PA Food for Profit On-Line Project

Project Overview

CNE10-076
Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2010: $14,278.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Winifred McGee
Penn State Extension

Annual Reports

Information Products

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: general education and training
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, value added
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, analysis of personal/family life, employment opportunities

    Proposal abstract:

    Since 1992, Penn State Extension has provided the Food for Profit educational training session. This workshop provides a basic overview of key areas that would-be food product manufacturers will need, in order to create a profitable, safe, legal, and marketable product. Food for Profit has had the dual focus of enabling farmers to add value to vegetables, fruit and milk produced on their farms and encouraging food entrepreneurs to feature PA-grown commodities in their products. In 2007, Extension partnered with the University of Scranton SBDC, to offer this workshop under the name, "Building your Own Food Business." While workshops continue to be well-attended, a new client base has begun to request access to this training between the workshop sessions, or on a schedule convenient to their way of life – to be able to access information after a day in the fields, or without taking vacation from their “day job.” To respond to these requests, we propose to create a self-guided, on-line version of Food for Profit, using Adobe Presenter technology enhanced power point presentations, narrated by seasoned Educators. These Adobe Presenter documents will be linked to a (currently available) set of Food for Profit fact sheets. Project materials will be reviewed by farmer/collaborators (i.e., individuals who have been successful in creating value-added products and/or direct marketing) to ensure that they are easy to use and accurate. Ask the expert sections associated with each unit will allow distance students to contact a cadre of seasoned Educators and Consultants for individualized support. The farmer collaborators will also provide case studies profiling their activities in creating food for profit. This enhancement to the current workshop will enable Extension and SBDC personnel (in Pennsylvania and beyond) to refer food entrepreneurs and farmers to the information they need at the “teachable moment” –regardless of the season or the hour. Ultimately, this project will result in dissemination of necessary information about the challenges and rewards of developing a food enterprise to a wider range of stakeholders throughout the Northeast – in a way that accounts for the busy pace and the preferred learning style of many next-generation farmers and their entrepreneurial counterparts. The result of this expanded delivery will be increased numbers of food entrepreneurs using their Food for Profit training to create more sustainable local food enterprises.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The Penn State team will begin work by converting each of seven Power Point presentations currently used in Food for Profit workshops into an Adobe Presenter file, assigning presentations to different Extension Educators who have previously delivered this material. Speaker’s notes will be converted into a written script. The team will confer with Information Technology personnel in the PSU College of Agricultural Sciences, to ensure that the proper procedures are followed to create a set of high-quality presentations.

    These presentations will be created and evaluated by farmer/collaborators to ensure that they are understandable and true-to-life. After this evaluation, they will be uploaded to the project web site (during the first four months of the project). Several farmers have already agreed to support this initiative (letters attached). From month three to month six of the project, the team will recruit additional fanner/producers and innovative food entrepreneurs whose experience match one or more facet(s) of the Food for Profit Presenter file topics. These individuals will primarily be graduates at the Food for Profit workshops, The target number of farmers will be 8 to 10, The team (and local Educators) will work with the selected agricultural food producers to develop a series of "success stories" or case studies that illustrate the Adobe Presenter files, A video capturing interviews with several farmers, each relaying their story about how they worked with Extension or SBDC personnel to set up their unique food venture, will be created and uploaded as part of Food for Profit on-line, Additional "seed money" from the College of Agricultural Sciences Natural Work Group Extension Excellence Stimulus Funds will be solicited to defray the cost of creating this video.

    Assuming that the funding year begins June 2010, the team will be ready to begin shooting the interview segments in January through March of 2011 – when many agricultural producers will be experiencing more flexible schedules. These videos will be edited made ready for upload during the final three months of the first year of the project.

    A set of Food for Profit Fact Sheets will be integrated with the on-line materials; Ten titles in this series are already in use by Extension, for one to-one contacts and as a backbone of the workshops. The current titles available through PSU College of Agricultural Sciences Publications and as web-based PDFs accessed through http://pafoodventures.psu.edu/fpp.html are:

    • Before You Start (your food venture) • Marketing Your Food Product
    • Home Food Processing • Insurance for Food Entrepreneurs
    • Registering Your Business • Food Labels
    • Business Planning • Price and Pricing
    • Working with PDA • Price and Pricing Worksheet

    During the winter of 2010, an Extension workgroup intends to work with farmer/collaborators and PSU Food
    Science faculty to develop additional fact sheets, related to potentially hazardous foods, certification of egg producers, sale of raw and processed milk products, and niche meat production. At the beginning of the second year of the project (June 2011), the web site will be opened in pilot mode, and advertised through newsletters and e-notices by Extension, as well as by our collaborative partners in the Pennsylvania Small Business Development Centers. Over the first nine months of year two, up to 200 participants will be enrolled in the on-line class at no cost to them, with the understanding that they are enrolled in a "test program." They will participate in the on-line modules and receive a printed set of Fact Sheets.

    During this time, the project team will monitor the use of the site, and provide first line response and effective referrals for any questions posed by the participants, ensuring that the site is performing as expected. Feedback and intentions of participants who complete the on-line course will be collected. Fine-tuning and modifications that are suggested by the participants will be incorporated. In January 2012, information will be sent to counterparts in other NE Extension programs to invite their clients to use this tool, An on-line user survey (March/April 2012) will assess the pilot success. Assuming this on-line version of the course is successful. team members will explore offering this course on the eXtension campus, so that Food for prom on-line may be accessed nationwide.

    Actions and Performance Targets

    Contact seasoned Food for Profit presenters (Extension and SBDC), farmers who have successfully added value, and food entrepreneurs who are past participants of Food for Profit; arrange an initial meeting with their members to ensure members understand about the on-line version of these materials and their role(s) in this project.

    Lead a group discussion to enable collaborators to voice their level of commitment to the project, and to gather opinions about the level of interaction that should be encouraged by the on-line activities.

    Assign to specific collaborators the writing of scripts for Adobe Presenter versions of the current Food for Profit power point presentations; set deadlines for completion.

    Arrange group meeting with the technology support person to scope out the development of Adobe Presenter modules; plan how they will fit into the larger web site for this on-line program.

    When individual Presenter documents are completed, convey them to experienced value-added farmers and other food entrepreneurs for review/critique

    Identify additional print/PDF resources needed to support the on-line and face-to-face classes and delegate development and production of these to the Food for Profit Fact Sheet team.

    Remain in contact with all group members as components of the on-line course are being developed, reviewed, and fine-tuned to maintain momentum necessary to have the product uploaded and ready for pilot testing in year two.

    Recruit additional Extension and SBDC personnel (beyond the project collaborators), training them to be regional points of contact to assist class participants in customizing what they are learning to their unique enterprises.

    Collaborate with PSU Extension Agricultural Entrepreneurship and Food and Nutrition Natural Work Group members to recruit up to 200 participants to enroll in, and test, the pilot on-line course.

    Evaluate of the materials’ usability and relevance during the second year – both through a standard pre-test/post-test on-line survey of subject matter knowledge and experience and through the review of in-class activity results.

    Follow-up with participants three months after their individual course completions to gauge the adoption of concepts/skills learned and how these impact on enterprise start-up, management and sustainability.

    Determine the frequency of the following actions among on-line course participants who do start/continue a food business, as a result of participating in Food for Profit On-line:

    -The creation of a written business plan
    -Contact with appropriate government entities to attend to registration, permits, and zoning issues
    -Identification of a target market and development of specific strategies to attract sales
    -Completion of a food safety certification training (if not done before the on-line class)
    -Initiation of the food enterprise in the home kitchen, a shared or community kitchen, or a stand-alone business location
    -Development of appropriate and effective packaging
    -Assignment of a price for each food item that covers all costs and allows for a profit

    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.