California Agriculture Communications Coalition (CACC)

  • Identity/Connection Campaign

After Proposition 2 passed, California farm organizations took action to influence the perceptions of the voting public.

The goal was to 1. Identify and 2. Brand the ‘coming together’ of 300 commodity-based organizations and then 3. Connect California consumers to these California farmers.

In doing so, we would provide accurate and meaningful information to dispute common misconceptions of the Ag industry. The California Agricultural Communications Coalition (CACC), a grass roots grower organization, was formed to help combat misperceptions and positively influence consumers and state regulators.

Project Description

After Proposition 2 passed, California farm organizations took action to influence the perceptions of the voting public.

The goal was to 1. Identify and 2. Brand the ‘coming together’ of 300 commodity-based organizations and then 3. Connect California consumers to these California farmers.

In doing so, we would provide accurate and meaningful information to dispute common misconceptions of the Ag industry. The California Agricultural Communications Coalition (CACC), a grass roots grower organization, was formed to help combat misperceptions and positively influence consumers and state regulators.

Client Challenges

Many consumers believe corporate farms are taking over agriculture in the state of California. Professionally produced films such as Food, Inc. and somewhat one-sided media coverage have resulted in the agricultural industry finding itself surrounded with negative conversation. In addition, California’s onerous rules and regulations are increasing production costs and eroding the ability of multi-generational family farms to compete.

Objectives

Facilitate collaboration across a fragmented industry, communicate the value of the Ag industry in the state of California, reconnect consumers to their food supply sources and encourage consumers to support California farmers.

Approach

We focused communication on two areas:

1. Identifying individual California farmers and making them heroes!

Then encouraging them to connect and engage directly with target audiences. We trained farmers to deliver key messages and let them tell the stories of their generational farms, sustainable growing practices and caring animal husbandry practices. It was a very personal way to provide Californians the opportunity to learn the truth about California agriculture, to change the conversation and restore balance of the public debate. We hoped it would win new supporters. From this, the KnowACaliforniaFarmer.com brand was born.

  • All site content is created by farmers to ensure authenticity and credibility.
  • The site provides a platform for farmers to tell their stories. It makes it easy to post blogs, videos and photos about how they farm, why they farm and issues relevant to them.
  • Consumers, from California and beyond, are able to comment, ask questions and connect with the people who grow their food, flowers and fiber.

2. Making each California farmer media savvy.

This meant providing tools and training for farmers, to ensure their involvement was a success. Tools and training also ensured utilization of CACC grower organizations to recruit and encourage growers to participate.

Tools and activities included:

  • Farmer training via live workshops and webinars.
  • Digital communications toolbox: A secure area of the website where farmer-members can get tips on public relations in the digital world and learn more about social media applications (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, blogs). The toolbox also allows members to download easy-to-follow guides to help them navigate their new tools. These downloads include:
    • Ongoing interactive sessions that help generate thoughtful content about the issues. The sessions review how to capture and post content to the website, and teach farmers how to develop social networks to push content out to California consumers.
    • Best management practices to teach farmers how to respond to comments by maintaining audience engagement and providing
      momentum of online discussions.

A robust social media initiative, including a well-maintained Facebook page, Twitter account, and ongoing outreach to key farmer-bloggers in California.

Proof

KnowACaliforniaFarmer.com laid the groundwork for an ongoing communications effort with the potential to connect 80,000 California farmers to the 37 million consumers in the state. To date, the training sessions have attracted over 300 farmers. In addition, nearly 400 farmers have signed up to contribute content to the website.

Website Statistics, September 1, 2010 to April 15, 2011:

  • Total visits: 15,035
  • Total unique visitors: 9,869
  • Average time on site: 3:09 minutes
  • Page views: 49,149
  • Pages per visit: 3.27

Even before public promotion of the website began, traffic grew and remained consistent over the seven months farmers contributed content. The amount of time individuals spent on the site increased each month.

Within the realm of social media, farmer outreach has woven the Know a California Farmer initiative into the agricultural social media fabric of California, with an average of 300 mentions per month.

These mentions continue to increase and expand outside agriculture, pushing the content of the site to consumer audiences who may never had exposure to farmers.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture lauded the Know a California Farmer campaign as an essential support to the state’s Ag industry. In addition, the USDA approved over $800,000 in support for the campaign over two years. Other states are looking at the CACC’s efforts as a model of what needs to be accomplished. State Ag organizations from Arizona, Oregon, and New York have expressed an interest in similar initiatives.