Comprehensive Training in Direct Marketing of Meat and Meat Products for Coopertative Extension Agents and Agricultural Professionals
The goal of this project is to enhance the ability of agricultural educators and professionals to effectively assist farmers in capturing value-added opportunities through direct marketing of meat and meat products (beef, pork, lamb) to consumers. Consistent with national and southern regional trends, Virginia has experienced rapid growth in consumer demand for locally-produced food, including meat products. This demand has escalated the interest by and opportunity for livestock farmers to add value to their agricultural enterprises through direct marketing to consumers. Profitable and sustainable direct marketing ventures for farmers are dependent on comprehensive, synergistic strategies and enterprise models which encompass diverse issues related to animal production, product processing, and effective marketing. Enhanced capacity of Cooperative Extension agents and other educators to assist farmers and facilitate cooperation is key to bolstering the availability, quality, and sustainability of locally-grown food (meat) produced in a responsible fashion. Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and Virginia Farm Bureau will collaborate to provide key personnel within each organization the training and resources to provide farmers with solutions to enhance and expand direct marketing of meat products. Specific project objectives include enhanced interest in and attainment of a comprehensive “skill set” for direct marketing among Cooperative Extension and VDACS educators along with successful translation of information and best practices to farmers. These objectives will be accomplished through a needs assessment and implementation of a training program by following a logic model that includes program evaluation to determine program quality and impacts.
Objective 1: This objective will provide the framework to build customized educational training for Cooperative Extension agents and other key educators. Through formalized needs assessment, a program logic model will be constructed to guide Objectives 2 and 3. These focus groups will include the ultimate end-users of the educational program (farmers), as well as the target audience (Extension agents, VDACS personnel), and individuals representing components of a direct marketing system for meat (processors, food inspectors, farmers market coordinators, marketing experts). These structured focus groups will provide objective feedback on direct marketing educational and resource needs for all components of the system (production, processing, marketing). The focus groups will also identify challenges and barriers to successful implementation of direct marketing by farmers, from which solutions can be identified and incorporated into the program plan.
Objective 2: Outcomes of Objective 1 will be used to develop and deliver a comprehensive training curriculum for Cooperative Extension agents and other key educators. The goal will be to provide educators with advanced knowledge and skills on the direct marketing of meat and meat products to extend to farmers. This objective will be accomplished through a variety of mechanisms including creation and assembly of educational support materials (publications, spreadsheets, web resources), hosting of “train the trainer” sessions for delivery of materials to educators, and case studies of model farms to provide hands-on training experience. The training component will be provided in four modules:
Module 1: Animal production and management systems for direct marketing of beef, sheep, swine, and goats (including pasture raised, organic, natural). Specific focus will be on unique practices relevant to direct marketing and those factors which impact the entire system such as product supply, quality, safety, and quantity.
Module 2: Harvest, processing, and product offering for direct marketed meat products. Includes
regulatory and inspection parameters, conversion of live animal into food products, and logistics
associated with animal processing.
Module 3: Supply development and marketing considerations for direct marketed meat products,
with focus on connection of farmers with consumer along with identifying potential markets and
market entry strategies.
Module 4: Integration of modules 1 through 3, including economic considerations and decision making tools with use of case studies as learning model. Facilitation of system components from
farm to fork will be a focus.
Objective 3: The final objective of the project is to evaluate the effectiveness of the training model through measured changes in knowledge and behaviors of educators as well as their correlated impact on farmers. Pre and post training evaluations of participants will be conducted to quantify changes in comprehension, attitudes, and interest among educators related to direct marketing facets addressed through the four modules. A subset of Extension agents and farmers will be interviewed to determine the effectiveness of the training on the ability of agents to favorably assist farmers with their direct marketing systems.
Objective 1: Needs assessment surveys conducted with Extension agents have confirmed the need for training on this topic. A team of animal scientists, economists, regulatory personnel, and program evaluation specialists was assembled to provide the framework to build customized educational training materials. Focus groups have provided feedback educational and resource needs for all components of a direct marketing system. Challenges to the process have also been identified.
Objective 2: Development and delivery of the curriculum for training agents and other key educators is underway. The necessary educational tools and resources are being constructed and organized for the upcoming trainings.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The following impacts and expected outcomes of the project:
Attain a thorough understanding of the educational and resource needs among
educators through comprehensive needs assessment which includes educators, farmers, and other professionals integral to sustainable direct marketing of meat and meat products
• Understand educational needs of both farmers and educators regarding all aspects of direct
• Identify opportunities for educator training and resource development
• Address challenges and barriers to the educational process and on-farm implementation
Enhance the capacity of educators to assist farmers with sustainable direct marketing of meat and meat products
• Develop understanding and appreciation among educators for sustainable agriculture, locally produced food, and direct marketing
• Promote knowledge of on-farm best management practices for farmers that sell meat directly to consumers
• Advance knowledge of educators on regulatory and policy issues related to direct marketed meat
• Develop comprehensive understanding of factors impacting meat processing and product
development and their impact on consumer demand and the system
• Promote understanding of marketing components integral to direct marketing of meat
• Increase capability of educators to assist farmers utilizing comprehensive systems analysis and
approach to successfully direct market
• Increase ability of educators to facilitate cooperation among people, segments, and interests
involved in direct marketing system
Litton Reaves hall
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Office Phone: 5402319153
Sr. Assistant Director
Virginia Farm Bureau
P.O. Box 27552
Richmond, VA 23261
Office Phone: 8042901153
2425 Litton Reaves
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Office Phone: 5402316331
Virginia Dept. Ag. & Consumer Services
4832 Tyreeanna Road
Lynchburg, VA 24504
Office Phone: 4342009975