About the Program
The direct sales program was a Member-to-Member Marketing program began in the 1970s. It all started when Wisconsin and Florida Farm Bureau held conversations on how to market their farm products. Before long, semi-trucks full of fresh Florida citrus products were heading north from the Sunshine State to Wisconsin Farm Bureau County Service Centers. At the same time, Wisconsin sharp and medium cheddar cheese was being shipped south for Florida Farm Bureau members to enjoy. When the semis full of fruit arrived at county service centers, the county Farm Bureau citrus coordinator along with other volunteers would unload their order, send the truck driver onto his next stop and then contact members to pick up their fresh fruit. Back in the early days, one semi load of fruit (40,000 pounds) would be the total orders of three to four county Farm Bureaus. One semi load of fresh citrus was equivalent to 1,000 boxes of fresh citrus. Sales were good!
As the program grew, many additional products and sales were added in Wisconsin and several more out-of-state Farm Bureaus came on board to purchase Wisconsin Cheese. Wisconsin expanded the cheese product line to include several more varieties of cheese, holiday gift boxes, beef sausage sticks and fresh Wisconsin cranberries.
Wisconsin Farm Bureau went from two citrus sales (November & December) to a total of 10 sales per year with a variety of new products. Additional value-added products available were Illinois popcorn and Minnesota wild rice.
Farm Bureaus program was unique in because members could buy products that were much higher in quality than found in grocery stores. The products were fresh, not warehoused or days old on the shelf. A good example of the premium quality of the products we handled was the “Florida’s Best” high density frozen orange juice concentrate. This product was 50 percent more dense than any other juice concentrate available on the retail market. The 12 ounce can of concentrate was mixed with five cans of water making 72 ounces of juice, when compared to other brands per fluid ounce, you definitely got more for your money with “Florida’s Best.”
I managed the Direct Sales Program along with my dear friend Jill Bennwitz who served as Direct Sales Assistant for several years. Jill and I had many experiences that are life-long memories, one that always comes to mind and provides many laughs and stories is unloading semis with some colorful southern truck drivers. I also remember my boss at the time, Jeff Fuller, placed a computer on my desk in 1989 equipped with programs to eliminate paper, enter and process orders and most of all to bring the Direct Sales Program into the 20th Century. This was a big change for someone who was known as the paper queen and liking to do things the old school way, but Jeff was right, it was a good change and one I was incredibly thankful for.
Sales Throughout the Year
November, December, January, February, March – fresh Florida citrus, frozen rrange juice, lemonade and grapefruit concentrate, peanut and pecans, peanut butter, peanut oil and citrus-based Dirt Squad hand cleaner.
April – Michigan frozen fruits and vegetable sale which also included Michigan frozen grape & apple juice concentrate.
May – Georgia Vidalia onions, Vidalia onion salad dressings, Michigan fresh asparagus, fresh Florida sweet corn and Florida peanut products.
July – South Carolina fresh peaches.
August – fresh Door County cherries and Michigan fresh peaches and blueberries.
September – Same as the April sale.
The Fundraising Business
In the early 80’s, Farm Bureau entered into the fundraising service by providing local FFA Chapters, 4H and band groups the opportunity to sell the Farm Bureau products for their annual fundraiser.
The key to the success of the Direct Sales Program was the volunteer county coordinators who put their heart and soul into serving their county members by offering the sales, collecting orders, unloading the semis and dispersing the orders. A lot of “personal service” was provided by these county coordinators – loading cars and direct door deliveries.
The Ending of an Era
In a nutshell this was the Direct Sales program. A program and the volunteers that Deb will always hold near and dear to her heart. The Direct Sales program ended in the early 2000s.
Thank you Farm Bureau for asking me to share this story, it brought back so many great memories of the people and the program.
Retiring in December 2017, Deb Raemisch’s 40-year Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation career included managing the Direct Sales Program for 28 years. Over those years she had great office assistants who helped to serve the members in Wisconsin and out of the state.