Getting Down and Dirty With Naming: Green Food Naming Trends

By Burt Alper

October 20, 2008

Farms can reap big dividends in profits and consumer loyalty with strategic naming.

Sierra Schlesinger smiles easily while selling two pounds of shelling beans at the farmers’ market in Berkeley, California. “People know us as the dirty girls – even Joe (the farmer) gets tagged as one although he bristles a little at that….They remember us,” she says. The farm gets its name from the original owners, two women who tried to call it Fan Tan Farm in 1995. Local farmers nicknamed them the “dirty girls” and the name stuck. Today Dirty Girl Produce and its Early Girl dry-farmed tomatoes have become legendary in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. “Sometimes people don’t even bother to look at the signs,” says Dirty Girl worker Steve Wright, “but they know what they’re looking for and ask you: ‘Are these the Dirty Girl tomatoes?'”

The recent movement to eat local and organic has people thinking a lot more about where their food is coming from and how it’s grown. And distinct, creative farm names help smaller farms differentiate their produce from that of their industrial agribusiness competitors (whose produce usually isn’t labeled in the supermarket). Agricultural brand naming also makes it easier for consumers to feel connected on a personal level with the people who grow their food, “putting a face” on what’s often seen merely as a commodity.

Bay Area farmers’ markets are a heaven of fruits and vegetables in summer, showcasing a kaleidoscope of luscious produce from farms along the state’s central coast. A walk down the line reveals some of the farms’ intriguing brand names: Ella Bella (named after the owner’s daughter, Ella), Full Belly (need we say more?), Blossom Bluff, Gospel Flat. And while the names may be branding products that are worlds away from commercialized big business, they follow principles of brand name creation that are familiar to those of us from professional naming firms. Unique company names like Frog Hollow Farm, (whose yellow peaches are indescribably delicious) and Flying Disc Ranch (where the fresh, soft dates are more delectable than fine caramel) suggest superior produce, grown with great care. They draw you in for a taste and make it easy to remember the brand later.

Such company names also pique your curiosity and make you want to know more about the farms themselves. And the farms are enthusiastic about sharing. The family that owns Gospel Flat Farm-named after the four churches that once stood on the property-regularly invites students from the nearby middle school to see sustainable agriculture in action. (Here the farm looks more like an enormous garden than an actual commercial farm, with organic crops thriving next to rows of flowers.)

Bottom line? People remember engaging names and when the produce is consistently good, they develop a fervent loyalty to those farm brands.

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