Monday, August 26, 2013

Avant Marketing "Driving Hunger Out of Rural Texas"

(St. Louis, MO -- 08/26/13) – On August 16th, a John Deere Tractor began its 1,000-mile trek across Western and Central Texas to support fundraising efforts for the Texas Food Bank Network. The tractor, making appearances at local FFA Chapter Events, will travel from Lubbock to Ft. Worth raising awareness of Rural Texas food insecurity issues while supporting the fundraising efforts of the FFA Chapters.

The concept and program is the brainchild of the Avant Marketing Group – a St. Louis-based market planning firm that saw the opportunity to develop a comprehensive marketing program to assist FFA Chapters in support of food banks.

“In 2013, National FFA introduced its program Feeding the World – Starting at Home to FFA members across the country,” states Avant Marketing senior partner Mark Vogel. “The program encourages FFA Members to pledge to fight hunger in their local communities by organizing hunger relief efforts. We developed the Tractor Drive concept to increase awareness of rural food insecurity and Chapter efforts in raising money for food banks.”

From Concept to Implementation – Not An Easy Task
Avant Marketing designed a comprehensive program that would engage the entire agricultural community – including farmers, ranchers and agribusiness in supporting FFA Chapters and food banks. But the initial task was to find an underwriting sponsor for the program that would benefit from the marketing awareness.

“We determined that the program was best suited for a Farm Credit Association,” says Vogel. These associations are large and are truly committed to agriculture and in providing food and fiber for the U.S. and the world.”

Avant Marketing reached out to Farm Credit Associations across the United States with the program proposal and AgTexas Farm Credit – headquartered in Lubbock, Texas was the first to respond. Thus, the 2013 AgTexas Farm Credit Tractor Drive was created.

Vogel states that Avant Marketing knew it only had capacity to manage one program for 2013 and it would be the first Farm Credit Association to respond that would be the program underwriter.

“Mitchell Harris, CEO of AgTexas Farm Credit responded to my proposal within an hour,” says Vogel. “It was a program that the association was seeking to direct its community service while raising brand awareness for the organization. “

Since Avant Marketing wanted to ensure that every dollar raised by FFA Chapters went to food banks, it also needed to enlist secondary sponsors to pay for the operational costs of the Drive – including equipment, personnel, travel costs and promotional items. Working as a team, AgTexas Farm Credit and Avant Marketing gained the support of both regional and national sponsors to come along for the ride. This included a tractor donation from two implement dealers in the AgTexas market region, a free lease for a Dodge Ram Truck from Enterprise Car Rental, and a cargo trailer from a local trailer dealer. In addition, Monsanto is supporting the effort as well as several Texas commodity groups and organizations.

Next step was to enlist FFA Chapters in joining the program to support their national community service pledge to fight hunger. To date, 28 FFA Chapters and over 2,500 members are participating in the program. Avant Marketing is ensuring the success of the fundraising and Chapter events by providing each Chapter with promotional materials including banners, posters, brochures, donation buckets and log sheets.

FFA Chapters are scheduling their events which will feature the tractor appearance. In many communities, the Chapters are inviting local farmers and ranchers to bring their tractors to town and join the “tractor caravan” as it enters each community. When the tractor arrives, it is also accompanied by the cargo van – a moving billboard filled with sponsorship logos and an inflatable tent to gain the attention of the general public for each event. Avant Marketing is assisting each FFA Chapter Event by providing media outreach support and alerts throughout the Drive schedule.

Additional Incentive for FFA Chapters

Though having professional marketing assistance is an incentive for FFA Chapters to join the program, Avant Marketing wanted a component that could also support the Chapter’s financial needs. As an additional incentive, the FFA Chapter that raises the most money on a per-member basis will win the actual John Deere 5045D Tractor after the Drive.

“FFA Chapters can elect to keep the tractor for classroom or project activities or they can raffle or auction off the tractor to raise funds for their Chapter,” states Vogel.

Media Role in the Drive

To maintain a high level of awareness of the program, Avant Marketing is also ensuring that media plays an important role in the Drive. First, the market planning firm gained in-kind sponsorship support of key media in the Lubbock, Abilene and Ft. Worth markets. For instance, Fox 34 AgDay and 580AM in Lubbock are media sponsors and will provide update reports on the Drive throughout the entire program schedule.

In addition, Avant Marketing has created the 2013 AgTexas Tractor Drive website and social media on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to keep the program top-of-mind with FFA Chapters and other followers. The Drive Crew will be uploading daily reports on their progress and also produce feature video reports of their travels and the interesting people and communities they visit along the way.

Texas Food Bank Network – Perfect Partner for the Event
To support the program theme, “Driving Hunger Out of Rural Texas”, Avant Marketing wanted to select an organization that could easily and effectively make the best use of the raised funds. The Texas Food Bank Network provides support for all food banks in Texas, and through its buying power, can turn every dollar in donation to five dollars in food. The Network will track donations on a county level and ensures that those donations will fund food purchases returned to the identified county and its local communities.

“It is a great program since every FFA Chapter is ensured that the money they raise is being used efficiently to purchase food for their local community food pantries,” says Vogel.

10-Week Schedule for the Tractor Drive

The Drive began at its Kick-Off Event on August 16th at the American Museum of Agriculture in Lubbock and will visit rural communities and FFA Chapter events from Lubbock to Ft. Worth in the next 10 weeks. The Finish Line for the Drive will be November 2nd at the Texas Tech/Oklahoma State Football Game as the tractor returns to Lubbock. The Finish Line Event will include the check presentation to the Texas Food Bank Network and recognition of the FFA Chapter who raises the most money by rewarding them the tractor.

“It has really been amazing to see the amount of energy and enthusiasm this program has created in Texas,” remarks Vogel. “With the support of AgTexas Farm Credit, our sponsors, Texas Food Bank Network and over 2,500 FFA Chapter students, this program truly has the potential of Driving Hunger Out of Rural Texas.”

Monday, August 19, 2013

Kick-Off Event for the 2013 AgTexas Tractor Drive a Huge Success!

The Kick-Off Event for the 2013 AgTexas Tractor Drive was held Friday, August 16th at the American Museum of Agriculture in Lubbock. Great turn-out and great event thanks to the AgTexas Farm Credit Staff, Celia Cole, Lee Pipkin and David Weaver from the Texas Food Bank Network and many representatives from the local FFA Chapters.

For coverage of the event, go to:

Friday, August 9, 2013

AgTexas Tractor Drive Kickoff Scheduled for August 16th

The 2013 AgTexas Farm Credit Tractor Drive will begin its 1,000-mile trek across Western and Central Texas on August 16th to raise awareness of food insecurity in rural Texas while supporting the fundraising efforts of FFA Chapters.

The Kick-Off Event will be held at the American Museum of Agriculture in Lubbock and representatives from AgTexas Farm Credit Services, Texas Food Bank Network, Sponsors and FFA Chapters will be in attendance.

Over 2,500 FFA Chapter Members have signed up to conduct fundraising and hold tractor appearance events across a 23 county area. All proceeds will go to the Texas Food Bank Network and will be allocated to support local food banks from where the Chapters reside. The FFA Chapter that raises the most funds, based on a per-member basis, will win the actual tractor after the Drive.

“Poverty and the lack of nutrition is not just an urban problem, it is also a problem of rural communities,” says AgTexas Board Chairman, James Ray Schronk. “Although the number of people living in poverty is lower in rural communities, there’s still one in eight rural Texas families living below the poverty line.”

AgTexas Farm Credit Services is the major underwriter for the program and additional sponsors have signed up to support operating costs for this extension effort. Sponsors include B.E. Implement, Bramlett Implement, Enterprise Car Rental, ARMtech, CoBank Farm Credit Leasing, United Supermarkets, Lubbock County Farm Bureau, Crosby County Farm Bureau, Plains Cotton Growers, Ag Workers, Hill County Farm Bureau, Monsanto, United Cooperative Services, South Plains Electric Cooperative, Comanche Electric Cooperative, Lyntegar Electric Cooperative, Essence Bottling, La Quinta Inn & Suites, Eastland County Farm Bureau, Erath County Farm Bureau, H&H Trailers, KRFE AM 580, Fox34/Lubbock, American Museum of Agriculture and
“As part of the agricultural community, we sometimes take food for granted,” says Mitchell Harris, AgTexas CEO. “I don’t know one AgTexas member who isn’t concerned about the nutritional needs of our fellow Texans. If we all pull together, we can accomplish so much in assisting the less fortunate.”

AgTexas members, 4-H and FFA Members, as well as other area farmers and ranchers are invited to join the tractor caravan as it enters their community. This will increase awareness of the program and demonstrate our commitment to fighting hunger.
FFA Chapter community events will include cookouts at local supermarket parking lots where the official drive tractor will be on display. In addition, many FFA Chapters are planning tractor appearances at school and sporting events or designing custom events such as a 5K Run to support the fundraising efforts.

The tractor crew will be documenting their daily travel on the Drive’s website as well as through the popular social media sites.
“It’s an ambitious project, but the need is worthy of our attention and community-service efforts,” Harris comments. “By pulling together, we’ll make this a great event.”

The Avant Marketing Group is managing this 12-week event. For more information about our market planning and implementation services, contact Mark Vogel at: