs! I must have used a ream of paper and 2 ink cartridges printing it off. I found the section on business planning extremely helpful.” –participant

Funding Agencies: 

Arizona Cooperative Extension; Risk Management Agency, Outreach

Conact Name: 
Russell Tronstad
Contact E-mail: 
Contact Address: 

The University of Arizona

Economics Bldg. (#23)

Tucson, AZ 85721

Tel: (520) 621-2425; FAX (520) 621-6250