November 30, 2021

Building a brand

Seven Valleys, co-op extension promote local foods

Kevin Conlon/city editor

Kelsi Poole works Tuesday at Trinity Valley Dairy in Truxton. The business sells its own milk and other foods produced by local farmers. It is among several retailers and a number of farm stands and farms that will be promoted through a new branding program that Seven Valleys Health Coalition and Cornell Cooperative Extension plan to launch next spring

Seven Valleys Health Coalition is on track to roll out a local foods promotional program next spring, now that its branding report is complete.

The coalition worked with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County to provide a way for residents to support the local food system through buying locally.

“I’m personally really excited about this project,” said project coordinator Adrianne Traub. “We’re helping provide a marketing opportunity for local businesses to be able to support our food system, so if customers are more interested in supporting local food and they see that branding in a restaurant or grocery store, they might go back there more often because it’s supporting their values.”

If each of Cortland County’s 17,745 households spent $25 a week on local food, that would generate $23.1 million in direct sales in the county, plus additional economic activity as farmers get to spend that money
Rachel Schneider, a brand intern for the extension, spent the summer collecting data for the health coalition’s project. She traveled to farms across the county, interviewing consumers, farmers and market owners to get data that would help producers market their products.

Brand training
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County and Seven Valleys Health Coalition are offering sessions for farmers and sellers of local foods to them about the county agriculture branding process.

A marketing package will be made available to restaurants, producers and markets who are selling agricultural products grown or produced in Cortland County. The sessions will be noon to 1 p.m. Dec. 7 or 10 to 11 a.m. Dec. 11.

Register at Call 607-391-2664 with any questions.

The first step in the branding project was a two-minute online questionnaire that helped Schneider determine what drives customers to buy locally.

“Rachel had talked to at least a dozen or more farmers, visiting farmers markets and talking to customers and retailers, too,” said Dana Havas, an agricultural educator with the extension and Schneider’s internship supervisor.

Through the interviews and more than a hundred survey responses, the extension found that many of the participating consumers visit farmers markets because they want to keep their money in the local economy and they want to support the work of local farmers, Havas said.

“Once this branding and marketing kit comes to the point where those stickers are placed on products, customers will be able to look for products that support their local community, the farmers and the local economy,” Havas said. “They’ll be able to make an impact in this way.”

The next step in the project is presenting the branding report to the producers next month, to get their response — including the brand name, the tagline and the logo that will be used to create a marketing kit that businesses can use.

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

“The customers are the ones who are going to be directly impacted — having a brand is to paint a picture for the consumer of what they’re going to get,” Havas said. “This project is about expressing the values that Cortland agriculture products offer and encouraging folks to purchase locally because, in the end, you’re supporting your local community.”