There’s more to successful farming than growing a good crop. You have to sell it, too. Smart marketing was the main focus of the educational agenda during the 7th annual Florida Ag Expo held at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center (GCREC) in Balm. The entire morning session was dedicated to discussing various aspects of the topic.
Shannon Shepp, deputy director, Division of Marketing and Development for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, was part of the lineup of speakers that welcomed the crowd inside the auditorium. Shepp, speaking on behalf of state Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam, discussed the importance of the Fresh From Florida brand recognition. She also divulged some big news that the Florida Agricultural Promotion Campaign (FAPC) was planning a major media buy (in the neighborhood of $3.2 million) to run TV commercials promoting Fresh From Florida products. Shepp said the campaign, which is breaking new ground for the FAPC, would involve five major markets around the Sunshine State. Stay tuned.
Shepp’s speech was a good segue for the first of two marketing-related panel discussions. The first, about focusing on developing new market potentials for growers, and the other about how to make your product stand out.
One of the panelists, Anthony Barbieri, VP of business development for the Produce Marketing Association, carries an extensive background in the grocery store business. He offered some poignant advice/words of encouragement for the growers in the room:
- “I know you’ve had some tough years, but don’t give up on strawberries. The front side of the deal is so profitable. With R&D, you still have one hell of an advantage.”
- “You can’t grow enough blueberries. Full-steam ahead with the berry category.”
- “For peaches, you have a big marketing opportunity in this [size, flavor, and varieties].”
- “Pomegranates are taking off. I compliment you on thinking outside of the box.”
- “Citrus seedless varieties are where it’s at [see California Cuties]. Go for it.”
- And finally, in reference to all the work being done to bring new ideas to the table: “The Tasti-Lee tomato is a testament. You guys are true innovators.”
Barbieri concluded his presentation by going over opportunities for growers going forward as seen in his the PowerPoint slide below.
Tracy Irani, UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education, wrapped up the first marketing session by reviewing a newly released consumer study on local food choice, led by UF/IFAS economist Alan Hodges. Irani said one of the more surprising finds of the study shows that consumers identify with produce grown within 100 miles of their location. “People are looking at local food choice much more broadly than we first thought,” she said. “All produce grown in Florida is something that resonates with local consumers.”
The sense of local food is growing and is becoming a significant economic driver in the state. “It has a $1.63 billion economic impact on the Florida market,” Irani said.
Buy And Sell
The well-attended educational sessions are only part of the appeal at the one-day event, which accrued its largest pre-registration total to date with more than 700 people this year. The trade show, which featured more than 70 industry suppliers, saw plenty of action all day inside and outside of the facility.
Always a popular draw, the field/greenhouse tours, which showcased an up-close look at crop protection and plant breeding research work by UF/IFAS scientists at the GCREC, were full in the morning and afternoon.
“All in all, it was another great show,” says Gerry Bogdon, publisher, Florida Grower. “We’re already looking forward to next year.”
The 2013 Florida Ag Expo is scheduled for November 6 at the GCREC.