2016 NAFDMA Convention a great success

  Fall 2016
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 Of the over 200 attendees at the 31st Annual NAFDMA (North American Farm Direct Marketing Association) Convention held in February, nine Alberta entrepreneurs were there thanks in part to a Participant Sponsorship Program (PMP) offered by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry and Growing Forward 2 (GF2).
Under this one-time program, successful applicants were eligible for reimbursement of up to $2,000 (75 percent) of their 2016 NAFDMA Convention fee. Acceptance in the program was based upon the successful completion of an application form.

The goal of the program was to enable Alberta farm direct marketing producers and agri-tourism operators to attend the conference and transfer the knowledge gained to their operations and to other operators in the province in an effort to increase the Alberta farm direct and agri-tourism industry.

The nine attendees were Kreg Alde, Broken Tine Orchard; Amy Mifflin and Kelly Board, Prairie Gardens; Veronica Zdrodowski, Shady Lane Estate; Karen Shaw, Kayben Farms; Steven Souto, Steve and Dan’s Fresh Fruit; Blaine Staples, Jungle Farm; and Joe and Helen Doef, Doef ’s Greenhouse.

The Convention, held in February 2016, consisted of a bus tour that guided participants through various agri-businesses in the Vancouver and Abbotsford, B.C. area.

Over three full days the bus took participants from Langley to Granville Island and from Pitt Meadows to Sumas. Attendees made connections and gained knowledge from a variety of entrepreneurs, including craft brewers, diversified agri-tourism operators, multi-generational on-farm retailers, vintners and farmers’ market vendors.

In addition to the first-hand experiences of the bus tour, timely and targeted educational sessions provided insights on everything from selling local food items at farm concessions, to creating new profitmaking areas like on-farm restaurants or even daycares.

Tips on reducing theft on the farm, repurposing old products into profits and ways to increase your businesses’ exposure and profitability through social media were also touched upon.


Following the conference, the nine sponsored delegates were asked to provide feedback on their experience.

Would you recommend the convention to other Alberta farm direct or agri-tourism operators?

• It was a great experience and learning opportunity; from networking, to learning how to properly market your business.

• I would highly recommend attending. This was my first conference and I was amazed at the diversity, sharing and experiences of the program.

• Although I have much experience in the field of direct marketing at farmers’ markets (40 plus years), I’m still learning from leading experiences such as these NAFDMA conferences.

• The information and feedback I received from both the sessions and other operators was invaluable.

Did your participation in the Convention help you to achieve your business goals?

• Networking was one of the most useful components and I got to meet several (operators with) businesses very similar to mine. It allowed us to compare our experiences and even in some cases, help co-promote each other.

• Our business goals for 2016 have been enhanced by attending the conference in Vancouver, B.C. We intend to increase our exposure to potential clients/customers using social media and traditional advertising.

• I hope to increase on-farm events, which value-add the produce we grow on our farm. We will investigate a cottage winery, as we saw that many farms were producing excellent fruit wines with berries from their farms.

• There are so many new ideas that I am definitely going to apply this season.

• I came out of NAFDMA pumped and excited, ready to teach my staff new ways of dealing with situations and complaints.

Did you, or do you plan to, apply or share your learnings in your operation?

• I will be applying a long list of learnings to our operation immediately and as budget can allow, I will continue to add into our business.

• We sent two delegates to the conference in Vancouver. They have returned and have shared their experiences, insights, contacts and pictures with other members of the company.

• I will apply my learnings directly in my strategic planning, and day-to-day execution of our activities on the farm. For example, I now have a strategy to turn a customer complaint into a robust system on improving customer service, and our staff training program.

• We will greatly improve our on-farm value-added food service sales by 50 per cent by adding field to fork dinners. Our goal is to have one booked every weekend.

• Yes we will be using the information from the sessions to select a POS system for our farm. This will help us to track customers and get better information about the nature of our sales as well as track inventory.

Event Take-Aways

Overall, the conference was deemed a resounding success by all who attended. Some of the most effective lessons learned included:

  • Consumers want to connect to producers through believable, relatable, authentic and compelling farm stories.
  • Capitalize the experience: plan to the last detail.
  • Partner up. Create connections and promote your partners.
  • Upsell with product signs, digital displays, dynamic pricing structures and unique bundling.
  • Avoid over diversification. Do everything you do really well.
  • New products, new ideas: frozen smoothie fruit blends; apple blossom pastries, porch chairs, photo shoot rentals and sweet corn pizza.
  • A snack bar drives store sales. Adding a snack bar can triple product sales.
  • Be relevant to the lives of your consumers. Educate, educate, educate.
  • Use innovation to overcome challenges: space-limited expansions, structure options, parking, terrain and layout obstacles, labour, product waste.

To hear more about the NAFDMA experience, register for the Explore Local webinar 9am, October 12.
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Eileen Kotowich.
This information published to the web on September 23, 2016.