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Agrimarketing : September 2009
52 Agri Marketing September 2009 FRUIT & VEGETABLE MARKET UPDATE REACHING THIS IMPORTANT MARKET by Matt McCallum, Great American Publishing The specialty ag market is spread across the country and growers raise a diverse crop and with no one operation being homogeneous. They are always looking for new markets, new varieties, new crops and can change their operation much more quickly than a typical row crop or livestock operation. To keep up with this changing industry and the changing media marketing channels, we began annually surveying the readers of our three specialty crop magazines --- Fruit Growers News (FGN), Vegetable Growers News (VGN) and Spudman --- six years ago. We wanted to get to know our readers better; we wanted to find out: who they are, what they want from our publications, where they get their information and what influences their buying decisions. In 200 , when we conducted our first survey, 8 % of our specialty crop readers used a computer, 7 % had access to the Internet and 47% went to our web sites on a monthly basis. Fast forward to today --- 99% use a computer, 95% use the internet for their businesses and 75% visit our web site on a monthly basis. All of the results I will talk about in this article are based on responses from the decision makers in these specialty crop operations. DEMOGRAPHICS To get a baseline of our readers we asked them some basic demographic information. VGN and FGN ages were nearly identical with 66% being 51 and older, 22% between 41 and 50 and 11%, 40 or younger --- with 80% being male. Spudman decision makers were, surprisingly, a little younger but more were male compared to the other publications. Fifty-six percent were 51 and older, 20% were 41-50 and 2 % were 40 and under, with 88% male. Education was very similar across all publications with 60% having a bachelor 's degree or higher, 0% having some college and 10% having a high school diploma. SOURCES OF INFO A big focus of the surveys has been how specialty crop growers get information and what they perceive as the most reliable resources. The first question we have been asked along this line is "What is the most reliable source for good crop production information?" Keep in mind that growers could pick more than one choice. University Extension service led the way with 71%, followed by 0% for the crop protection manufacturer, 1 % for independent consultants and 1 % said they relied on a family member or friend. We purposely did not list any media as an option for this question as we wanted to get a feel for their thoughts on non-media influences. When asked how the growers learned about new crop production products, Extension was the No. 1 choice with 66% followed closely by trade publications with 64% and meetings getting 62%. A fieldman/ distributor was picked by 44% of the growers. INFLUENCES We also wondered what influences growers to make a purchase. Again, growers could pick more than one choice. Seventy percent of respondents chose trade publications as the top influencer of their decisions. Trade shows were picked by 61% of grow- ers and direct sales garnered 55%. In 2005, we added the internet as a choice but only 5% of the growers picked that option. It has quickly grown and this year 55% of respon- dents picked it as having an influ- ence on their purchases. INTERNET As the internet has become an important resource for growers we added a few more questions this year to find where they were going. We asked the question, "What web sites do you visit on a regular basis?" Topping the sites looked at were University Extension with 66% followed by trade magazine sites with 55% and local newspapers at 0%.When asked how many times growers visit our web sites, 75% checked it out 1 to times a month, 10% visit it 4 to 5 times a month and % visit our sites more than five times per month. CONNECTIONS Since it is clear growers are going to the internet for information we wanted to find out what kind of connections they had. If everyone were on dial-up then we would need to simplify our web sites and e-newsletters to reflect the connec- tions speeds. So this year we added a question about this and found, on average, that 51% had DSL, 27% had cable, 11% had satellite and 10% were on dial-up. Interestingly, the highest percentage of specialty crop growers we surveyed with DSL were potato growers with 57%. They also had the lowest dial-up connections with 6%. TO MARKET Now that you are armed with all this information, what's an agri-marketer trying to target the specialty crop market to do? I think everyone can agree that there are three pretty obvious choices for your marketing mix: trade publi- cations, trade shows and the company's own sales staff. These three choices have been very consis- tent the past six years. It's pretty easy to figure out what the specialty crop growers are reading and what trade shows they are attending. Also keep in mind that many fruit and vegetable growers are con- stantly changing their crop mix. Our FGN audience alone grows 28 differ- ent crops --- many of them vegeta- (more on page 54)
Best of CAMA 2009