From the very beginning, Elk Run Farm has always emphasized the importance of partnerships throughout every step of the journey, including funding, volunteer management, and marketing/visibility. Founded by the South King County Food Coalition (SKCFC), partnerships have always been based on sharing best practices and community support. A mantra often heard at SKCFC meetings is “Why reinvent the wheel?”. With so many players in the world of emergency food, the Harvest Against Hunger VISTA always seeks out partners and allies to lay the groundwork for community outreach and visibility.
How do partnerships help with marketing and visibility?
Partnerships amongst stakeholders inherently provide an opportunity for increased visibility and networking. By presenting to local Rotary Clubs and Chambers of Commerce, the Harvest VISTA has formed relationships with major leaders and stakeholders in the community, parents with connections to local schools, business owners and professionals, and many more. This type of grassroots networking creates meaningful connections and gives a name and face to the organization that can synergize with traditional types of marketing.
For example, one of the food banks in SKCFC has a volunteer who frequently volunteers at Elk Run Farm. As a parent of a Girl Scout, she was able to bring the VISTA to a Girl Scout Troop Leaders monthly gatherings where the VISTA was able to present Elk Run Farm to almost thirty other community members. It would have been impossible for the VISTA to know about this meeting, let alone be invited to speak, without the connection to this volunteer.
1. Be prepared to talk about the long term vision of the project and any tangible needs. Every conversation with a member of the community is a chance to network and increase visibility towards the project.
2. Always offer to come to meetings or gatherings even if a presentation is not on the table. A face to face interaction is much more engaging than an email or a phone call.
Marketing/Visibility in the Food Banks
Along with marketing and visibility in the community where the farm is located, Elk Run Farm has been able to outreach to clients at food banks. With the farm tucked away in Maple Valley and more removed from many of the communities they serve in South King County, familiarity of Elk Run Farm has been low with many clients. Through this opportunity, Elk Run Farm can tell clients that there is a farm that is growing food specifically for them and introduce themselves as their farmer. This is an ongoing process and lists some successes as well as upcoming plans.
1. Building visual familiarity with a logo: A logo may seem small but it packs a visual punch to any marketing efforts. A good logo can be effective when it is used repeatedly and consistently. Have a newsletter? Include the logo with every edition. Want to create an eye-catching banner or sign? Use the logo. Have a Facebook or use Gmail? Use the logo as your profile picture. Website, posters, volunteer recruitment materials, organizational letterheads, t-shirts! If you can create it, include the logo.
2. Mock farmers market stands: Just as one would see at a farmers market, Elk Run Farmers set up a stand at the food bank where they can hand fresh produce to the clients themselves. After completing a harvest at Elk Run Farm, the farmers bring the produce to the food banks along with a canopy, tables, banners and display crates. The stands created a space for the farmers to give advise on unfamiliar produce, gather insights on vegetables that clients would like to see more of, and start building familiarity of Elk Run Farm. For more details, read this article (link to Mock Farmers Market article).
Using funds from a grant, Elk Run Farm is working with a graphic designer to create a whole variety of printed marketing materials. These materials include vegetable preparation cards, rack cards, produce stickers, hang tags and posters. As stated above, all of these materials will include the farm’s logo.
1. Hang tags and stickers: The hang tags and stickers will be seen directly on the produce. If the farm staff is not available for a mock farmers market stand, the food bank clients will still be able to differentiate Elk Run Farm’s produce from ones that come from other donation streams, such as grocery rescue.
2. Posters and rack cards: The posters and rack cards serve to explain what Elk Run Farm is than just differentiating it. These will be translated into languages commonly spoken in the food bank’s community so all clients can learn about the farm.
3. Vegetable preparation cards: These materials will be another piece in Elk Run Farm’s passive education programming to familiarize clients with produce and give tips on how to prepare produce that is grown at the farm. One of the many benefits of these types of partnerships amongst stakeholders is the opportunity for increased visibility and networking that they inherently provide. By presenting to local Rotary Clubs and Chambers of Commerce, the Harvest Against Hunger VISTA has formed relationships with major leaders in the community, parents with connections to local schools, business owners and professionals, and many more. This type of grassroots networking creates meaningful connections and gives a name and face to the organization that many traditional types of advertising cannot compete with.