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Developing and Using an Effective Marketing Plan (BF 205)

Most people are drawn to the production side of small-scale agriculture and then are “stuck” with the marketing. This course introduces effective techniques to reduce the amount of time and money that marketing activities draw from the farm while guiding management towards income and lifestyle goals.

“My farm had outgrown my initial marketing ideas, and I knew I needed to get savvier, but I always put it off because I don’t like the business side of farming. This course helped lift an enormous weight I didn’t realize I was carrying, because it gave me tools for looking critically at my market channels, my message, and my target customers, and developing solid plans for how to reach my marketing goals so that I can keep doing what I love!”  -Steve P, Madison, WI

Target Audience

New farmers with at least 1 season of farm management experience, as well as more seasoned farmers who have explored the basics of marketing and are ready to develop a formal marketing strategy.  

Course Objectives

  • Develop components of a marketing plan & marketing materials for your farm.
  • Develop a focused marketing strategy to guide decision making and resource investment.
  • Learn to critically analyze markets and new opportunities to select the best performing channels.
  • Learn record-keeping and basic analytical skills to improve marketing labor efficiency.
  • Optimize marketing labor and marketing channels for your marketing.


The bulk of the course happens on your own time, with discussions, readings, and assignments in MOODLE, our virtual classroom. To add to the experience, webinars will be woven into the online interface of the course to allow you to meet on a weekly basis to learn from outside presenters, ask questions, and collaborate with other participants and the instructor to address your farm issues in real time. If you miss one, they are always recorded and posted for later viewing. Access details will be posted in MOODLE once you have registered and logged in. 


Matt LeRoux is an Ag Marketing Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, NY.

Erica Frenay is the Online Course Manager for the Cornell Small Farms Program and also owns and operates Shelterbelt Farm.


This course will not be offered in the Fall 2018 – Spring 2019 season.

Course Outline

Week 1: Catching up on marketing basics: Understand that marketing is more than just advertising or sales. Learn to study marketing labor efficiency and how to improve it.
Topics Covered: Understanding the marketplace, setting income and lifestyle goals to define the business, the importance of a marketing budget

Week 2: Developing your market strategy: Learn to select a relevant target market of consumers and develop a strategy around them.
Topics Covered: Understanding local foods buyers, creating and implementing your strategy

Week 3: Marketing Objectives & Budget: Now that you know your audience, learn to set specific objectives to make your marketing work easier.
Topics Covered: Writing and implementing your marketing objectives, branding, positioning, and differentiation

Week 4: Marketing Research & Pricing: This week, learn to conduct basic marketing research to inform your decisions and approach. Learn how to make simple sales projections to guide marketing activities, as well as some basic pricing guidelines.
Topics Covered: Create sales projections, market pull versus marketing push, farm-driven market research

Week 5: Communications, Promotions, & Marketing Materials: Advance your marketing plan with clear communication and promotions. We’ll cover the basics and hear from a farm about their experience.
Topics Covered: Elements of a communication plan, how to use promotions to meet objectives

Week 6: Assessing and Choosing Channels: Learn what the research says about marketing channel performance and how to assess channels at your farm. We’ll also cover how to approach wholesale buyers for the first time.
Topics Covered: How to evaluate channels for performance, how to approach and manage wholesale customers

Cost and Registration

Fee for this course is $250. This course will NOT be offered in the 2018-2019 season.

Sign up a month or more in advance of the start date and receive $25 off. Sign up for three or more courses and received $50 off your total.