Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

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Getting a bigger slice of the consumer pie

May 28, 2018  By Cathy Bartolic

The butter tart has risen to celebrity status in the last few years. There are butter tart tours, butter tart trails, but if truth be told, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. I would take a piece of pie over a butter tart any day of the week.

Last November, I serendipitously stumbled upon the Perfect Pie Contest in Warkworth. It was started in 1979 and I had never heard of it before. (How could that be?) My husband and I consider ourselves to be pie aficionados and love to taste test pies from different sources.

The Town of Warkworth invites anyone from anywhere to submit their best pie to this annual competition. They have created 14 categories based not only on different types of pies but also on who makes the pies. There is a category for best fruit pie, best savory pie, best maple syrup pie, best pumpkin pie and so on. I am drooling just thinking about them all. There is also a category for Man Made pies as well as a youth division. Generally, over 100 pies are submitted each year for judging.

The winning pies in each category are auctioned off and the remaining pies are cut up and sold to the general public, by the slice. Funds raised are donated to a worthy charity and everyone goes home with a full belly. What a deliciously different way to fundraise.

Pies have always been a staple on farms. They can be created with basic ingredients available in any farm kitchen – flour, lard, sugar and fruit. Historically pies changed with the seasons – starting with lemon meringue for Easter, rhubarb for spring, strawberry, peach and blueberry in the summer, apple and pumpkin for the fall and wrapping up with mincemeat pie for Christmas.

How can on-farm marketers take this idea and make it work for them?

Years ago, before eating from food trucks was an ordinary occurrence, Springridge Farm decided to have a Food Truck Festival on their farm for Father’s Day. They sell ready to eat food in their market, so why on earth would they bring several ‘competitors’ to their farm? Because a festival draws a lot of people and, although they may buy food from the trucks, they will also visit the farm’s gift shop and perhaps buy preserves and other goodies from Springridge Farm. It could also introduce the farm to many new potential customers.

It was a bold idea that has paid off and will be celebrating its fifth year this June. Each year gets better as the truck owners develop their skills in anticipating the crowds and help to promote the event.

Natasa Kajganic implemented a similar idea, but with flowers instead of food. She is the founder of the Toronto Flower Market. Founded in May 2013, it is Toronto’s first outdoor flower market. The market season runs monthly from May through October, with special collaborations sprouting up throughout the year. The market brings together more than two dozen local flower farmers and designers who use local blooms in their work.

How many flowers can one vendor sell when there are so many other similar vendors at the same locations? Apparently, if you launch a great marketing campaign, each vendor sells lots because there are crowds of people coming to check out what all the buzz is about.

Natasa is taking it one step further this year and organizing a Canadian Flowers Week from September 13 to 19. The goal is to raise awareness about Canadian-grown flowers and the designers who work with them. The campaign will include visual branding, innovative flower installations across the country and a team of flower ambassadors to help spread the word.

Can the same be done with hard cider? How about farm-fresh soups? Definitely some food for thought. By the way, November 3 is already blocked off in my calendar. I’ll be in Warkworth with my stretchy pants for the 39th annual Perfect Pie Contest.

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