Increased consumer demand for local foods continues to reshape local supply chains in favor of consumption of fresh, local foods. This project leverages existing Mississippi State University Extension programs to strengthen rural communities in Mississippi by teaching Extension agents how to assist local food producers with improving their online marketing efforts to connect with local consumers.
Online marketing training will be provided to Extension agents as professional development in four primary areas: Local Food System Economics; Digital Marketing Strategies; Social Media Marketing Strategies; and Branding and Visual Marketing Strategies. This proposal aims to train MSU-ES agents to deliver these timely Extension curricula to provide technical assistance to local food-based businesses, which supports the economic development of communities in Mississippi. The opportunity for assisting these types of businesses has never been greater given the many easy-to-learn concepts and practical tools that are available for improved online marketing.
Also, the proposed training will be used to train Extension agents on how to build better relationships between producers and consumers, through marketing education, community development practices, strategic problem-solving, and technology training. Agents will be able to assist producers, identify proper marketing channels, solve problems regarding distribution, and determine what steps are needed to prepare for distribution, enhance their local foods community, and develop effective marketing strategies for their products.
This training is an important economic development program in Mississippi that could be replicated across the U.S. for other Extension agents, communities, agricultural producers and local food businesses.
Online marketing training will be provided to Extension agents as professional development in four primary areas: Local Food System Economics; Digital Marketing Strategies; Social Media Marketing Strategies; and Branding and Visual Marketing Strategies.
This project uses a three-phase process to implement all educational programming to Extension agents.
- Virtual education. We are creating an educational curriculum for Extension agents in the form of online (Zoom) webinars (http://extension.msstate.edu/content/growing-mississippi%E2%80%99s-local-foods-industry-webinar-series).
- Face-to-face workshops. We will deliver all the training face-to-face with Extension agents, mentor farmers, and farm service agency employees.
- Community implementation. Extension agents and mentor farmers will work together to implement local food promotion projects/initiatives. We will provide technical assistance to these teams as needed.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Mississippi State University Extension has a long history of educating farmers, citizens, and public officials on strategies to improve the local food supply. Local Flavor is a new Extension initiative that brings Extension faculty and agents together to support the development of Mississippi’s local foods industry.
Local foods development is complex and requires expertise in multiple agricultural, community, and economic development arenas. Local Flavor connects those searching for information about food safety, agricultural production, business development, economics, and policy with resources across the state.
Local Flavor celebrates Mississippi’s culture, agricultural resources, and entrepreneurial spirit while striving to provide Mississippians with improved access to healthful, locally grown food.
Local Flavor will be the lead organizational brand that all training relates to for Extension agents, mentor farmers and others.
We will survey all participants in April 2019 to assess the impact of webinars thus far.
Educational & Outreach Activities
This project has recently begun and in part due to the government shutdown. Preliminary work has been focused on launching phase one of our process of educating Extension agents, mentor farmers, and others. We anticipate reporting impacts in our next report.