Community food systems, slow food systems, and bioregionalism all benefit from farmers engaging in direct marketing. Direct marketing involves a personal, one-to-one relationship that connects farmers and consumers together. This relationship may be a face-to-face one it may not, eg internet sales. The important thing is there are no middle people. This is the way produce has been sold historically – it is only in the last 100 years that our food production systems have become dissociated from the consumers.
The goal of commodity marketing is to sell a commodity, whereas the goal of direct marketing is to market products’ differences. It recognises that not all apples are the same. Neither products nor consumers are identical – products are unique and consumers have unique tastes and preferences. Direct marketing takes advantage of the niches produced by these differences.
It is usually small farms that engage in direct marketing. They cannot compete with large scale operations on price, so their businesses are uniquely positioned to compete on other, non-price factors. To do this farmers must be aware of their customers’ likes and dislikes, and their preferences, such as convenience, variety, flavour, and speciality produce.
Convenience: Direct delivery to home or work increases convenience as does including recipes and serving suggestions, or providing ready-to-eat salad mixes.
Variety: Small farmers can produce many more varieties of each produce eg 15 varieties of tomatoes, or they can be diversified and offer flowers, honey, dairy and a wide range of fruit and vegetables.
Flavour: Flavour is often at the top of the list of criteria of consumers. Small-scale farmers have the opportunity to get their produce to consumers the same day it is picked, ensuring the flavour is held.
Speciality Produce: Farmers who are in communication with their customers are aware of their preferences for speciality or novelty products. Labelling can to consumers eg labelling as: locally grown, certified organic, free-range, or grass-fed.