- Education and Training: networking, workshop
- Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, marketing management
- Production Systems: transitioning to organic
- Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities
The goal of this project is to foster opportunities to nurture leadership and develop capacity among farmers, and to identify, evaluate, and implement direct marketing strategies that are mutually beneficial to their farms and communities. This project seeks to establish a well-tooled support system for producers who want to develop direct marketing strategies by providing coordinated and in-depth training to educators, service providers, and producers. Participants in this project will form a learning community that explores the many faces of direct marketing, fine-tuning options with family goals, designing marketing and business plans, and securing financial support to carry out new and expanded direct marketing enterprises. This learning community, or network, will meet once each year for intensive workshops. Through an electronic list serve and interactions from the project leadership team, network participants will exchange stories and experiences from their own communities, with shared learning as a guiding principle. They will carry out region specific education programs, and work one-on-one with producers and consumers in their communities. In time, these efforts will culminate in strengthening the sustainability of Ohio’s agriculture, and providing a living framework for regional food systems. Networking that is fundamental to this project’s design is embodied in a diverse project leadership team with representatives from Innovative Farmers of Ohio (IFO), Ohio State University Extension (OSUE), Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA), the Small Farm Institute (SFI), and business consulting. The team will engage eight producers, small business consultants, and extension specialists from each of Ohio’s five regions (as outlined by Ohio State University Extension districts) in the learning community as well as representatives from the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF), Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), and Ohio Citizens Action (OCA). Although lenders are not represented as a group, they will also be included as participants. Over time, this project will be a foothold for an integrated food system, which will include expanded production and marketing capacity and expanded consumer food distribution. An Internet marketing database, now being developed, will facilitate linking producers and consumers that can in turn support and sustain small and medium scale producers and preserve farmland, while supplying quality food produced by and for our communities.
Project objectives from proposal:
·Awareness: educators and community leaders of marketing alternatives and potential linkages between the production and consumer sectors.
·Knowledge: Knowledge and information on successful community food systems and an increase in knowledge and information on leadership and institutional development strategies. Increased knowledge and information on marketing and business plan development.
·Attitudes: Educators and community leaders will become integrated and systems oriented. Educators will develop a more market oriented attitude when they interact with producers and consumer group leadership will develop a more sustainable and connected attitude toward their food sources.
·Skills: Educators and community leaders to focus on the development of an integrated food system for both producers and consumers.
Intermediate Outcomes—Behavior, Practice and Policies:
Network of educators that will:
·Assist existing direct marketers in expansion and potential direct marketers in making decisions regarding marketing options.
·Communicate and learn from one another’s experiences through an e-mail list serve.
·Assist direct marketers in developing marketing and/or business plans.
·Work with lenders in support and evaluation of loan applications and grant opportunities for agricultural alternatives that include direct marketing.
·Assist small and medium scale farmers that are trying to diversify and/or expand.
Long-Term Outcomes—Systematic changes:
·Integrated food system
·Expanded production and marketing capacity
·Expanded consumer food distribution
·Horizontal and vertical coordination of the food production and marketing system
·Market driven system with leadership, education, and financial support
·Internet marketing database
·Support and sustain small and medium scale producers and preserve farmland
·Supply quality, locally grown food to urban and rural consumers
·Provide an adequate and stable price for agricultural producers while providing quality food at a reasonable price to urban and rural consumers, which will affect the quality of life for both