Diverse Farm Bureau group to seek German views on direct marketing

The group of Illinois farmers expect to gain new perspective from their visit.

By Kay Shipman

A group of Illinois Farm Bureau members who raise diverse crops and livestock and represent different regions will focus on marketing directly to consumers April 8-12.

The German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest organized a transatlantic dialogue German tour that will highlight direct consumer marketing. IFB is sponsoring an Illinois farmer delegation to meet German farmers and farmer members of other state Farm Bureaus.

Livingston County dairy farmer Jenna Kilgus is curious about the questions consumers direct at German farmers. “Right now, consumers are confused about their food, where they get their food and is it safe. I want to discuss this with German farmers and see what their roadblocks are,” Kilgus said.

Union County orchard owner-operator Michelle Sirles hopes to learn about fresh produce issues. “I want to hear about the challenges they face,” Sirles said. “I want to learn how they direct market and their sales process.” She’s also interested in learning how German farmers sell products country to country.

Noting the geographic and production diversity among the IFB delegation, Raghela Scavuzzo, IFB local foods program manager, expects much will be gained from the market study tour.

“We are all searching for new ways to expand our businesses. Direct marketing is growing in Illinois. The opportunity to see another country that has done this for ages is extremely exciting,” said Scavuzzo.

The group will visit German farms, farmers’ markets and speak with a variety of agriculture officials. “We’re excited to gain a different country’s perspective on direct marketing,” Scavuzzo added.

Massac County farmer Marc Bremer is especially interested in German farmers’ markets. “I want to see how they (vendors) connect with a public that is very concerned about food and food safety,” Bremer said. “How do they connect at markets and what are their hurdles?”

Kilgus, Sirles and Bremer said they’re also interested in new ideas for products and trends they can bring back to their farms.

The IFB delegation includes:

- Greg Anderson, DeWitt County, owner of a certified seed business and a specialty crop farm that markets fall mums, vegetables and hydroponic strawberries.

- Sue Ellen Arndt, McHenry County, owner and operator of Prairie Sky Orchard (apples), on-farm store and food kiosk.

- Dave Bishop, Logan County, owner and operator of PrairiErth Farm, a diversified, certified organic farm that produces corn, soybeans, wheat, vegetables, beef, pork, eggs and honey.

- Katie Bishop, Logan County, operations manager of PrairiErth Farm, which markets 95 percent of its products directly through farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture, grocery stores and restaurants.

- Marc Bremer, Massac County, owner and operator of Bremer Brothers Farm that raises registered Angus cattle and corn, soybeans and small grains.

- Bruce Condill, Moultrie County, owner and operator of The Great Pumpkin Patch that raises corn, soybeans, alfalfa, pumpkins, squash and gourds, and direct markets to consumers on the farm.

- Carolyn Gehrke, Kane County, Gehrke Family Farms that raises corn, soybeans and hay, and The Pumpkin Patch that markets pumpkins and fall décor on the farm.

- Kate Huffman, Henry County, financial officer with Compeer Financial and farms with her father, Jim.

- Evan Hultine, Bureau County, raises corn and soybeans on a family farm and operates a direct market farm that produces fruit and vegetables.

- Ellen Kamps, Kane County, farmer and operator of Foxtrot Organic Farm that direct markets all its products within a five-mile radius of their Wayne farm.

- Jenna Kilgus, Livingston County, co-owner of Kilgus Dairy and Kilgus Farmstead Inc. that raises corn, soybeans, wheat and hay, provides milk and meat across the state and operates an on-farm creamery and country store.

- Michelle Sirles, Union County, Rendleman Orchards Inc. vice president and marketing director, orchard wholesale and retail operations.

- Wayne Sirles, Union County, Rendleman Orchards Inc. owner and president, specialty crops centennial farm and on-farm retail store.

Two IFB staff are participating in the study tour. Raghela Scavuzzo serves as IFB local foods program manager and Kay Shipman serves as FarmWeek legislative affairs editor and writes about consumer issues.