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Farmers Under 40: young farmers have market savvy

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It used to be dairy farmers in the North Country didn't think too much about marketing their product or who would be eating or drinking it at the kitchen table. A truck owned by your co-op rolled up and emptied the bulk tank. Off went your milk to be processed by someone else.

That's still the case on many dairy farms. But in today's diversified mix of organic and vegetable and pasture-raised livestock farms, things are changing. And Bernadette Logozar says young farmers are leading the way. Logozar is the regional local foods specialist for Cornell Cooperative Extension.

She told David Sommerstein farmers under 40 are using new tools like Facebook and Twitter and good old-fashioned word of mouth to market their own products.

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They are taking control over how they are marketing their products. They are taking their product all the way to the customer and they are also taking on additional risk with that venture because they are then responsible for the distribution and marketing of the product. But they are making that connection, they are setting their prices, they are creating farms that are a little different than what would have been their grandparent’s farms.

They are also looking at a variety of ways to market their product. They are not – to use an old phrase - putting all their eggs in one basket. They might have a roadside stand. They might have a CSA. They might also have a farmers market stand. They might be selling to restaurants or a combination of those various market channels.

The other thing is they are very innovative in getting additional labor on the farm. A lot of the younger farmers are taking advantage by creating internships. They are kind of fostering another wave of farmers by offering the opportunity to other young people to learn about agriculture.

I think they can make it because the edge the young people have is they are utilizing all kinds of techniques, especially the use of social media. Social media, whether it is Facebook or blogs or what have you, is taking the best method of advertising, which is word of mouth, and just turning it into an electronic media form. The consumer is more and more interested in how and where and who is raising the food that they are going to be feeding their families.

In St. Lawrence County, Sugar Hill Farm has a website and they are also part of Garden Share and so they are linked with other organizations. I think they are part of Adirondack Harvest. They are getting their information a variety of ways. They are on Facebook so they're utilizing a social media to connect to their customers. I happen to be on their friends list. So when they have events they are posting it out there. They are inviting you to come to events. They tell you about it afterwards. They give you little photos you can check out if you aren’t able to attend the events. And they have also had open houses at the farm so they invited their customer base to actually come out and see and feel and touch and enjoy time at the farm and see how they are raising the products they have been raising all year.

I think there will always be the traditional dairy farmers and the traditional grain farmers and so forth and there is a role for that. As exciting and as much as there has been growth in the local food, there are still folks, a large bulk of the population, who are getting their food from the grocery store. But even the traditional commodity farmers are also looking at ways they can diversify their income stream. So it might be a large dairy farm that might also be growing vegetables. Or maybe it’s just that they are growing sweet corn and putting up a sweet corn stand. And it might not be a huge income but it’s a little something, a little different, cash on the table kind of thing. And then there is going to be those diversified small to medium farms that are full time operations that are the farmers selling their products through a variety of different channels and those channels are more direct to the end user, direct to the customer.

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