Lin Jsin YI（China Productivity Center Agriculture Management Department）
Bread is the staff of life. Where do you buy your daily food items? There are many channels of food shopping, including traditional markets, supermarkets, chained hypermarkets (like PX-Mart, Carrefour, Costco, etc.), as well as densely distributed convenience stores, or e-commerce shopping platforms, where you enjoy convenient home delivery with the touch of a finger. Some people choose to go to farmers' association supermarkets, farmers' outlets, and farmers' markets, or even make purchase directly from farmers while taking small trips or by recommendation of friends. Among the many channels of food purchase, did you miss any one and feel curious how it is different from others? Have you heard of farmers' outlets? This article introduces the farmers' outlets as it may be a channel you are not familiar with. And hope you will find it an interesting shopping style worth your patronage.
What is a farmers' outlet?
The farmers' outlet is a marketing channel established by the local governments, farmers associations and other farmers organizations with the assistance of the Agriculture and Food Agency of the Council of Agriculture. In 2021 alone, there were 42 farmers' outlets established with the assistance of the Agriculture and Food Agency and were distributed in almost all counties and cities. For the location of a farmers' outlet near you, check the farmers' outlet website (http://www.farmerstation.tw/indexgo.aspx).
The purposes of farmers' outlets are to promote local production and consumption, reduce the circulation cost, shorten the food mileage, and provide marketing channels for small farmers in the neighborhood. Here, you can buy fresh agricultural products or primary processed products that are delivered directly from the place of origin by local farmers on the same day or in the current season. Instead of going through dealers and the processes of logistics, the farmers themselves set the price and sell their own products. The farmers' outlets are responsible for product safety to ensure the fresh, safe, consumer-friendly, and high-quality products received by the consumers. When you visit a farmers' outlet, you may notice farmers themselves arranging their products on the shelves. The face-to-face interaction between the farmers and consumers provides a sense of safety to the consumers and also a direct sense of the market trend to the farmers.
What are the differences between farmers' outlets and other channels?
As mentioned above, the farmer's outlet can be an interesting shopping area. Unlike an ordinary market, where you see the clerks and managers, here you see farmers around you. What other differences are there between the farmer's outlets and other channels? They are mainly in aspects of products, markets (customers), and services (processes).
In terms of product differentiation, the supplies at the farmers’ outlet are all fresh products or primary processed products that are delivered directly from the place of origin by local farmers on the same day or in the current season. Besides, the local products sold here are not necessarily bulk crop items and can be limited in supply, to provide consumers with more choices in their food ingredients and a sense of variety. This is also a way to carry on the local heritage of food culture through the local products.
As for market (consumer) differentiation, customers at farmers' outlets are mostly residents of the neighboring community. Most farmers' outlets run on a system of membership, using LINE and Facebook groups, which easily pass updated information among the consumers. For example, the advance notices of product listed or promotion, etc. can be released from time to time. Reservation services are provided so consumers are ensured of the products they need for later pickup. On the membership platform, the farmer's outlet also provides consumers with suggestions on the storage, processing and preparation of the food products. The information of the producers, their names, photos, the farm’s production facilities, etc., is posted at the outlet so the consumers have a clear understanding of the source of the products and a sense of food safety. For some rarely seen products released, suggested recipes and nutrition information may be posted so that consumers have a better understanding of them and a higher motivation of purchase.
As for service (process) differentiation, the farmer’s outlet, unlike other channels, is a physical social platform, where clerks are like your friends and neighbors. They provide warm services by chatting with you, sharing the news of the recently arrived fresh products, the tips of selection and preparation, the matching vegetables and fruits, home style recipes, and nutrition and health knowledge. It is like a bridge through which questions or needs from consumers will be passed on to farmers. In the store, many posters are handwritten by the clerks, which adds to the charm of vegetables and fruits for the customers to make the purchase. Customized services are provided at different outlets according to customer needs, e.g. group purchases, festive food gift packages, home delivery vegetable boxes, rice milling services, etc.
What are the benefits of consuming at a farmer's outlet?
The farmer's outlet may be the shopping channel closest to the producers. Consumers can meet farmers themselves in the store and directly inquire about the production and even develop personal friendship. Some outlets hold events for consumers to meet with the farmers, such as small tours in production areas, food and agricultural education activities, etc. This builds a more stable trust mechanism between the producers, consumers and the farmer's outlets.
For consumers, they can buy fresh and safe agricultural products and learn more about local products and food culture. For farmers, the farmer's outlet provides them with one more marketing channel. For small farmers in particular, whose production is not of sufficient scale to serve the general marketing channels, the farmer's outlet is an indispensable good partner. Farmers can set their own prices, thus determining the profit margin and income. They also learn about the consumers‘ demand from the farmer's outlet, which supports them to produce more products in demand. The farmer's outlet acts as a platform and bridge for communication, from which the three parties have more interaction and work on a transparent and dynamic supply and demand mechanism.
The net zero emission target by 2050 has been set in Taiwan. Consumers shopping for local food at the farmer's outlets, supporting local sustainable agriculture, participating in food and agricultural education activities, and consuming archetypal food all help to the practice of local production and consumption and reduction of carbon emissions. The farmer's outlet is an important part in the circle of local production and consumption, which in turn helps with the net zero emissions. The unique features of the farmer's outlets not only exert the social value of agriculture on top of food production, but also meet Goal 2 of the Sustainability Development Goal (SDG)s - "End Hunger, Ensure Food Security, End Hunger, Promote Sustainable Agriculture" as well as the net zero emission goal to mitigate the impact of climate change. The benefits of shopping at the farmer's outlets are so many, not only for individuals, but also for the environment, and it is certainly a trend of the future. If you have not visited a farmer's outlet, you should certainly make a try and enjoy a fruitful and rewarding trip.