From Facebook to Snapchat, rural businesses are exploring how to use social media to improve their customer’s experience and expand their customer base. Over the last eight years, USDA and the Obama Administration have partnered with rural communities to build more opportunities that support rural small business owners, farmers and ranchers through applied research. Today USDA awarded nearly $1 million in Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP) grants to support market research to strengthen markets for U.S. agricultural products domestically and internationally.
Administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), FSMIP projects make a real difference to diverse stakeholders and largely benefit rural communities. For example, in 2013, FSMIP awarded a 2-year grant to Kansas State University to develop social media strategies for small green businesses, including nurseries, garden centers and lawn care operations, and to explore the potential of social media to expand their markets and profitability. Social media holds promise as a strategy for these rural businesses which frequently have a small customer base and struggle to be profitable throughout the year, given the seasonal nature of their business. Through social media, business owners could reach more potential customers for little to no cost but they often do not know how or why they should use these tools.
This successful project resulted in new research-based marketing tools including a social media strategy tool-kit and website. These result are being shared and used by many different rural businesses across the nation. To continue and expand on the success of this project, Kansas State University was awarded a 2016 FSMIP grant to study consumers’ preferences toward social media marketing by farm-based businesses. You can see all the 2016 FSMIP grants listed on the AMS website.
USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative (KYF2) coordinates the Department's work to develop strong local and regional food systems – including FSMIP projects. Information on local and regional supply chain resources is available on the KYF2 website, and the KYF2 Compass can help users locate USDA investments in their community. More information on how USDA investments are connecting producers with consumers, expanding rural economic opportunities, and increasing access to healthy food is available in Chapter IV of USDA Results on Medium.