Want to know how we can help you create, grow and engage your audience through a long-term marketing strategy?
Read about our relationship with Riverbend Gardens and what we've been able to accomplish with them in the past few years.
In the summer of 2006, I started a summer job as a field hand at Riverbend Gardens. Having grown up on a farm myself, I loved the work. The days of hands elbow deep in dirt, walking rows hoeing weeds in heavy heat, pulling carrots and onions from the earth, washing them and bringing them to Farmers' markets to feed the public, it was fantastic. What I didn't know that summer, was that it was just the very beginning of a long and invested relationship with the people, the veggies and the land at Riverbend Gardens.
Getting to know not only their process but their mindset and values at Riverbend forever changed the way I would eat veggies and work in agriculture. Fast forward a decade and I'm still heavily involved in Riverbend's operations. Currently, I not only create photography campaigns for the farm but also manage their weekly CSA veggie delivery season, handle all daily communications and produce their weekly Field Report newsletter.
Anticipation, Education, Celebration.
The goal with anything I create for Riverbend is to serve one or more of the following: education, anticipation and celebration. Farming in and serving a very urban population comes with it's own particular set of challenges and issues. The audience we are interacting with is at once both incredibly invested in our practices and product and begin uneducated about farming cycles and processes.
At the forefront of every piece of communication I craft as Riverbend is the intention that the piece will in some way equip our community to better understand the food Riverbend grows, how they grow it and how to enjoy it. As Barbara Kingsolver says in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, ""Knowing how foods grow is to know how and when to look for them; such expertise is useful for certain kinds of people, namely, the ones who eat, no matter where they live or grocery shop."
While this communication takes place through many different venues, the main scheduled source is the Riverbend Gardens Field Report newsletter. Received by 1700+ subscribers weekly during the CSA season and bi-weekly in the off season, this is our podium to share with the Riverbend Gardens community about the farm and veggies.
During the 2015 CSA season, I implemented a communication strategy that focused on highlighting the crops from seed to table. A major part of this was capturing the crops at all stages of development and in all varieties. We wanted to show how the farming of veggies really begins long before the snow has melted and the fields are worked.
The other challenge with photographing Riverbend's crops and farming practices is to really show the heart of the farm. Riverbend is a family run, labour intensive operation. It's not a large scale farm by any means and to present a face to the world that looks too "polished" or "clean" wouldn't be true to who the farm or the farmers are. The trick is to be both professional but approachable; to make it clear that Riverbend Gardens is just individuals serving individuals.
While I couldn't manage to highlight all of Riverbend Gardens 20+ crops during the CSA's 15 week season, some of the crops that did get a shout out were beets, potatoes, broccoli, peas, kohlrabi, beans, fennel, cucumbers, onions, cabbage, cauliflower, squash, kale and dill.
One of the most important thing about communication strategies is to always be evaluating and reevaluating your successes and failures. We analyze the audience response to everything we put out and see what is most and least effective. We compare that to what is most and least important in our message and are continually coming up with new and creative ways to express our message cleanly and effectively.
As of 2015 we are in our 4th year of intentionally seeking out and growing our community/audience and we're seeing some great results. We started our CSA with 53 members and newsletter readers in 2012, today we have 559 CSA members, 1174 newsletter subscribers and in the 15 week of peak season, we respond to just under 1000 emails.