Many farmers who have lost their traditional markets due to COVID-19-related school, university, restaurant and hotel closures are turning to Facebook and other platforms to connect with consumers hungry for local farm products and a connection to growers in their area.
Through the “Shop Kansas Farms” Facebook group, consumers can determine what farmers in their region are offering. Farm products for sale run the gamut from ground beef and pork chops to tomatoes, basil plants, eggs and jams and jellies. The group’s Facebook page provides extensive guidance for both farmer-sellers and customers, including video tutorials that cover topics like using the search function and how sellers can identify their region in a post.
Launched in late April by Rick McNary, a Kansas writer, photographer and self-proclaimed “city slicker,” Shop Kansas Farms has more than 124,000 members. Shop Kansas Farms has tapped into resources from the state Department of Agriculture and Kansas State University’s Research and Extension and has help from the Kansas Farm Bureau, with which McNary, a member, has a long-standing connection.
Meagan Cramer, director of communications and marketing at Kansas Farm Bureau, says the Facebook group has not only given farmers a boost on the sales front, it’s helped them realize they have an opportunity to open a dialogue with consumers.
“The conversations are phenomenal. There is so much learning happening,” Cramer said. That learning goes both ways, as buyers are gaining a better understanding of what farmers and ranchers do and why they do it and farmers are realizing they have to take extra care to use words that will resonate with consumers.
In Missouri, consumers are connecting with farmers selling beef, pork, lamb and poultry via the Missouri Farm Bureau website. The Missouri Meat Producer Directory is a statewide, county-by-county listing of farmers who sell beef, pork, lamb and poultry directly to consumers. The list also includes processors from across the state, some having fresh and frozen meat cases, that offer services to livestock farmers and consumers.
The no-frills directory allows producers to share their phone numbers, email addresses, websites and Facebook pages, as well as a brief description of their products.
The list was initially based on information provided by Missouri Farm Bureau’s regional coordinators. When producers found out about it though, the requests to be added to the list came pouring in, according to Eric Bohl, Missouri Farm Bureau director of public affairs and advocacy.
While Missouri Farm Bureau only minimally promoted the directory with consumers, they were clearly interested, with a single Facebook post reaching nearly 6,000 shares and more than 28,000 engagements. Related posts from news outlets in the state were very popular, too.
“The directory has been so well-received, we may keep it going beyond the pandemic,” Bohl said.