Hosting On-Farm Events…and Surviving! A Beginner’s Perspective
Jordan Clasen operates Grade A Gardens in Johnston. He is currently finishing work in Practical Farmer’s Savings Incentive Program. He submitted this blog post to share some insight with our network.
Who doesn’t enjoy a good party? Good friends, food, beverages, and hopefully good weather! On-farm events can be good marketing tools and can strengthen the community. Your farm gets exposure, people connect with the source of their food, and everyone has a great time. Events are a lot of work though, and can create headaches and stress at the wrong times.
Grade A Gardens is blessed with a location that allows large events and is close to a bigger city, Des Moines. We plan to grow with Des Moines for years to come so these events are important to us. We have identified some tips from our experiences to help us in the future. I want to share them here so they help you host on-farm events as well.
Last summer we hosted La Quercia’s Ham Independence to celebrate “Life, Liberty, and the Prosciutto of Happiness.” The owners of La Quercia are in our vegetable CSA and they asked to use our space for this event. This let us have an on-farm party for our CSA members and include others from the community. Some of the area’s finest restaurants were involved like The Cheese Shop of Des Moines, Gateway Market, Centro, and more. Practical Farmers was there to raise money for beginning farmer programming. The event went extremely well and a great time was had by all.
We also hosted a Seed Savers Exchange event called “Forgotten Flavors- Heirloom Apple Tasting.” The SSE director of development and I met at the farmers market and talked about how they should host an event in Des Moines. It took four months to plan but was a great marketing event for our farm. The entire SSE mailing list got the event flyer and the Des Moines Register picked it up. Over 200 people showed up on a rainy, cold day to sample over 70 different heirloom apples!
Let me remind you…this is in the peak of the season! We have a million things going on already and these events are not easy to pull off. We learned a lot, and found a few helpful tips to share.
Timing: Pick a date well off into the future. Months of preparation leads to success. Also make sure the event start time allows plenty of set up time beforehand. There are always last minute details to hash out.
Preparation: Ask yourself what kind of party you are throwing. Are you selling tickets, is there alcohol involved, is insurance needed, are tents necessary, is there music or a band, what if it rains, etc. Answer these questions before the event! Create a checklist and an event map so your event goes smoothly. I always keep them on me. Have a volunteer team and give each person a specific responsibility. Delegating tasks relieves a lot of the event stress.
The event: We think music creates a nice environment, even if it’s just your uncle who knows a few licks on the guitar. Throw him out there and people will gather. We found that different pockets of entertainment allows people to move around freely. Keep your grounds clean and tidy! This is an opportunity to network and show off your farm. It can also speak highly for local farming. Finally, people will stick around and help clean if you ask. Heavy hands make light work!
The host: You made it to the big day! There are a thousand things to do and people to socialize with but remember to have fun! Events are a lot of work and stress but if you don’t have fun what is the point?
Hopefully these tips help lead to successful farm events.
Jordan Clasen—Grade A Gardens