When the COVID-19 pandemic shocked the supply chain, grocery shoppers began seeking food items like meat, dairy and produce direct from the source — farmers. With this high demand, the direct-to-consumer model has piqued the interest of farmers, generating many questions on where to begin. 

To navigate these unknown times and growing market po­­tential, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) will be hosting a free, two-part webinar series, “Farm to Table Boot Camp,” featuring Texas-based Rachel Williams Cutrer of Ranch House Designs Inc. and B.R. Cutrer Inc.

Cutrer, a seventh generation cattlewoman, along with her husband, are among the top breeders of Brahman cattle in the world. Cutrer also works to elevate the success of other farmers through her business, Ranch House Designs Inc., specializing in web design and marketing services for more than 800 agricultural clients. 

“Adding a farm to fork component is a great option to diversify your farm income,” Cutrer said. “This niche market is a way to think outside your normal cattle and beef marketing methods and consider direct sales to consumers. You may be pleasantly surprised to find your farm able to discover premiums through direct sales and the ‘buy local’ movement. And you’re likely to create a solid base of repeat customers who are looking for a dependable local beef producer to feed their family.” 

On Aug. 25 at 1 p.m., during part one of the Farm to Table Boot Camp, Cutrer will discuss the nuts and bolts of starting a local beef brand from naming and setting up a business to determining what products a farmer may want to sell and at what price. 

She’ll also touch on how to choose a local processing facility and crafting a business plan to start farmers on the right foot and maximize potential.

Cutrer will dive into details and considerations regarding product marketing during part two of the series on Sept. 1 at 1 p.m. She will provide advice on how to build a fanbase, effective sales incentives and promotional items. 

Building relationships

“Now more than ever, consumers are looking to build relationships and buy their food from places they trust,” Cutrer said. “As farmers and ranchers, we know the amount of pride and love we put into our product, and it’s time to share that with consumers. Share your farm story. Talk to your neighbors about how you raise your cattle and how important it is for you to produce a safe and healthy product.” 

Cutrer will also discuss the logistics of processing payments and packaging and fulfilling orders. For those looking for additional direct markets, she will share expert insight on working with caterers and restaurants.

Elevating brands

“Rachel has a very impressive background in both raising cattle and helping other ranchers find success elevating their brands,” says Amanda Van Steenwyk, IFBF farm business development manager. “We’re excited to have her share her experiences and valuable branding tips to help Iowa farmers begin exploring new marketing channels.”

Resources will also be provided to virtual attendees to help navigate specific Iowa rules and regulations on direct market sales. Farmers are encouraged to pre-register for this free, two-part series by visiting www.iowafarmbureau.com/Events