Last month, I stopped in for the annual Organic Alberta Conference in Olds to hear what’s new in the world of organics. I was a little later than I intended, but happened to sneak into the first concurrent session of the day just in time to hear Blake Hall of Prairie Gold Meats addressing an intrigued audience. His topic, along with the other speaker of the session, surrounded making your farm customer friendly.
“We direct market everything we produce,” Hall explained in an interview after his session, “and, so, every year we host a field day, usually in mid-September to invite all of our customers out to do a farm tour and to kind of celebrate the season.”
The field day sees a crowd of upwards of 150 people, and has helped the Hall family develop more meaningful relationships with clients. This, Hall said, has kept their farm accountable to the production standards their consumers demand. Plus, the dedicated day has meant the farm sees fewer drop-ins throughout the year, thereby increasing production efficiencies.
Though many farms use field days as a source of revenue, that’s not what’s in it for Hall, who views the day as a huge marketing opportunity.
“It might cost us $1000,” Hall said, between porta-potties, food and beverages, “but if that’s our marketing budget for the year, it’s well worth it.”
In terms of hosting an audience of urbanites versus fellow farmers, you might be surprised at their similarities.
“They’re just as interested in the nitty gritty production side of the things as like the feel-good story you might sell,” Hall said, describing how some of his customers showed up to a field day he had actually planned for other primary producers.
It’s no surprise then, that the Prairie Gold Pastured Meats field day always includes a farm tour, with an added “air of transparency.” Nothing is off-limits, and there are no places the family won’t take customers.
For those considering hosting their own field day, Hall had a few suggestions.
“Make sure you’ve got enough liability insurance to cover anything that could happen on the farm. If you’re serving food, make sure you’re observing any bylaws and regulations that apply in your municipality or province.”
Also make sure to talk about the hazards around the farm, to help parents keep a watchful eye on wondering children.
“It’s so easy. Just set a date. Send it out to your customers. With that date set then you’re held to it and you’ll pull it off one way or another.”
And maybe you’ll have to celebrate the end of the day with your own version of “Cow Plop Bingo.”