Davison Orchards Country Village is nestled on a hillside just outside of Vernon, B.C., in the Okanagan Valley. Bob and Dora Davison started the farm in 1933 and are still very active in the day-to-day activities. Their son, Tom, and his wife, Tamra, transitioned the farm from selling everything wholesale to packers to an agri-tourism haven. Three of their children are also directly involved in the business. The Davisons work 100 acres today and welcome more than 300,000 visitors annually to their farm in a six-month period.
Davison Orchards was one of the stops on the Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association’s annual bus tour in November 2015. For 2015, we were exploring British Columbia with a side trip down to Seattle. Our gracious hosts shared with us some of their secrets to direct marketing success. A big part of their success in this industry is due to the fact that early on, they realized they had to be not only good but great storytellers. They wanted to share their stories with customers but also promote and highlight all that is special to their business. While touring the farm, this became apparent in several different forms.
The old adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words” is taken to a new level in the farm market. Giant photos of the family showing different aspects of their business line the tops of the walls when you first enter this building. An area that is generally known as dead space and not very practical for much more than storage, is filled with beautifully captured family photos. It is a great introduction to the farm family.
Tamra explained to the group that they have moved beyond the word “local.” They felt it had become overused and never had a clear definition linked to the word. Instead, they have adapted “made right here.” By using this term, they are encouraged to create and promote signature products from and for the farm. For example, their Deep Dish Café uses as much of their own homegrown products as possible. The Davisons are not shy about promoting this fact to their customers whenever they can. They strongly feel that it is one of their unique selling features. The use of big TV screens at the café’s counters depicting delicious, made from scratch soups and pies, is an example of their promotions.
Tom and Tamra’s daughter, Leah, who is in charge of social media and marketing, discussed their successes in this part of their business. Not surprisingly, social media plays an important role in their marketing strategy. Almost 50 per cent of the farm’s marketing dollars are spent on social media. Leah feels the farm’s email newsletter is the most influential part of their strategy. It is a platform where they can connect personally with their customers to tell their story. This year, they also invested in a $200 time-lapse camera to tell the story of how one Honeycrisp apple is created. To make it even more interesting, a contest was created where people were asked to comment and share the video to help get it out in front of more eyes. The video was posted on Facebook and went viral with more than 200,000 shared views. The winning comment was as follows:
“How could anyone ever take an apple for granted after seeing this! It is a natural wonder. Thanks for posting this and taking the time to capture all the stages of this amazing fruit.”
High praises for any storyteller.
Cathy Bartolic is the executive director of the Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association. OFFMA’s 2015 annual bus tour visited the Okanagan & Fraser Valleys in beautiful British Columbia. Davison Orchards was just one of the amazing farms that hosted the tour. To see the Honeycrisp video, go to Davison Orchards Facebook page and look under videos.
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