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Monday, December 5, 2011

Time to Make Plans! 2012 NAFDMA Convention in Virginia

North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association announces the schedule for its 27th Annual Convention. The convention will be held at the Williamsburg Marriott in Williamsburg Virginia on February 10-16, 2012.

New Opinions from the Old Dominion is the theme of the 2012 NAFDMA Convention. While taking advantage of the rich heritage of Virginia’s Historic Triangle, new lessons in farm direct marketing and agritourism can be learned. This event will give attendees comprehensive access to networking and education opportunities that are unmatched at any other conference. This is last NAFDMA convention to be held on the east coast for the next several years.

The focus will be on how family dynamics, business management, customer service and technology can be leveraged for a successful farm operation. The convention includes bus tours, workshops, concurrent sessions, round table discussions, networking events and a trade show.

Networking Bus Tour
The convention begins with a three-day School on Wheels. The Networking Bus Tour will be held on February 11-13. This popular tour will have six buses on the road to farms such as Carter Mountain Orchards, Virginia Farm Market, Belvedere Plantation, Great Country Farms and Cox Farms. Each bus will have an individualized focus to give attendees an in depth opportunity to network and share subject matter that is important to them.

Trade Show and Participation Day
The Trade Show will be open February 13-15. This unique trade show gives delegates a chance to taste test many specialty food products, compare corn maze companies and even test drive a pedal kart. As many as 90 trade show booths will promote the latest products and services available for farm retail and on-farm entertainment. Along with the trade show, this day features interactive sessions on some of the best marketing practices by NAFDMA members and round table discussions on a myriad of topics from liability and employee training to the next generation on the farm.

Wednesday, February 15 will offer full day workshops and mix and match half day workshops. Three workshops will be held off-site at locations in Busch Gardens, Jamestown Settlement and the Yankee Candle Flagship Store. These workshops will focus on agritourism attractions, school tours and retailing. Workshop presenters at the convention hotel include diversity marketing expert Kelly McDonald, retail guru John Stanley, agricultural financial educator Dr. Alex White, and family business advisor Ann Dugan.

The Keynote Presentation on Thursday, February 16 will be by Kelly McDonald, of McDonald Marketing on how to “market to people not like you". Her definition of diversity and how to effectively market your business through strategic marketing segmentation is the new opinion many marketers need to build their business. All featured workshop presenters will also return for one hour concurrent sessions. Additional speakers will present sessions on subjects that include market expansion, farm to school programs, on-farm weddings, QR tags and Facebook.

For further information on the 2012 NAFDMA Convention, please visit

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

2011 NAFDMA ALR was a success!

The unprecedented early winter storm that hit the Northeast on Halloween weekend did not dampen the spirits of the intrepid NAFDMA members who attended the 2011 Advanced Learning Retreat at Roba Family Farms. Unfortunately, closure of the airport in Scranton, Pennsylvania prevented five registrants from attending. Our hats go off the many registrants who braved the drive to attend the event.
Slight last minute adjustments were made to the program, but otherwise it went off without a hitch. As Sue Roba herself put it, “Hey, we’re farmers, we deal.”
An exclusive pig race show, pumpkin cannons shoots, a friendly game of hoops at Roba’s new “sports center” and s’mores around the fire kept the group warm and engaged. Attendees got to see firsthand the agritourism operation at Roba’s and had the undivided attention of Sue, John and their children Jennifer, Jeff and Jake. Key managers were also on hand for formal presentations and answer the many questions on attendees’ minds.
The “Marketing, Management & Employee Development” session was well received. Nearly everyone expressed that they have many of the same issues. A lively conversation about hiring and motivating quality employees was lead by Patti Borger, Roba’s Director of Fun. Many good ideas on how to get “employees to do what they are supposed to do” were shared.
NAFDMA’s Advanced Learning Retreat is an annual event that strives to help farm direct marketers and agritourism operators take it to the next level. The goals include small group networking where every question gets answered, in-depth access to promote the best education and customized content and peer interaction to minimize innovation.
The 2011 ALR achieved those goals and a good time was had by all. One attendee stated, “The Robas were gracious and hospitable and went beyond the call of duty to share.” We couldn’t agree more.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Digging Deep. “In-Season” Learning for Farm Direct Marketers

Or 20 Reasons why you'll want to attend NAFDMA's Advanced Learning Retreat (ALR) this fall.

Six years ago the membership of North America’s only international farm direct marketing association decided it needed a new kind of learning opportunity. The membership wanted an chance to dig-deeper and visit a leading farm-direct operation – IN SEASON!

How crazy of an idea is that? Who in their right mind would invite 50-60 of their peers into their operation (at perhaps one of their busiest times); to share how their business operates? NAFDMA members would. Why? Because that’s how they roll.

The 2011 ALR is taking place at Roba Family Farms in Dalton Pennsylvania October 31-November 1st, during the Roba’s hugely successful Fall Fun on the Farm event.

Roba Family Farms grow pumpkins, Christmas Trees and family fun on 2 farm locations. They are open to the public 8 weeks each autumn. They greeted over 70,000 guests in 2010 during their fall season. Then they open for 4 weeks in December to sell Christmas Trees. Keep in mind that you will learn how to be a successful entertainment farm regardless of your agricultural product (John and Sue have chosen Christmas trees and pumpkins).

Do you still need a few more reasons to attend? Specific educational programming will include:

1. nuts and bolts of fall entertainment
2. adding a harvest barn
3. campfires as an event
4. school tour logistics
5. corn maze ins and outs
6. animal attractions
7. foodservice on the farm (feeding the masses)
8. creating traffic flow through the farm
9. controlling security issues
10. developing cash handling systems
11. employee management tips and techniques
12. managing new building projects

The Advance Learning Retreat is for farm direct marketers and ag tourism operators who:

13. craving connections
14. desire small group learning
15. want no question unanswered
16. fancy visiting a business in operation
17. grow Christmas trees
18. are looking for a way to extend their season
19. would like their ag tourism business to be more successful
20. are ready to change the way they think

NAFDMA makes it easy for you. One price covers everything. You just need to get to Scranton, Pennsylvania.

It’s time you spread your net; learn and share amongst your peers in a small group atmosphere; move your business forward.

The last word on the subject goes to Sue Roba. “I’m so excited about hosting this year's event! I am excited about having my NAFDMA friends come to our farm and see it up and operating. Hopefully I will be able to teach or show them something new. There is nothing like seeing and operation while it is open.We will show you first hand how we: handle people flow on our busiest day (and on a slow day); handle cash flow; food operations; our pumpkin corral vs. pick your own in the field; farm animals; pig races and much more. There will be something for everyone to learn!!! See you in the fall.”

Find out more at

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

NAFDMA’s 2011 Advanced Learning Retreat - Save the Date!

North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association announces their sixth annual Advanced Learning Retreat (ALR). This is a bus tour, workshop, mini tradeshow, and multi-session conference all rolled into a single, networking event. It’s a working vacation. It’s an educational retreat. It’s money in the bank. You’ll socialize with like-minded farm direct marketers and you’ll see firsthand the workings of a successful agritourism farm in season. Most importantly, you’ll go home with fresh new ideas and innovations for adaptation at your own farm as you take it to the next level!

Mark your calendars to save the date for NAFDMA’s 2011 ALR on October 29 - November 1, 2011. You’ll be away from home for four days, including travel. Every NAFDMA ALR takes on its own personality. This year is sure to reflect that as we visit Roba Family Farms in Pennsylvania.

In 1984, John Roba had a dream; he was going to sell 2000 Christmas trees each year at $20 a tree. That would make him fat and happy. Sue Cawley had a dream; she was going to marry a tall, dark, handsome and successful man who would support her and be a solid provider for their children. John and Sue’s dreams have come true; they now operate two farm locations. They are open to the public eight weeks each autumn and four weeks early winter to sell Christmas trees. They greeted 70,000 guests in 2010 during their fall season alone. Make plans to join us to get behind the scenes and hear the whole story. Learn more about Roba Family Farms at

“I’m so excited about hosting this year's event! There is nothing like seeing an operation while it is open,” states Sue Roba. “We will show you firsthand how we handle people flow on our busiest day (and on a slow day); handle cash flow; food operations; our pumpkin corral vs. pick your own in the field; farm animals; pig races and much more. There will be something for everyone to learn!!! See you in the fall”

If you have not attended a NAFDMA Advanced Learning Retreat, let us urge you to do so in 2011. This year, along with the firsthand experiences, our Advanced Learning Retreat will include full group general sessions on marketing, management and employee development. We will also conduct small group sessions on pumpkin and Christmas tree production, admissions procedures, food service, security and liability, school tours and group parties, building projects and more. You will find complete details on our website at

Monday, April 4, 2011

NAFDMA Celebrate Excellence Awards highlight the best of the best at the annual convention

North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association (NAFDMA) is pleased to announce the winners of its "Celebrate Excellence" Contests. The contests, held in conjunction with the annual convention, invite members of the association from around the United States and Canada to submit examples of their marketing and innovative practices in various categories.

Member farms submitted nearly one hundred items to be selected as the best in each of ten different categories. The convention attendees were given the opportunity to review the submissions and cast a vote for the best entry. The secret ballot votes were then tabulated by members of the NAFDMA Membership Participation Team chaired by Anna Lyles of Mesilla Valley Maze, Las Cruces, NM.

"The contest entries are great examples of creativity and design. Everyone at the convention can learn something about what makes a good promotional piece by looking at what other farms do." Lyles said.

Winners were announced during the annual Celebrate Excellence Luncheon held on February 10, 2011. The winners are:

- Best Web Site: Jones Family Farm of Shelton, CT

- Best Radio Jingle and Tag Line: Swank Farm Produce of Hollister, CA

- Best TV Commercial: Swank Farm Produce of Hollister, CA

- Best Maze Design: Coolspring Corn Maze of Mercer, PA

- Best Brochure: Fly Creek Cider Mill of Fly Creek, NY

- Best Specialty Literature: Swank Farm Produce of Hollister, CA

- Best Cookbook: Tate Farms of Meridianville, AL

- Employee Handbook: Jones Family Farm of Shelton, CT

- School Tours: Tate Farms of Meridianville, AL

- Best “Something from Nothing” Idea: Walters' Pumpkin Patch of Burns, KS

The top honor for “2011 Best of Show” belongs to Tate Farms of Meridianville, AL. Cristall Brown of Tate Farms accepted the award which rewards participation and consistency in excellence. After all the votes are counted, and all the contests are tallied, one farm stands out for making the biggest impact of Participation, Education and Innovation. As the top winner in two categories and runner up honors in several others, Tate Farms submitted many quality examples to this year’s contests.

The Celebrate Excellence contest categories change over time to include timely trends in general marketing as well as farm direct marketing and agritourism events on the farm. The Celebrate Excellence Program is based on three NAFDMA objectives to stimulate learning, celebrate excellence, and advance best practices. More details about the contests, including the honorable mention winners in each category can be found at

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Annual Convention is a Month Away!

2010 was a year to remember for NAFDMA members. Lancaster. Snow. Great fun and a fabulous Convention. One of the best income years ever in our business!

2011? Who knows? But we are just a month away from the start of this year's annual convention and that's a great way to start! Baltimore is looking HOT! It's a world away from Lancaster. No worse. No better. Entirely different. From the bus tours to the hotels, to the food options... it's entirely different. Everyone I know who gets introduced to Baltimore's Inner Harbor has been delighted.

We welcome you. And I do mean WE....

Click here for a 2 minute video welcome from some special friends!

Don't miss out on this premier event for learning and networking about farm direct marketing and agritourism. Complete convention information and registration options can be found a

We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NAFDMA’s Annual Workshops take Farm Direct Marketing and Agritourism to the Next Level

Twelve different workshops will be offered for farm direct marketing and agritourism operators on Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore in Baltimore, Maryland. The workshops will take place on Education Day, as part of the Annual Convention held by North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association (NAFDMA). The entire convention runs February 4-10, 2011.

Attendees can choose from one of six full day workshops, or mix and match half day workshops. Workshops can be attended as part of an inclusive registration package, or a one day only attendance. Registration includes breakfast and lunch as well as materials specific to the chosen workshop. Morning and full day workshops begin at 9:00 a.m., and break for lunch at noon. Full-day workshops restart and afternoon workshops begin at 1:30 p.m., all workshops end at 4:30 p.m.

Customers are increasingly knowledgeable about what they want from farm visits. Learning what it takes to be competitive in today’s marketplace and understanding where trends will go in the future is essential for farm direct marketers. Whether the subject matter is new to the farm operation, or builds on what is already being done, the line-up of topics and speakers on NAFDMA’s 2011 Education Day will help take businesses to the next level.

Workshop presentations include food marketing expert, Dr. Richard George who will present a workshop on connecting with today’s customers. John Stanley of Australia, a NAFDMA Convention favorite and expert in retail design, will be returning this year to help farm market owners meet the challenges in the industry. Brad Montgomery’s workshop “Laugh-O-Nomics”, will focus on how levity in the workplace can make a business more effective and productive, thus increasing the bottom line.

Lovoni Walker, host of the popular national Canadian food show ‘Simple, Fresh, Delicious’ will present two half day workshops. In the morning, she will equip attendees with the necessary tools and resources to set up and run a cooking school on the farm. She will conduct a cooking class in the afternoon. See the practical tips and techniques for holding successful cooking classes as Lovoni puts it all into practice as she demonstrates with limited equipment just how easily it can be done.

For those agritourism operators who offer parties on the farm, Frank W. Price, founder of Birthday University will present information on today’s party consumer and what they really want. Those in this workshop will get specific tools to evolve their party concept, become unique and capable of mass customizing. Franks approach is to teach a simplified, low cost party marketing strategy, add simple yet great service and give a little extra at the party table.

The slate of workshops is rounded out by speakers from inside the industry to expose conference goers to new ideas while maintaining relevance to their operations. The additional workshops feature a workshop designed for folks who want to start up an agritourism destination, one to cover the most important topics when considering adding or expanding a bakery or food service and everything one needs to know about adding a small scale apple orchard to diversify an agritourism operation.

Full details on all the workshops and their featured speakers can be found on the NAFDMA convention website at