How to Build Market Resilience

Update 3/31/20: The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets released Interim Guidance for the Operation of Farmers’ Markets.

News, resources and opportunities to help you access markets and reach customers to ensure local food security.

New York State issued a statement that farms growing food, farmers’ markets and farm stands (CSAs included) are essential businesses, and are therefore not restricted by the state’s guidance for mass gatherings and workforce reductions.

Now is the time to think creatively about your marketing approach. If you have relied on certain wholesale channels such as restaurants, you may need different strategies to market those products.

We’ve created a list of resources that you might want to review, in light of COVID-19 impacts on marketing of farm products. We also recommend you regularly visit the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets’ official COVID-19 page for further details and latest guidance as it relates to agriculture.

We also want to hear your stories of farm resilience. How has your farm adapted to this pandemic? Please continue to share ideas about how we can take care of ourselves, our farms, and our local communities. You can share with us using this form. Also, we encourage you to use #CornellSmallFarms on social media so we can follow your farm updates and share on our channels.

Our farm resilience resource page is continuing to add information and resources from our partners in CCE and other agencies, as well as learning opportunities to help you adapt for this season.

Farm Stands and Farmers Markets

The New York Farmers Market Federation offers general food safety protocols for markets.

NC State Extension has a COVID-19 FAQ and outlines steps for farmers markets.

Grow NYC’s Greemarkets are continuing their work to supply New York City with crucial farm products. In order to further protect the public and build trust with their customer community, they are implementing changes such as only allowing producers and staff to handle items, spacing out farm stands, among other things.

Farmers markets are grappling with their role as public gatherings that are vital to food access for consumers and the livelihoods of farmers. The Farmers Market Coalition is regularly updating their website with news announcements and updates from around the country as local/regional rules change that may impact farmers markets.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture offers COVID-19 guidance for farm and distribution preparedness, including recommendations developed for farmers markets.

For those looking for recommendations to increase their direct sales, Local Line has created a Direct Market Guide for COVID-19.

Direct-to-Consumer Online Marketing

Our own Erica Frenay, online course coordinator and livestock specialist at the Cornell Small Farms Program, recently wrote about how farmers can think through what type of online sales tools would work for their farm. The article was published in the Summer 2019 issue of the Small Farms Quarterly, but is especially relevant today as we all consider how to reach current and new customers.

Last year, CCE Schoharie and Otsego piloted the WhatsGood online farmers’ market and are now in a good position to launch this farm marketing tool on short notice in a time of need.

Here is a selection of “Direct to Market” apps:

Cornell Cooperative Extension is making a number of efforts to limit risk, such as curbside pick-up being hosted by CCE Madison.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has also developed the following guidance for on-farm or drop-off deliveries.

Oregon Tilth hosted a free webinar on direct-to-consumer online sales platforms. Representatives from four online food sales platforms — Barn2Door, Harvie, Local Food Marketplace, and Open Food Network — talked about how to prepare for the online sales marketplace, special considerations, and business/consumer safety practices.

Cornell Small Farms Program Marketing Resources

For those looking to change up your marketing channels, some of our past articles that might be of use. Restaurant closures are making some wholesale channels close up, but there may be some restaurants in your area still be operating with reduced items for takeout or delivery. They may be very appreciative of what you have to offer.

General information on direct marketing options from our Guide to Urban Farming.

Our resource Guide to Direct Market Livestock and Poultry helps to clarify and explain the complex laws in layman terms, discussing slaughtering and processing at the custom, state, and federal levels and guiding farmers through the logistics of the various market channels.

Also, we’re hearing that food hubs are experiencing significant losses in their sales through school, college, and restaurant closures, their direct sales are reported to be doing very well, particularly as individuals are stocking up their freezers. If you want to reach out to your local distributor and haven’t sold through wholesale before, our Baskets to Pallets project page on wholesale resources is a great starting point.

Kacey Deamer

Kacey is the Communications Manager for the Cornell Small Farms Program. In this role, she manages all storytelling and outreach across the program’s website, social media, e-newsletter, magazine and more. Kacey has worked in communications and journalism for more than a decade, with a primary focus on science and sustainability.