Entrepreneurial Sustainable Agriculture: Alternatives for Processing, Packing, Labeling and Marketing in Internet/Retail Environments

Final Report for EW06-005

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2006: $58,755.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Western
State: Utah
Principal Investigator:
John C. Allen, PhD
Western Rural Development Center
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Project Information

Abstract:

A one day regional train-the-mentor workshop will be presented. We have chosen to use the word ‘mentor’ instead of ‘trainer’ because we envision this program as one which will develop trusted guides or counselors for the agricultural producers to call upon for information and expertise. Wherein a ‘trainer’ is one who trains and imparts information, they do not necessarily develop long-term relationships with their trainees. We propose developing a program which not only encourages but also fosters collaboration between the service providers and the producers where they will each become a resource for the other. The agricultural producers need people with the expertise to educate them on the many facets involved in processing, labeling, packaging, and marketing their products. They also need to be connected with someone who has access to information pertaining to these components and businesses and/or individuals who provide these services. Likewise the service providers are in need of making real world connections with successful agriculture entrepreneurs and those agricultural producers in need of expert guidance.

To maximize the opportunity for participation by agricultural producers we will attempt to leverage an existing conference for coordination of the regional training. We will approach the organizers of existing annual regional agriculture conferences/workshops and ask for permission to offer a pre- or post-conference training workshop available to both service providers and agricultural producers.

We have identified the following annual conferences as potential partners for the proposed training workshop. This list is not complete and serves only to illustrate the regional opportunities which exist for partnering and maximizing attendance at the proposed training workshop. These include:
Farm Direct Marketing Conference
Diversified Agriculture Conference
Southwest Marketing Network Conference

Additionally, we will sponsor a ‘munch and mingle’ networking reception immediately following the training workshops to encourage interaction between service providers and agricultural producers.

The workshop mentoring teams will consist of paired technical experts and successful agriculture entrepreneurs to capitalize on their combined strengths and expertise. Case studies, presented by real people who have succeeded, will uncover pitfalls, impart valuable lessons, and help define entrepreneurial success. Technical experts will provide another level of mentoring and expertise. This workshop will be video taped and used to create the DVD training video. This will allow for Extension personnel, NRCS and other agricultural professionals to use the DVD in the field with the basic content of each workshop remaining the same, but individual the workshops conducted using the DVD Training video may be customized based on input from regional partners.

Partnering providers with producers will also serve to begin linking the service providers with the agricultural producers to foster increased information exchange and future opportunities.

The collaborative partnership participating in this project represented diverse subject matter areas and geographic regions. Collaboratively they presented a new training model in which technical experts are paired with successful sustainable agriculture entrepreneurs to offer mentoring workshops. These partners bring a wealth of technical expertise and practical experience related to business planning, food sales and distribution, and the legal issues associated with entering retail and Internet markets. Team-taught workshops will foster trust and respect, which will lead to powerful new regional resource networks whereby increasing participants understanding and proficiency in sustainable agriculture.

The partners also bring the organizational capacity required to manage the project and lead sustainable agriculture entrepreneurs in determining specific issues to be addressed through training. Partnering organizations will help secure local Extension training facilities and assist with curriculum production, copying, promotion, etc.

Workshop Presenters and Topics
Jim Dyer, Southwest Marketing Network
Marketing opportunities in local food systems: buy local promotion, farm to school, etc.;
Organic production and marketing overview with direction to sources of expert guidance;
Resources for marketing information and assistance;
Product promotion strategies (local, nutrition, conservation values, etc.).

Linda Gillmor, Morgan Valley Lamb
Business planning;
Customer relations;
Diversified sales strategies.

Aaron Johnson, Food Innovation Center, Oregon State University
Effective August 1, 2007 Dr. Johnson will be at the University of Idaho.
New venture creation process;
Retail and Internet marketing.

Eric Hawley, Utah State University
eCommerce overview of technology

Kim Leval, Center for Rural Affairs
Effective October 1, 2007 Ms. Leval will be at the Rural Development Initiatives, Inc.
Farm Bill programs and other funding sources for new marketing ventures and small business development;
The value of peer-to-peer sharing; shared leadership;
Resources for sustainable agriculture education and outreach.

Barbara Rasco, Washington State University
Food safety and processing;
Development of profit- added products;
Regulatory issues.

Project Objectives:

Audience
We will target extension faculty, USDA Rural Development, NRCS, and other USDA agency personnel, non-profit organizations, grocer associations, banking institutions and other federal, state, and private agricultural professionals. In addition, the DVD training video will be available for extension personnel and faculty, USDA Rural Development, NRCS, and other USDA agency personnel, non-profit organizations, grocer associations, banking institutions and other federal, state and private agricultural professionals.

Introduction:

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the Western region is one of the most demographically dynamic and fastest growing in the country. Desirable rural areas of the West draw retirees and amenity migrants (who move to maximize their lifestyles, not their incomes). At the same time, many rural counties are experiencing dramatic out-migration of the working-age population as traditional industries such as farming, ranching, and oil extraction decline (Selfa, 2004). Traditional rural residents have been challenged to find ways to cope. Research shows that in California, which is the largest state-level agricultural economy in the United States, “value seeking” among owners of small, sustainable family farms and ranches has increased dramatically since the 1980s (Guthman, 2004, p. 70-71). This value-seeking activity is based on the need to increase income and profitability, as well as the desire to carve out niches within the food and fiber system.
For rural communities that have traditionally been dependent upon agriculture and resource-extractive industries, there is one possibility that offers hope: entrepreneurship and exploration of new economies. A study by the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (Reynolds et al, 2001) indicates that entrepreneurship is widespread nationwide. About 6.2 of every 100 adults are engaged in trying to start a new business, which equates to approximately 10.1 million adults. About half of all businesses are started by teams of people, and education and training does impact the prevalence rates of business start-ups.

Linked to this national entrepreneurial expansion is participation by rural people in an informal economy in which individuals may be employed full-time or part-time “off the farm,” while still engaged in their regular farming or ranching activities. In their 2004 study, Edgcomb and Thetford found that participation in this type of informal economy reduces the economic risk that often accompanies farming and ranching. For example, income needed to sustain families can be generated by informal activities during low livestock price periods. Individuals participating in the informal economy may have opportunities to expand their activities into additional markets— but information about market access is often lacking.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

A one day regional train-the-mentor workshop will be presented. We have chosen to use the word ‘mentor’ instead of ‘trainer’ because we envision this program as one which will develop trusted guides or counselors for the agricultural producers to call upon for information and expertise. Wherein a ‘trainer’ is one who trains and imparts information, they do not necessarily develop long-term relationships with their trainees. We propose developing a program which not only encourages but also fosters collaboration between the service providers and the producers where they will each become a resource for the other. The agricultural producers need people with the expertise to educate them on the many facets involved in processing, labeling, packaging, and marketing their products. They also need to be connected with someone who has access to information pertaining to these components and businesses and/or individuals who provide these services. Likewise the service providers are in need of making real world connections with successful agriculture entrepreneurs and those agricultural producers in need of expert guidance.

To maximize the opportunity for participation by agricultural producers we will attempt to leverage an existing conference for coordination of the regional training. We will approach the organizers of existing annual regional agriculture conferences/workshops and ask for permission to offer a pre- or post-conference training workshop available to both service providers and agricultural producers.

We have identified the following annual conferences as potential partners for the proposed training workshop. This list is not complete and serves only to illustrate the regional opportunities which exist for partnering and maximizing attendance at the proposed training workshop. These include:
Farm Direct Marketing Conference
Diversified Agriculture Conference
Southwest Marketing Network Conference

Additionally, we will sponsor a ‘munch and mingle’ networking reception immediately following the training workshops to encourage interaction between service providers and agricultural producers.

The workshop mentoring teams will consist of paired technical experts and successful agriculture entrepreneurs to capitalize on their combined strengths and expertise. Case studies, presented by real people who have succeeded, will uncover pitfalls, impart valuable lessons, and help define entrepreneurial success. Technical experts will provide another level of mentoring and expertise. This workshop will be video taped and used to create the DVD training video. This will allow for Extension personnel, NRCS and other agricultural professionals to use the DVD in the field with the basic content of each workshop remaining the same, but individual the workshops conducted using the DVD Training video may be customized based on input from regional partners.

Partnering providers with producers will also serve to begin linking the service providers with the agricultural producers to foster increased information exchange and future opportunities.

The collaborative partnership participating in this project represented diverse subject matter areas and geographic regions. Collaboratively they presented a new training model in which technical experts are paired with successful sustainable agriculture entrepreneurs to offer mentoring workshops. These partners bring a wealth of technical expertise and practical experience related to business planning, food sales and distribution, and the legal issues associated with entering retail and Internet markets. Team-taught workshops will foster trust and respect, which will lead to powerful new regional resource networks whereby increasing participants understanding and proficiency in sustainable agriculture.

The partners also bring the organizational capacity required to manage the project and lead sustainable agriculture entrepreneurs in determining specific issues to be addressed through training. Partnering organizations will help secure local Extension training facilities and assist with curriculum production, copying, promotion, etc.

Workshop Presenters and Topics
Jim Dyer, Southwest Marketing Network
Marketing opportunities in local food systems: buy local promotion, farm to school, etc.;
Organic production and marketing overview with direction to sources of expert guidance;
Resources for marketing information and assistance;
Product promotion strategies (local, nutrition, conservation values, etc.).

Linda Gillmor, Morgan Valley Lamb
Business planning;
Customer relations;
Diversified sales strategies.

Aaron Johnson, Food Innovation Center, Oregon State University
Effective August 1, 2007 Dr. Johnson will be at the University of Idaho.
New venture creation process;
Retail and Internet marketing.

Eric Hawley, Utah State University
eCommerce overview of technology

Kim Leval, Center for Rural Affairs
Effective October 1, 2007 Ms. Leval will be at the Rural Development Initiatives, Inc.
Farm Bill programs and other funding sources for new marketing ventures and small business development;
The value of peer-to-peer sharing; shared leadership;
Resources for sustainable agriculture education and outreach.

Barbara Rasco, Washington State University
Food safety and processing;
Development of profit- added products;
Regulatory issues.

Literature Cited
Betts, S., Jacobson, P., McDonald, D., Peterson, D., Richmond, L. & Roebuck, J. (2004). Western Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (Western SARE) Professional Development Survey Report. University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.

BusinessWeek Online. (2003) Is Wal-Mart too powerful? Cover story, October 6, 2003. Website: http://www.businessweek.com/

Edgcomb, E.L., & Thetford, T. (2004) The informal economy: Making it in rural America. Washington D.C.: the Aspen Institute/FIELD

Guthman, J. Agrarian Dreams: The paradox of organic farming in California. (2004) University of California Press: Berkeley, CA

Oberholtzer, L., Born, H., & Dyer, J. (2004). Agricultural marketing in the U.S. Southwest: Information and training needs of small-scale producers and service organizations. National Center for Appropriate Technology: Butte, MT

Reynolds, P, Camps, S., Bygrace, W., Autio, E. & Hay, M. (2001). GEM Expanded Research Report, downloaded from Global Entrepreneurship Monitor: 2001 Executive Report. Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. Website: http://entreworld.org/gem2001

Selfa, T. (2004). The changing face of the rural West: Shifting populations in the new West. (Information brief of the Western Rural Development Center). Issue 3, May 2004. WRDC: Logan, UT

Western SARE. (2004) Overall Status of Western Region SARE 1988-2004: funding status report. [slide presentation at website http://wsare.usu.edu/]. Western Sustainable Agriculture Research Education.

Outreach and Publications

We will develop two products which will work in conjunction with one another to provide information and resources for the mentors. These include an easily customizable electronic toolkit and a DVD training video.

The DVD, which included the electronic toolkit comprised of customizable PowerPoint presentations and Resource Directories, was released in March 2008 and a press release (see Appendix) was distributed via the Center’s listserv and included on the WRDC’s website and newsletter; CSREES Update; and various other WRDC partner websites and communications including the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Energizing Entrepreneurs (RUPRI newsletter), MATR News, Women’s Agricultural Network-University of Maine, South Dakota State University Cooperative Extension’s “Friday Findings,” and the Southwest Marketing Network’s June newsletter.

This project and the DVD were highlighted during a session led by John C. Allen at the SARE 20th Anniversary Conference held in Kansas City, Missouri, March 25-27, 2008. Additionally, DVDs were provided to attendees of the Southwest Marketing Network’s 6th Annual Conference held May 5-7, 2008, in Santa Fe New Mexico.

As of the writing of this report (July 2008) of the 1,000 copies of the DVD produced only 110 copies remain. The WRDC continues to receive requests for copies and while the majority of the DVDs have been distributed throughout the western U.S., the Center has mailed requested copies to a total of 43 states plus Guam, Micronesia, Kolonia, the Marshall Islands, Iraq, British Columbia, the Ukraine, and Australia. For a complete listing of DVD recipients see the Appendix.

The Center also distributed an electronic survey to both the participants of the May 2007 face-to-face training, and the DVD recipients. As of July 2008, none of the face-to-face training recipients have responded to the survey. Of the 316 DVD recipients, 29 completed the survey and the survey data is included in the Appendix. You may also access the electronic survey by following this web link: http://ezplug.usu.edu/survey/?id=647.

Outcomes and impacts:

Four service provider outcomes are expected:
Enhanced awareness of innovative marketing opportunities for retail and Internet sales;
Increased knowledge of market assessment, consumer preferences, processing alternatives, packaging, labeling, entry into retail and Internet markets;
Increased capacity to competently deliver future mentoring workshops;
Increased awareness of, and access to, sustainable agriculture entrepreneur information, resources, and networks.

Potential agriculture entrepreneur outcomes include:
Increased knowledge of accessing retail and Internet markets and market assessment;
Face-to-face time with service providers in their sub-region;
Increased awareness of available networks and resources.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

TThe project team developed the training outline and materials, including PowerPoints and resource directories, for the Entrepreneurial Sustainable Agriculture Training conducted on May 29, 2007, in Logan, Utah. The training was held in conjunction with Senator Bob Bennett’s 6th Annual Rural Business Conference. Twenty-four participants attended the training which was videotaped for use in producing the DVD. A pre-survey of training participants was conducted and summarized (see Appendix for summary). Additionally, a press release, promotional flyer, website (see Appendix) was designed to inform people about the training and forthcoming DVD training video. Details pertaining to this project were also included in the WRDC’s 2007 annual report (see Appendix) and will also be highlighted in the WRDC’s 2008 annual report scheduled for publication in September 2008.

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

This project has the potential of enhancing the capacity of Extension education to deliver cutting edge information on developing and maintaining retail and internet marketing for sustainable agriculture products.

Future Recommendations

Based on our experiences with this project, the new hypotheses that emerged include:
1. Agencies working with new enterprise development opportunities support multi-disciplinary training.
2. Farmers and Ranchers find more value in team training, agency and producer, than do agency personnel.

The recommendations we have for Western SARE or others doing work comparable to this project includes:
1. Enhanced work on enterprise development that includes disciplines outside the agriculture college is essential if new markets are to be captured and sustained.
2. Partnered training is a key to adding validity to education related to entrepreneurial development within the agriculture community.
3. Multiple levels of sophistication of educational materials related to new markets, processing and packaging are needed to meet the needs to farmers and ranchers. This may mean the need for beginning overviews, next some specifics, then very specialized materials for those in specific markets.

Participants

No participants
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.