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Online marketing opens consumer doors for Ontario beef farmers

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An Ontario farm family knew it had to evolve in order to grow its meat products business. So they launched an online ordering system, which has opened up new markets and attracted new consumers

By Jeanine Moyer for AgInnovation Ontario

Dutton, Ont. – Ontario beef farmers are taking “local” online to reach new customers.

Farm to City, a new marketing model with a web-based ordering system, is opening up direct-to-customer marketing opportunities for beef farmers such as Rob and Maryjo Tait, of Celtic Ridge Farms.

The young farm family recently launched the online ordering system and was thrilled by the response from customers.


“We knew our farm meat products needed an online presence,” said Rob. “Our customers are shopping, researching and sharing their food experiences online. The Farm to City online model is attracting new customers and opening up new opportunities for us.”

The couple, along with their two young children, raises beef and lamb on their Elgin County farm. While Rob and Maryjo have already established a local clientele for their beef and lamb products through local farm markets, they knew that in order to grow they had to reach new customers.

“Websites, or an online presence almost legitimizes a business these days,” explained Rob. “We know customers are looking for local food and we want to make it easy to find us, learn about our farm and the way we raise our animals and buy from us of course.”

Farm to City was developed to link farmers to customers seeking locally-produced beef and it was designed to capitalize on the growing demand for locally-produced food. Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) teamed up with BIO to develop the Farm to City model that includes a resource handbook for farmers and an online ordering program.

The Farm to City model was funded in part through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.

The Taits have set up their own farm website, complete with photos, farm and product information and a link to the new ordering system. Online ordering allows them to operate a retail element of the farm business without the additional overhead costs and paperwork of an on-farm market. Customers now pick up their orders from the farm or Rob and Maryjo deliver.

“We knew we needed to reach customers in the city, that’s where our market opportunities are,” said Rob, explaining that customer feedback has been positive with compliments on the user-friendly ordering program.

LeaAnne Wuermli, BFO Communications Manager, said the Farm to City model has generated a lot of interest from Ontario beef farmers looking to diversify their farm businesses.

“The goal of the program is to provide farmers with another market option for their beef, help them realize market potential, and capitalize on the consumer’s interest in local food,” says Wuermli.

The model is designed to provide an efficient marketing, pricing and inventory system that supports a farmer’s business plan.

Now, with Farm to City in place, Celtic Ridge Farms is poised for new business growth.

“We know that word of mouth is still going be important to growing our business, because everyone loves to talk about good food. The key is to make it easier for customers to buy the products,” Rob said.

Photo source: Celtic Ridge Farms

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