Direct Farm Marketing and Tourism Activities to Keep the Farm

Enhance Economic Opportunities for Agricultural Producers
Research Year: 

For many small and medium-sized farms, traditional commodity marketing channels no longer provide sufficient returns to support a family through farming. The value-added contribution by U.S. producers of consumer food expenditures has fallen from 22.8 percent in 1950 to only 7.9 percent in 2000. By allowing farmers to retain a higher share of consumer food expenditures, direct marketing, along with agritourism, has proved to be an alternative for keeping these farms economically viable. Global competition and modern production technologies have pushed the price of raw agricultural commodities downward so that many farmers and ranchers have found it difficult to remain in production agriculture. However, some farmers and ranchers have mastered the art of obtaining a higher profit margin from their agricultural land holdings by marketing food products and farm recreation directly to the consumer.

Description of Action: 

Two UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty members convened the first annual Arizona Direct Farm Marketing and Tourism (DFMT) conference in 1995 at the same time they finished putting together a 250-page layman’s publication on the topic. The educational curriculum was designed to provide producers with an A-Z publication for finding the essentials needed to start and develop a direct farm marketing enterprise. Producers have been able to network and learn from each other at the annual conference by sharing their failures and success stories. The 9th annual conference was held at Apple Annie’s Farm in southeastern Arizona in the summer of 2004. The event draws both regular and new participants who are investigating whether they should try direct farm marketing. Generally 50 to100 individuals attend the annual conference and the handbook curriculum has reached thousands of people.

An interim board was recently formed to organize an Arizona Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association. Issues the association will address include being a collective voice in the state for direct farm marketing issues, educational programs, collective buying of insurance products for members, coordinating better with Arizona Grown, developing a farmers’ market directory, and building an association Web site that links producers with restaurant buyers and other food vendors.

The Western Extension Marketing Committee and University of Arizona Cooperative Extension recently published a book, “Western Profiles of Innovative Agricultural Marketing: Examples from Direct Farm Marketing and Agri-Tourism Enterprises.” The book is a collaborative effort with authors from seven Western states. Using a case-study approach, farmers learn concepts that can be applied to stabilize and enhance their businesses. Examples include failures and successes of 17 enterprises located in Western urban and rural settings.


Participants at the direct farm marketing conference (DFMT) in 2004 not only rated the topics presented as being relevant to their operation but indicated that they thought there was a high probability (3.0 on a 4.0 scale) that the information learned at the conference would impact the profitability of their operation. One participant is networking with others who attended the conference to expand their goat cheese market and a mobile petting zoo that includes the goats they milk. Experience has shown them that some of their most loyal customers for goat milk and cheese are those who have been exposed to their operation through a birthday party or similar event with their petting zoo.

More than 3,000 hard copies of Western Profiles have been distributed throughout the West in 2004. The publication is also available for free on the Internet and producers have been accessing the publication online. On-line access of the printed edition has been available since the end of January 2004 at More than 25,000 downloads were made during 2004 of the entire book or an article in the book. Thus, more than 50 individuals a day have been served with this publication, even after reducing downloads from robots.


+ Western Profiles is “informative, readable, and realistic with an attractive format.”

+ Western Profiles is “a timely topic and one that has not received a great deal of research in recent years. I applaud the authors and the WEMC for taking a look at this issue.”

The DFMT Handbook is still widely accessed and maintains the #1 listing for “Direct Farm Marketing” on the Google search engine (rank is based on Web sites selected by users). Requests to utilize the handbook for a short course or class have come from other Western states in addition to Arizona, and Australia, Canada and South Africa.

“I actually used the information from your website to begin looking into marketing my eggs! I must have used a ream of paper and 2 ink cartridges printing it off. I found the section on business planning extremely helpful.” –participant.

Funding Agencies: 

Arizona Cooperative Extension; Western Center for Risk Management Education, USDA/CSREES

Conact Name: 
Russell Tronstad
Contact E-mail: 
Contact Address: 

The University of Arizona

Economics Bldg. (#23)

Tucson, AZ 85721

Tel: (520) 621-2425; FAX (520) 621-6250