“Many family traditions and activities are moulded around the different seasons and the holidays that are part of them,” says Robert Spencer, commercial horticulture specialist at the Alberta Ag-Info Centre. “Holidays represent excellent opportunities for agricultural producers to capture the attention of their customers and to promote the farm and its products.”
Spencer notes that not every operation is geared towards pairing with holidays due to season length or product offering, and that is okay.
“Nevertheless, there are some easy connections that you may consider as potential options for promoting your farm.”
On-farm themed events
Spencer suggests creating events with the intent of having them repeat yearly, so people know to look for them after the initial event. He adds that it is important to highlight what you have on your farm.
“Depending on your set up, you may or may not be in a position to offer many of the winter-centric celebrations. If you have an on-farm store or on-farm facilities, you could consider offering festive holiday dinners or luncheons.”
“While in the summer months, BBQs or picnics could be on the plate along with other activities that already occur on the farm.”
If there is livestock on the farm, he says that another option could be a nativity scene during the Christmas season. “For Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, consider snow or bale mazes, hayrides or photography. Easter could feature an egg hunt or a petting zoo with chicks, bunnies, etc.”
On-farm decoration and promotion
Displays that match or tie into the seasons or holidays can be relatively easy to create.
“What you like and what you have will determine the degree or amount of effort that goes into your offerings. Holiday specific promotions and featured products can help draw people in.”
Spencer says that it is relatively simple to integrate products or crafts from your farm - or partner with neighbours - into the festivities.
“If you prefer not to have people on the farm, connect or partner with a caterer or a neighbouring farm, with your product featured in the event - your great root vegetables or your delicious frozen fruit, for example.”
He adds that if you create any sort of value-added products on your farm, you have the opportunity to offer those products as gift ideas throughout the season.
“By slightly altering their colour or packaging, you can use a similar product for a range of holidays. Jams or jellies can be promoted anytime, for example.”
He also suggests considering growing or creating a holiday-specific product, such as spiced ciders or flavoured sauces.
“At any time, you can help your customers know how to use your edible product by providing recipes as a handout, a decorative card or in a recipe book.”
“Greenhouse producers who grow mainly ornamental crops are able to do so easily. They can produce specialty flowers, such as lilies or poinsettias, or arrangements, such as baskets. Vegetable growers can produce specialty squash, gourds, or certain varieties of vegetables for use in specialty foods.”
Spencer notes that the product or event can be simple. “It does not have to be a massive endeavour. Consider trying a one-time product offering at a winter market that links back to your regular season.”
“Use the holidays to draw in customers - and their friends and family - or to remind them of you and what you have to offer,” Spencer adds. “Your creativity will stick in their minds.”
“And remember to be safe for you, your employees and customers and be sure that whatever you offer, the returns are greater than the costs.”