GROTON, CT — Early February marked the 32nd annual North American Farmers Direct Marketing Association (NAFDMA) Farmers Inspired convention. This year included two days of tours, two days of classes and tradeshows, and a final day of hands-on workshops. This event had something for everyone looking to enter or improve their standing in direct marketing. Attendees and vendors came from all across the United States and Canada to learn, network and stay current in the industry. The theme of this year’s convention was “A rising tide lifts all boats” showing that as the industry strengthens the individual farms will strengthen also, thus promoting inter-farm networking and a unity among common farm interests.
In the last few decades agritourism has grown from a niche market to a mainstream attraction and is continuing to grow across the country. Many working farms are beginning to expand to direct marketing their products as well as entering into the agritourism market.
During the first day of tours attendees took a ferry to Long Island to get a better understanding of what troubles and benefits farmers there face. Here the tour groups, consisting of 271 members, visited Garden of Eve Organic Farm and Market, Hank’s Pumpkintown, Harbe’s Family Farm and an organic hop farm. Common problems associated with farming on Long Island include difficulty with finding and affording labor in a relatively upscale community and that many farms are surrounded by residential communities. However, many farms on Long Island command a premium price for fresh fruits and vegetables. After returning from the tours attendees were treated to a catered dinner at the Mystic Aquarium.
The second day brought the groups to local orchards and farms in Connecticut such as Scott’s Yankee Farmer, Holmberg Orchard and Bishop’s Orchards Farm Market and Winery. Here many farms that have been in the agritainment business are finding that they don’t have much room for parking or expansion where they are currently located but are retaining customers well. Farmers all across the nation and Canada face similar problems and attendees enjoyed seeing new and unique solutions to familiar problems.
After the tours, attendees enjoyed two days of concurrent learning sessions as well as a trade show with 40 exhibitors to learn what is new or improved in the industry. The classes covered everything from expansion and marketing to business management and roundtables where members grouped together to speak about problems they are facing and solutions that others have tried. These classes and free time in the trade show allowed for networking and education along all branches of the industry. Over 300 NAFDMA members attended the tradeshow and classes.
The Keynote speakers included Carla Barbieri, Associate Professor in Equitable and Sustainable Tourism at North Carolina State University, Bob Phibbs also known as the “Retail Doctor” who put a new spin on retail concepts and really drove home the idea of changing with the market and retail musts. Greg Peterson of Peterson Farm Bros, also spoke on the positive effects of social media in farming and agritourism. The keynote speakers did a good job of outlining what needs to be done to improve your farm as well as how and why it needs doing. Changing as a farm and company is imperative to maintaining your market share.
NAFDMA – Farmers Inspired aims to foster peer to peer learning opportunities, connections and resources for farmers involved in agritourism and direct marketing.
In an effort to ensure members get a glimpse of businesses located all over North America the convention moves each year. Last year’s convention was held in Vancouver, BC and the next convention will be held in Southern California. For more information on the 2018 convention or becoming a member, visit their website at www.farmersinspired.com or call their membership hotline at 413-244-5374.