Catalyzing Increased Agricultural Sales through a Common Understanding of Montana’s New Food Modernization Law
The report serves as an Annual Progress Report, not the final report for the project. Attached please find our “working” annual report that includes information about the workshops purpose and design, a summary of each workshop, lessons learned, next steps and current online survey results and our forum which can be found at the Montana Food Economy Initiative: mtfoodeconomy.org Also included our the agendas for the workshops and a workshop handouts. For the final report, the contents of the word version of this pdf will be uploaded to each of the sections on the online reporting system and submitted for approval.
Current Project Status: A Follow-up survey has been designed and shared with participants in December, and follow-ups scheduled, alongside increased promotion and dissemination of the Online forum (mtfoodeconomy.org) for wider usage by growers, producers, and business owners interested in the new food law. The Forum is currently monitored and moderated by AERO and shared with local partners and groups. Success stories and articles interviewing workshop attendees who are working with the new law have appeared in AERO’s quarterly Sun Times newsletter, our online blog, and Facebook, and the remaining stories are scheduled for completion.
For this progress report, AERO has attached the draft of the final report and Appendix A and B. For the final report, AERO will complete the attached report to include survey results and an Appendix with all the featured stories from workshop participants.
For this time period, the following objectives were completed:
- Design survey: Develop online survey to gather feedback from participants. Questions reflect both project benefits and unresolved issues.
- Promote entrepreneurial successes with personal stories: Generate 10 statewide feature stories about producers employing the law to create new enterprises or existing businesses to improve their markets and sales around the state.
- Gather survey data: Post the survey link on the website and send email reminders to participants. Make phone calls to participants.
During this time period, a follow up survey was sent out to participants to understand the benefits of the workshop and law change, forum use, and ongoing challenges. When asked about how the workshop knowledge and training had been used or applied to new business opportunities, or changed business approaches and outcomes, comments were very positive. They are provided in the impact section below.
Over the next months in preparation for the final report, AERO will send out the follow-up survey to those who have not responded and modify the survey to ask two more questions: 1: In what cities would you like workshops to be conducted in 2017? 2: When you think back on your workshop experience, please let us know what you would have been willing to pay to attend the workshop: $25, $50 or $75? NOTE: This question is being asked to gage “willingness to pay”. AERO has been asked to conduct more workshops in more communities in 2017 by the participants as well as Montana Department of Health and Human Services.
AERO will continue to promote the survey to attendees, monitor and analyze forum usage, and collect data regarding the needs and challenges of our local producers and growers. AERO staff will complete the final detailed stories from workshop participants and post them on the Montana Food Economy Initiative website, feature in the Sun Times and in the monthly AERO e-news.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Preliminary feedback from the survey that was sent to workshop participants in December include:
• “My neighbors are planning (and did get a start on) a neighborhood market. This workshop helped by giving us the confidence to get started, contacts in our local country health department, and a set of guidelines for inclusion in our market.”
• “We are just slowly nudging the value added idea along. We are gathering materials, ideas, knowledge, trainings, etc. We are confident in the next 3-5 years our farm will offer something value added.”
• “Because of the law, the farmers market vendors I work with have been encouraged to create new products (spice blends, soup mixes, etc) with success.”
• “I have a clear understanding of labeling and what I need to add to my labels. Also, that the labeling requirements for the cottage food law is in line with what would be need for wholesale labeling.”
• “It gave us a better understanding of the law and how to use the law as guidelines for prepared foods at our market.” When asked about connecting with other farmers and producers, and applying group knowledge through the forum or other online opportunities, participants noted that challenges included:
• “Too many people trying to do the same thing or recreate programs that are already functioning. Groups not doing adequate market research and not identifying existing programs.”
• “There are a lot of listservs but not everybody is on all of them.”
• “Producers are so busy growing that marketing a communication IS the barrier, the importance of “others” helping to educate the consumers.”
• “Yes, I find it easy to network. The best way is to attend various workshops/meetings and get to know other farmers.”
• “I feel like it’s fairly easy to network through word of mouth. A challenge is that many of our local producers and buyers do not use the internet or email.” Attendees were asked what additional resources or opportunities could continue to help them again important knowledge and resources to use the law to their benefit. Answers included:
• “I would love to work with AERO to host workshops in our area. We don’t have an extension agent or many experienced farmers so our pool of knowledge/resources is limited. We have put on several workshops for the farmers market vendors on our own with great attendance. The vendors would love to have more!”
• “Organizing a series of work parties/farm days. helping more people start value added businesses.”
• “Business type classes (accounting, book keeping, budgeting, marketing), and insurance classes (not all insurance policies cover CSA’s, what about the liability of people coming on to the farm etc.)”
• “More on-farm research information availability to small producers.”
Mavrolas & Associates
Helena, MT 59601
Office Phone: 406-442-5416
Matheson & Associates
2019 E 6th Ave.
Helena, MT 59601
Office Phone: 406-442-7158
Rusmore and Associates
1429 S. Grand Avenue
Bozeman, MT 59715
Office Phone: 406-570-5815