Farmer Direct Marketing Summer Program and Tour
Farm Business Management Update, August 1997
By Charlie Coale of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech
Farmers marketing products and services directly to customers participated in a program that featured five farm enterprises in Loudoun and Fairfax counties. Farmers observed activities of the grower only markets, urban markets, on-farm markets, and a grower only farm producing for urban markets.
The two markets visited in Fairfax County were the Fairfax City Market and Cox Farms. The Fairfax City market is a grower only market featuring local produce, baked bread, and flowers. About fifteen growers supply the Fairfax market from Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The market coordinator is Jack Baggett and the market is sponsored by the Fairfax County Park Authority. Cox Farms is a family-owned farm operation supplying products from two locations. The speciality of the market is centered around greenhouse products located in Centerville, Virginia. They market products beginning with cool-season annuals and prernnials, followed by herbaceous plants, local produce, apples, cider, Indian corn, pumpkins, and closing with Christmas trees.
Loudoun County farm visits included Chantilly Farms, Fields of Flowers, and Wheatland Vegetable Farms. Chantilly Farms, Inc. features locally grown produce and bedding plants. They are well known for their innovative marketing programs including school tours, special events, and a cornfield maze shaped like a pumpkin. High school students make up the majority of their workforce.
Fields of Flowers is an innovative marketer of fresh-cut flowers, dried flowers, arrangements, and crafts merchandised in their rustic red barn. They extend their season by opening their "Holiday Shop" at Christmas. In addition, the property is used for weddings and catered events.
Wheatland Vegetable Farms focused attention of the participants on the logistics of perishable produce being supplied to the Northern Virginia grower only markets. The marketing lecture by Charles "Chip" Planck emphasized the need for effective logistical management to meet the quality demands of the markets' customers. He illustrated the need for record keeping, developing "plan-o-grams," and plotting product movement by market location. Wheatland has an innovative program for recruiting college interns for summer employment and an educational program for cross training students in both production and marketing.
The farm enterprises highlighted in the tour stops were owned or managed by: Jack Baggett, Fairfax City Market, Eric and Gina Cox, and Lynn Hertz, Cox Farms; Tim and Claire Hutchinson, Chantilly Farms; Roberta "Robbie" and Dennis East, Fields of Flowers; and Charles and Susan Planck, Wheatland Vegetable Farms. The summer tour co-chairs were Andrew Gerachis, Virginia Cooperative Extension, and Joan Broome, FDMA board member and Secretary and Treasurer, Loudoun Valleys HomeGrown Markets Association. The sponsors included FDMA, Leonard Bergey, President; Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service, Cathy Belcher, Public Relations; and Virginia Tech, Charlie Coale, Professor and Extension Economist, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. Extension agents have played an important role in the direct marketing summer program and tours. The Fairfax-Loudoun Counties event is the fourth summer program offered to direct marketers. Other programs and tours were hosted by Brad Jarvis, Richard Nunnley, Melvin Atkinson, and the current program by Andrew Gerachis.
Visit Virginia Cooperative Extension