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Southern Illinois

Sales Trending Upward, For example, distribution centers often demand more
produce than one farmer can offer. As one producer
Southern Illinois Sizzle Heads notes, The big chain stores want a constant supply of
Into An Optimistic 2016 fruit, so the size of your production could be a limita-
tion on some of the wholesale accounts. In addition,
The growth of national and global economic the availability of produce cannot always be guaranteed
competition limits local markets. Producers interviewed to wholesale buyers. We as farmers cant guarantee
note a shift in recent decades from neighborhood mar- that well have a continual crop. The [chain stores] dont
kets to larger corporations, According to one producer, know what theyll get every week. Other challenges to
[We] can no longer compete against WalMarts buying local food producers include the often inconsistent qual-
power or the profitability isnt there. For many of the ity of locally grown produce, such as unevenly ripened
smaller producers, it is not as profitable to sell wholesale fruit, and the responsibility for transporting produce to
to larger corporations. distant distribution centers. Several of the focus group
According to interviewees, selling to large chain participants indicate that chain stores want farmers to
grocery stores, such as Schnucks or Kroger, presents obtain third party certification and conduct audits to
unique challenges. Farmers find it difficult to secure assure compliance with Good Agricultural Practices
face-to-face time with buyers. Often they are referred (GAPs) food safety guidelines. GAPs certification may
to a regional or national buyer. In addition, the amount present an additional hurdle for small farmers who do
paid to the farmer is low. They wanted to pay less than a not already have these practices incorporated into their
third of what I get [marketing retail]. I cant deal with the production and marketing plans.
larger market. There is no way to compete. Another par- The CFA Team identified four ways to support
ticipant indicated, The USDA has a price sheet for the the production and distribution of local foods in Jackson
terminal market there is one in St. Louis and it will tell and Union counties: innovative marketing strategies;
you what you can pay for peppers on the market. technical education and innovation for local producers;
According to the producers, wholesale buyers base their assistance with government aid and policies/procedures;
prices on these federal pricing guidelines. Chain stores and access to local markets. Barriers to direct marketing
often use distribution centers that create a number of by producers include lack of time and lack of access, as
barriers for small farmers. well as lack of knowledge.

Monthly Food & Drink Net Revenue




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I think we have a lot of local food and not enough Some farmers indicate a willingness to deliver
ways to get it to consumers. One form of marketing foods directly to the consumer. Initiatives to subsidize
and increasing profits from their products is through lower-income consumer access to CSAs, along with
value-added processing. On-farm resources for val- assistance to farmers to directly deliver produce might
ue-added processing are limited. For example, one help overcome the access barriers of lower-income
grower notes, Time - the season is tough. We dont have residents to fresh, nutritious and local foods.
enough time to process. Some fruits can be stored until Focus group participants address the need for ed-
November. Then theres time to process. In addition, ucation on season extension and pest control. One
although marketing resources exist for farmers (one pro- producer suggests that growing year round is benefi-
ducer mentioned using the University of Illinois Market cial for three reasons. First, he feel[s] better eating
Maker website), most participants are unaware of these his own food. Second, growing year round would
resources. provide and income throughout the year, rather than
Agri-tourism is one marketing strategy that not for one season. Finally, he argues this is a better deal
only benefits small farms, but contributes to the local for the local environment, not moving the food so
economy. Jackson and Union counties currently benefit far away. Another participant indicates that learning
from agri-tourism through the wine industry. to extend the season is a lot of trial and error, sug-
The wine industry is a big help to us because it brings a gesting that this may be a potential area for producer
lot of tourism to the area. We are on the wine trail. In the education. For instance, on the surveys, farmers note
last couple years they have been accepting other busi- their use of hoop houses and single row season ex-
nesses to include on the brochures. You have to pay to be tenders as key production methods; however, several
a part of this. We recommend exploring collaborations participants mention learning about these on their
and providing financial support for small farmers to in- own.
crease their opportunities for joining existing marketing The local food system would benefit from
efforts. regional support for the creation of a Southern Illinois
Building on existing agri-tourism programs growers association. This association could potentially
to include small and mid-sized local farms is a possi- assist farmers with technical education and innova-
ble start. Focus group participants made a number of tion. As one producer notes, this association would
suggestions, including a farm stand brochure and other assist in getting farmers together to discuss how we
promotional materials that list businesses which sup- can help each other, starting farms, and how do you
port local foods, such as restaurants, grocery stores, and get more people involved in getting the word out.
farmers markets. Another suggestion was to encourage Although several producers mention the benefits of
synergistic relationships with local businesses, such as the University of Illinois Extension, they note that
bed and breakfasts, that could distribute the materials they only help with production but not with sales,
and recommend local foods to tourists. Some farmers and added, it is difficult to get through and talk to
already accommodate tours of their farms, yet have someone. They are short on resources. They dont
limited means of outreach to prospective tourists. Some have specialists locally. Since the time of these inter-
farmers already accommodate tours of their farms, yet views, Food Works has worked with local growers to
have limited means of outreach to prospective tourists. establish the Southern Illinois Farming Network, an
For example, one producer noted, I ran into some peo- education and support program providing on-farm
ple at the [farmers] market who have asked to come and learning and networking opportunities for beginning
see the farm, schools are involved that way. Producers and experienced growers in the region.-
seemed interested in being more involved and connected
with agri-tourism, but did not have existing connections
to develop relationships. Another innovative marketing
strategy to provide locally produced foods is Commu-
nity Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms. CSAs are a
marketing model in which the consumer purchases a
share of the farm harvest at the beginning of the season,
sharing in the successes and failures of the farm.