Foothill Farming
University of California
Foothill Farming


A good marketing strategy is key to your operation's success. To develop this strategy, you must answer some very important questions:    
  • What should I grow? How much of it should I grow and harvest at a given time?
  • Who is my ideal customer? Where can I most effectively connect with that customer base?
  • How will I appeal to these customers and entice them to buy my products?
  • How can I estimate how much they will buy?
  • How can I develop the flexibility to change my marketing strategy if my current plan isn't giving me the results I desire?
Sure, that's a lot to think about, but don't get overwhelmed! We've complied some useful publications to get you started.

Remember, answering these questions will help you work on other parts of your operation – your farm business plan, production schedule, assessment of your financial needs – so you're actually multitasking as you peruse these pages! Looking for something specific? Jump to a section with these links:
Looking for farmers' markets, marketing associations, programs, and information on other ag marketing opportunities? Visit our Farm Marketing Resources page. 

Assessing and Managing Marketing Risk

Marketing risk is one of the five types of agricultural risk you need to assess, plan for, and manage. You must understand your risks thoroughly in order both to reduce them and to make contingency plans to deal with them when they arise.

Sources of marketing risk include:
  • price risk due to increases in supply, changed demand, market trends, or improper pricing of products;
  • loss of market access due to the relocation or closing of an existing market or processing plant or lack of understanding of the requirements of various market options;
  • loss of marketing power due to lack of knowledge about potential marketing opportunities and options;
  • improper or lax recordkeeping resulting in having too much or not enough product week-over-week at a given market.
Ways of assessing and managing marketing risk include:
  • Creating a marketing plan, a constantly evolving document that relates directly to your farm business plan
  • Maintaining your knowledge of markets for your products via regular market analysis and customer research
  • Pricing correctly for your markets and your efforts
  • Effective record-keeping
  • Exploring alternative marketing strategies, alternative marketing organizations, and value-added ventures

Market Analysis

Market analysis clarifies the markets available to you, the needs of those markets, and how (and if) those needs are being met. This information will help you appeal to customers and satisfy market needs. Customer research is a significant part of market analysis. It helps you understand the demographics, values, and motivations of the customer base you wish to serve.

These tools will help you hone your product and your marketing tactics and reduce the time you spend on ineffective strategies:



Grower Stories

Creating a compelling story about your operation, including your mission, vision, goals, values, products, farm landscape, and/or a bit of biographical information, can improve the marketability of your products and the appeal of your business to existing and potential customers.

The following are examples from local growers who make use of good grower stories:


Other Marketing Options

Multimedia and social media tools can be used to great effect in your marketing strategy. Growers make use of web pages, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and other photo galleries, weekly mailings to a customer listserv, and YouTube video postings to help spread the word about their work and products. 

An example of grower use of these tools is Dinner Bell Farm in Chicago Park. In addition to a website, they use YouTube videos, Twitter, Facebook, and a Flickr photo gallery.

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