Growing Your Local Food System and Its Brands

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2018: $79,999.00
Projected End Date: 03/30/2021
Grant Recipient: Mississippi State University
Region: Southern
State: Mississippi
Principal Investigator:
James Barnes
Mississippi State University

Information Products


  • Agronomic: peanuts, potatoes, rice, sorghum (milo), sugarcane
  • Fruits: berries (blueberries), berries (other), berries (strawberries), figs, melons, peaches
  • Nuts: pecans
  • Vegetables: beans, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, greens (leafy), greens (lettuces), okra, peas (culinary), peppers, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, tomatoes
  • Additional Plants: coffee
  • Animals: bees, bovine, fish, goats, poultry, shellfish, sheep, swine
  • Animal Products: eggs, honey, meat
  • Miscellaneous: mushrooms, syrup


  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, mentoring, networking, technical assistance, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: agritourism, budgets/cost and returns, business planning, community-supported agriculture, e-commerce, farm-to-institution, farm-to-restaurant, farmers' markets/farm stands, market study, marketing management, value added
  • Sustainable Communities: community development, community planning, community services, food hubs, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, public participation, public policy, social capital, social networks, values-based supply chains


    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.


    Project objectives:

    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.


    The original plan was to create face-to-face training for agents, but lack of Extension Agent participation in our scheduled workshop led us to reach out to our partners to deliver content to mentors from additional organizations, industry partners, and agricultural associations to participate in the training. This led to such successful educational efforts as the Soil to Shelf Workshop, the statewide Women for Agriculture Training, The Mississippi Alabama Rural Tourism Conference, and the Mississippi Farmers Market Workshop.

    Additionally, it was also decided to shift the focus to creating online content to make the training more accessible, not only to in-state participants, but also Extension Agents, and mentors in neighboring states. This shift ultimately proved timely and effective because COVID-19 required a shift in how to deliver content.

    The shift to online from face-to-face provided ample opportunity to create resources to promote online learning by Extension agents while simultaneously providing access to resources for food businesses in Mississippi, and abroad. All content is ready-made to use by Extension agents for professional development, and agents can use these resources to work directly with food businesses in future face-to-face workshops beyond 2021.

    Related to workshops, the advent of COVID-19 in early March 2020 drastically impacted our plans to have agents travel to attend professional development training. Likewise, significant funds were not used in this grant due to restrictions of face-to-face meetings and agents’ ability to travel to attend workshops that were planned as part of this program.

    However, a more online-focused approach was taken to create content for agents not only in Mississippi but also abroad in other states. This summary report documents the content and its online location where agents can take advantage of the online training produced in this project.

    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.