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Highland Blueberry Farm labels
Attractive packaging is one key to success for Highland Blueberry Farm in Stockton Springs. Photo from the Fall 2009 edition of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener courtesy of Highland Blueberry Farm.

Articles

How can you connect with customers through social media? Farmers highlighted their storytelling strategies at a marketing session at MOFGA’s 2013 Farmer to Farmer Conference.

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A new application to be posted on MOFGA’s website will allow users to search for food that is in season in Maine, and point them to farms and markets where those products are available.

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Hatchet Cove Farm posterIf you’ve been in the Blue Hill Co-op recently, you may have noticed something new about its produce display. Posters hang above the cooler, featuring photos and personal statements from several MOFGA-certified organic farms and farmers whose products are regularly displayed in the case below.

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Maine’s natural food stores and co-ops, among the pioneers in the local organic foods movement, have been buying food from Maine farms for decades. In April MOFGA met with buyers and managers from these establishments to explore ways to expand their marketing and sourcing of local organic foods.

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Since 2006 I have been compiling and publishing MOFGA Organic Price Reports on www.mofga.org, monthly from May to October.

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In early 2011, a group of Colby College students surveyed prices for 21 organic and non-organic items at five grocery stores in Waterville. They found a wide range of differences, from 10 percent less for organic brown rice to 134 percent more for organic ground beef. The mean cost for organic items surveyed was 68 percent higher than for non-organic, although organic brown rice was cheaper on average; and organic oatmeal cost an average of 16 cents per ounce, versus 17 cents for non-organic, a 6 percent difference.

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In July of 2010, Facebook, the world's most popular social networking platform, announced that it had 500 million users worldwide. Although Facebook began as a campus photo directory where college and prep school students could list personal information and attributes, it has grown into a mega-directory where people can connect with friends from the past and present. Because so many people spend so much time on Facebook, many businesses and nonprofits have been promoting their wares and missions there, and expanding their own social networking portfolios.

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Highland Bluebrry farm labelsWhen Maine's blueberry season is over, Theresa Gaffney of Highland Blueberry Farm in Stockton Springs is still working – drying ingredients and packaging her organic wild Maine blueberry tea. A growing demand for artisan foods is providing Maine farmers like Gaffney with incentive to move past traditional blueberry jams and dilly beans to innovative value-added foods and is spurring new businesses grounded in Maine's agricultural roots.

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Coordinates supplies of local foods to schools and other institutions in Maine. Contact Martha at (207) 939-4748.

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If you’re a farmer or food producer looking for markets, look no further.  The growing demand for local foods is putting a crunch on many markets supplying those foods to consumers, and four of Maine’s larger buyers are looking for growers to supply them this year.

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For many farmers, time spent figuring out where and how to sell farm products is not their favorite task; but profitable sales are a must for a successful, long-term business.

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Cheryl WixsonDo you have a favorite recipe for a food product that family and friends encourage you to sell to the public? If so, Maine has certain regulations and guidelines that you must follow in order to produce your food under sanitary conditions and protect the health and wellbeing of your potential customer.

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Free subscriptions to managers of farmers’ markets, market vendors and direct-market farmers.

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This free publication advises farmers on building customer relationships, promoting their products, and providing quality service when selling directly to customers.

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At a “Word of Mouth” conference convened by Heart of Maine to help local farmers optimize marketing, a 12-person focus group was asked why they buy from local farmers.

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Do you struggle to develop promotional materials for your farm business? Need to look professional to compete in new markets? No money to hire a designer? Image Building Concepts may be your answer.

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The Farmers Market Resource Guide lists grants, programs and other financial and information resources available from public and private organizations.

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The National Farmers Union has launched E-cooperatives.com, which allows consumers to locate and purchase products from family-farm producers, their cooperatives and other rural businesses.

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A Kansas beef producer who formed a cooperative with area farmers sells meat for up to $100 more per head than conventional market prices. A Delaware dairyman opened an on-site creamery and had to build two parking lots to accommodate new customers. These and 57 more examples comprise The New American Farmer, 2nd edition, by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN).

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This is a CD with resources, links to marketing information, recent studies on market shifts and consumer preferences; laws and regulations pertaining to organic sales; and more.

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Myles Finnegan of Easton, New Hampshire, offers a package deal with local inns in his area.

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When we began talking about the need to give more structure to the nontechnical support that MOFGA provides its farmers and gardeners, board members and growers expressed different ideas about how we should formalize this effort. We opted simply to get started and see where things went.

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• Supporting Local Markets Project
• Maine FarmLink
• Marketing Internship

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FireGirl.com is a website designed by Mary Going of Freeport, Maine, who sells more than 800 sauces, salsas and spices … sauces such as Acid Rain, Hog’s Breath Extra Hot, Pure Poison, Ring of Fire Xtra Hot, and Dave’s Temporary Insanity. Sounds like a torturous site for those of us with touchy taste buds, although Going does offer mild and medium products as well.

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As MOFGA has long known, marketing is an indispensable part of guaranteeing the prosperity of Maine’s organic farmers. To date, we have offered help in this area whenever possible. We are continually matching farmers and buyers on a one-on-one basis, and we deliver marketing reports during the growing season. Last year we received a small grant to research the obstacles and opportunities faced by farmers, buyers and consumers. Yet, as the demand for local, organic goods expands, we need to do more.

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Jim AmaralJim Amaral and his wife, Dolores Carbonneau, started Borealis Breads in 1993 in Waldoboro. What began as a “Mom and Pop” operation, with 12 breads and about 12 wholesale accounts, quickly grew, so that by 1995 Amaral had bought a bakery building on Route 1 in Waldoboro; by 1997, he had a second bakery on Route 1 in Wells; and in ‘98 he became one of the first tenants in the Portland Public Market.

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A new, quarterly publication called The Seasonal Marketer delivers marketing and business information to farmer direct marketers throughout the United States.

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A potato-of-the-month club is advertised in the Gerritsen’s Woodprairie Farm Catalog, and I’ve seen a bunch-of-roses-of-the-month club advertised in a national magazine.

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One of the joys of staying at this job for a long time has been watching small farms grow, prosper, and become acknowledged as viable businesses. The latest example to reach my mailbox is that of Old Stage Farm in Lovell.

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