October 20, 2021

Helping to build a brand

Project to develop strategies to promote local food

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

Karen Sanyshyn, of Cortland, picks corn Thursday grown at Diescher’s Farm in Cortland and sold at Anderson’s Farm Market in Homer. Seven Valleys Health Coalition and Cornell Cooperative Extension are conducting a survey on ways to help market local foods in Cortland County.

Karen Sanyshyn of Cortland looked over the corn Thursday in the front foyer of Anderson’s Farm Market in Homer. It had been grown at Diescher’s Farm in Cortlandville.

She routinely seeks local foods.

“It helps the people growing and it’s delicious and fresh,” she said. “It’s so good for you.”

Making it easier to find that food is the goal of a Cornell University student who is collecting data to develop marketing strategies for farmers in a partnership of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County and Seven Valleys Health Coalition.

Rachel Schneider, a branding intern for the extension, has spent the summer collecting data for the health coalition’s local food promotion grant project. She traveled to farms across the county, interviewing consumers, farmers and market owners to get data that would help producers market their products.

Many of the Cortland-area farmers don’t have marketing strategies, and the branding report will provide the research and tools to help them, she said.

“It’s an important project because it’s something that Cortland County is lacking — Onondaga and other counties have great local campaigns, and the Cortland farmers deserve the same recognition,” Schneider said.

The first step is a two-minute online questionnaire, found on the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County Facebook page, that will help Schneider hone in on what drives customers to buy locally. The questionnaire will be open until 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

Take the survey

To take the eight-question local foods survey, go to tinyurl.com/2n68dpxh.

Seven Valleys Health Coalition will use the information to develop a marketing profile for each farm and markets, including the types of products, location, price, consumers and promotion style.

“The coalition’s goal is to promote community health by looking at a variety of social determinants of health — and one of the things that is very important to health is having access to appropriate and affordable food,” said project coordinator Adrianne Traub. “Our overall goal is to help connect local producers to local market channels and help people in our community figure out how to access more local agricultural products.”

The branding project is one way to do that.

“We want to be able to help create a brand identity for Cortland County agricultural producers, and that will help people who are buying food to be able to recognize what is locally produced,” Traub said.

Once the research project is concluded, the coalition and Cornell Cooperative Extension will work with professional branding and design companies to create a brand identity for the county, similar to the Onondaga Grown campaign.

Jennifer and Matthew DeHart, co-owners of Anderson’s Farm Market, said when they first started marketing their business, they needed to consider their customer demographics, the availability of products, how they would advertise and the cost.

Schneider’s branding report will provide that information, said Dana Havas, an agricultural educator with the extension and Schneider’s supervisor.

“Many of the markets like Anderson’s or Trinity Valley Dairy have already done that research, they know what they need to do,” Havas said. “But when it comes to agricultural producers themselves, they have to be the businessman, the farmer and the marketer. This can give them the research they don’t have time to do, or don’t have an idea of their ideal customer and they don’t know who to reach out to or what consumers value most.”

“Just having a branding package of some sort, it’ll make the marketing effort more successful because you’re actually doing the research to develop products — not just the products being the logo, but having a whole brand,” Havas added.

“The business climate in New York state is difficult to navigate,” Matthew DeHart said. “There is little help from the government — on the state and federal levels — for those who are not in the dairy industry.”

Starting in 2022, any Cortland County producer will have the opportunity to use the coalition’s promotional program branding kit, featuring stickers they can place on products.

Managing Editor Todd R. McAdam contributed to this report.