Shalayne Smith Needham- Coronavirus has left many farmers and ranchers wondering how they were going to sell their products this season. Kynda Curtis is an agriculture and food marketing specialist for Utah State University Extension and joins us to talk about this issue.
Tell us, how has Coronavirus impacted consumer spending on local food products?
Kynda Curtis- Well, actually, the Coronavirus is led to increasing consumer spending for local foods. People were viewing a lot of empty shelves at the grocery store and seeing media regarding potential shortages and closures at meat processing plants. We've seen people enlisting and community-supported ad programs and trying to purchase local eggs and local meat products at a higher rate than normal.
SSN- Most farmers and ranchers now have an online presence, has that online presence helped during this season?
KC- I would say that this particular situation where people were looking to purchase local foods, especially online has given farmers and ranchers the impetus to actually expand their online presence in terms of either putting in websites or making them able to sell and promote their products also through social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. So, a lot of producers that weren't doing that in the past are looking at that. We don't know how many yet have gone to increasing online sales or promoting and selling through social media will need to look at those long term impacts in the future.
SSN- What advice do you have for those transitioning to online sales?
KC- Doing things online can be a hurdle, but it's actually fairly straightforward. Setting up Facebook or Twitter or those types of things is fairly easy. You can take pictures, people see pictures and postings, they start to associate with you an impression of you and they think “oh, I would like to buy some local beef,” and they think, “oh, I saw someone doing that and posted a picture of their farm on Instagram,” for example. Then they go to you and it creates a following.
I would highly recommend doing social media postings. I have a blog called Marketing Emotion and you can find it on the USU Extension website. I spend four of those blogs specifically on web-based internet-based sales and promotion. So, I would encourage producers to take a look at that.
SSN- You mentioned your blog with Utah State University Extension, are there other resources that can help with online marketing?
KC- We have a small farms group at USU Extension, there's about 30-35 of us involved. On the extension COVID website, there are links to several different resources, both for consumers but also for farmers and ranchers. Other items of interest that can be helpful, we've put a lot of effort into trying to provide as many resources we can both with federal programs, state programs, general education that's been asked for on that website. It's pretty comprehensive right now.