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When small-scale farmers and regional marketers meet, both benefit

The Issue

California’s Central Coast, with its superb growing conditions, has a diverse population of farmers who produce a dizzying array of high-quality, fresh products in a highly competitive environment. Small and recent-entry farmers may lack marketing experience, connections with area wholesale markets, or established relationships with produce buyers. Increasing consumer interests in small farms and locally produced foods, together with buyers’ desire to support local farms and products, have created new and unique market opportunities for both farmers and produce buyers.

What Has ANR Done?

Recognizing that small-scale farmers could benefit from increased knowledge about market venues and access to markets in their area, the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program/UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute and UC Cooperative Extension in Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties teamed up to convene a full-day San Francisco Bay Area Market Tour that enabled farmers and buyers to meet one another and exchange information. Funds for the tour were provided by a grant from Co Bank, Farm Credit West, American AgCredit and Farm Credit Services of Colusa-Glenn. Forty-six farmers representing 44 producers along with representatives from several farm support organizations visited and learned about a variety of market venues including the San Francisco terminal market, the headquarters of a new on-line food hub, an institutional buyer, a wholesaler, and a retail grocer.

The Payoff

Small farmers gain new market contacts with the potential to increase sales

Farmers learned about buyers’ needs regarding pack, quality, food safety, and record keeping. Buyers, in turn, learned about farmers, their products, and seasonal availability. Participating farmers reported making an average of eight new contacts as result of this tour. Five farmers later indicated that they had followed up with those contacts and that these new relationships have the potential to increase their sales by 126%. Furthermore, 15 farmers (33% of participants) took the opportunity to consult with UC ANR academics and learn about strategies that can benefit their business, such as improved postharvest practices, marketing, and obtaining operating credit from Farm Credit and Farm Link.

Clientele Testimonial

One grower said that the most important thing he learned that would help him sell to buyers was this: “There are specialty buyers who will buy unique, high-value items that will [help] my small farm grow.” Another grower learned to “go out, look for new markets, and don’t limit the market by myself.” A third one had this take-away: “know the audience for your product.”


Supporting Unit: Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program

UC Cooperative Extension Santa Cruz and Santa Clara Counties; UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program; and the UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute

Laura Tourte, (831) 763-8005, ljtourte@ucanr.edu; Aziz Baameur, (408) 282-3127, azbaameur@ucanr.edu; David Visher, dlvisher@ucdavis.edu; Gail Feenstra, (530) 752-8408, gwfeenstra@ucdavis.edu