Online mar­ket­ing opens con­sumers’ doors for On­tario beef farm­ers

The Woolwich Observer - - 16 | RURAL CONNECTIONS -

ON­TARIO BEEF FARM­ERS ARE tak­ing ‘lo­cal’ online to reach new cus­tomers.

Farm to City, a new mar­ket­ing model with a web­based or­der­ing sys­tem, is open­ing up di­rect-to-cus­tomer mar­ket­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for beef farm­ers such as Rob and Maryjo Tait, of Celtic Ridge Farms.

The young farm fam­ily re­cently launched the online or­der­ing sys­tem and was thrilled by the re­sponse from cus­tomers.

“We knew our farm meat prod­ucts needed an online pres­ence,” said Rob. “Our cus­tomers are shop­ping, re­search­ing and shar­ing their food ex­pe­ri­ences online. The Farm to City online model is at­tract­ing new cus­tomers and open­ing up new op­por­tu­ni­ties for us.”

The cou­ple, along with their two young chil­dren, raises beef and lamb on their El­gin County farm. While Rob and Maryjo have al­ready es­tab­lished a lo­cal clien­tele for their beef and lamb prod­ucts through lo­cal farm mar­kets, they knew that in or­der to grow they had to reach new cus­tomers.

“Web­sites or an online pres­ence al­most le­git­imizes a busi­ness these days,” ex­plained Rob. “We know cus­tomers are look­ing for lo­cal food and we want to make it easy to find us, learn about our farm and the way we raise our an­i­mals and buy from us of course.”

Farm to City was de­vel­oped to link farm­ers to cus­tomers seek­ing lo­cal­lypro­duced beef and it was de­signed to cap­i­tal­ize on the grow­ing de­mand for lo­cally-pro­duced food. Beef Farm­ers of On­tario (BFO) teamed up with BIO to de­velop the Farm to City model that in­cludes a re­source hand­book for farm­ers and an online or­der­ing pro­gram.

The Farm to City model was funded in part through Grow­ing For­ward 2, a fed­eral-provin­cial-ter­ri­to­rial ini­tia­tive. The Agri­cul­tural Adap­ta­tion Coun­cil as­sists in the de­liv­ery of the pro­gram in On­tario.

The Taits have set up their own farm web­site, com­plete with pho­tos, farm and prod­uct in­for­ma­tion and a link to the new or­der­ing sys­tem. Online or­der­ing al­lows them to op­er­ate a re­tail el­e­ment of the farm busi­ness with­out the ad­di­tional over­head costs and pa­per­work of an on-farm mar­ket. Cus­tomers now pick up their orders from the farm or Rob and Maryjo de­liver.

“We knew we needed to reach cus­tomers in the city, that’s where our mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ties are,” said Rob, ex­plain­ing that cus­tomer feed­back has been pos­i­tive with com­pli­ments on the user-friendly or­der­ing pro­gram.

LeaAnne Wuermli, BFO com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager, said the Farm to City model has gen­er­ated a lot of in­ter­est from On­tario beef farm­ers look­ing to di­ver­sify their farm busi­nesses.

“The goal of the pro­gram is to pro­vide farm­ers with an­other mar­ket op­tion for their beef, help them re­al­ize mar­ket po­ten­tial, and cap­i­tal­ize on the con­sumer’s in­ter­est in lo­cal food,” says Wuermli.

The model is de­signed to pro­vide an ef­fi­cient mar­ket­ing, pric­ing and in­ven­tory sys­tem that sup­ports a farmer’s busi­ness plan.

Now, with Farm to City in place, Celtic Ridge Farms is poised for new busi­ness growth.

“We know that word of mouth is still go­ing to be im­por­tant to grow­ing our busi­ness, be­cause every­one loves to talk about good food. The key is to make it eas­ier for cus­tomers to buy the prod­ucts,” Rob said.

By Jea­nine Moyer for AgIn­no­va­tion On­tario, a project of the Agri-Tech­nol­ogy Com­mer­cial­iza­tion Cen­tre (ATCC). The ATCC is funded by Grow­ing For­ward 2, a fed­eral-provin­cial-ter­ri­to­rial ini­tia­tive.

Rob and Maryjo Tait of Celtic Ridge Farms make use of online mar­ket­ing to grow their brand.

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