Guided Exploration of Value Added Enterprises Project
The project is designed to guide interested farmers/farmers groups, recruited at farmers markets and elsewhere, through product development, testing , equipment and supplies training, production, business formation, marketing and other issues ancillary to running a small value added business.
1) 10 farmers/groups of farmers will understand all aspects of developing a value-added enterprise.
2) 30 farmers/groups of farmers will participate in portions of trainings and business classes offered.
3) All vendors in at least 5 farmers markets will have and understanding of value added enterprise development and regulations governing sales at farmers markets.
4) A core group of professionals will have “practiced” a holistic approach to assisting farmers in developing a successful value added enterprise based on sustainable, local food production.
January Great Plains Vegetable Growers Meeting
Local production of fruits and vegetables were promoted at “The Slice of Ag”, a program for grade school children. “The Slice of Ag” educates young people where their food comes from and teaches them safe food handling practices. Over 850 4th graders from Douglas County went through the program. The Guided Explorations grant was discussed and the children learned many ways that fruits and vegetables can be given added value through processing. Other sponsors of the event were the KS Farm Bureau, Douglas County Pork Producers, Douglas County Livestock Association, The KS Corn Commission, the KS Soybean Growers Association and the Lawrence Area Horticulture Producers.
Worked with two farmers market on their marketing plans for the year.
Organized the collection of data and publication of the “Lawrence Area Farm Guide”, listing area direct market farms, many who are involved with Value Added products. 72 farms are listed in the guide.
February Presented a workshop titled, “Step by Step Marketing Plans”. Brought in experts from the Kansas Dept. of Commerce, and the Kansas Innovation Center to walk people through writing their marketing plans. By the end of the day everyone had a completed marketing plan that they could utilize right away. 39 people attended.
Organized meeting of 5 milk goat producers and discussed possible cooperative use of transportation to a central location. Gave information about grant programs available for such projects.
March Organized three bus tours that visited businesses that were doing value added processing, and businesses that could be useful to small businesses.
Processors visited varied in products produced. The stops made and highlighted topics at each were:
Original Juan’s – salsa processor, co-packer, private labeler
Pyle’s Meat Market – meat processor, packaging, marketing
Louisburg Cider Mill – Cider mill, packaging, internet sales
Central Soy Foods – Tofu production, marketing, financial start-up
Spectragraphics – Label company, types of labels and needs of printer
Advanced Food Services – dry mixes, co-packer, custom packer
Newhouse Dairy – dairy, packaging, direct market sales
Rainbow Organic Farms – Coop of farms, marketing, buy local information
Cedar Valley Farms – Chicken & Egg production, direct marketing
Pome on the Range Orchards and Winery – Winery & Orchard, retailing, direct marketing, promotion
Pines International – Food Supplement, international marketing
Grandma Hoerners – Jams, Jellies, Sauces, marketing organic
Alma Creamery – Cheese, working with local lenders, financing, marketing
Kansas State University Foods Lab – Resources available to processors
Farview Farms – Meat processing, Direct Market meats
Eastside Market – Retail market, how to sell to a retailer
A total of 108 people went on the bus tours, averaging over 30 per tour.
July – Worked with the publishers of Midwest Living Magazine to identify farms that were producing Kansas Products. Four farms that have attended Guided Exploration meetings were selected to be featured in the Kansas State Official Visitors Guide 2006.
October – Lawrence Area Farm Tour. Fifteen farms joined for a two day farm tour. All farms have participated with the Guided Explorations Project on at least two workshops, and all farms received assistance and information about direct marketing their farm products. 2,000 people attended the tours, and the project utilized 160 volunteers.
21 Farms participated in a Fall Festival event highlighted and sold, value added products from farms that have attended value added workshops.
Met with representative of the Kansas Dept. of Commerce, Kansas Dept. of Agriculture, Kansas Rural Center, and producer groups, to look at rules and regulations that affect farm direct marketers. From the work done through the Guided Explorations project, and feedback from participating farms, the state is assessing the allowance of “Domestic Kitchens” to be used by farmers’ market vendors and small farmers. Plans were also made for 5 Direct Marketing meetings to be held in January and February, 2006.
November – Presented a workshop titled, “Improve Your Financial and Management Skills”. This workshop included speakers on Business Planning, Bookeeping and Accounting practices, Working with you Lender, Product and General Farm Liability Insurance, Marketing Plans, and Hiring Employees. These topics were presented, as they were identified at previous meetings. 28 people attended
A joint holiday open house was sponsored by 12 of the producers that have participated in the Guided Explorations workshops. Local farms, featuring, emu meat products, lamb summer sausage, dried flowers, blue corn chips, pickled asparagus, pasture raised chickens, organic Christmas trees, jams and jellies, apple cider and wine gathered to share their products with over 500 people.
Sent out press releases to area papers to promote these farms. Articles were written about two of the participating farms.
Assisted with a SARE Producer Grant Writing workshop. Seven Guided Explorations farms participated.
December – Helped with the promotion of the Holiday Market of the Downtown Lawrence Farmers’ Market. Sent press releases that publicized the market. 46 vendors participated, and 3,000 customers attended the market.
January 2006 – Presented workshop session on “Coopetition – Cooperating with your Competition” at the Great Plains Vegetable Growers Meeting. 30 growers were in attendance. We stressed that your competition can be your greatest cooperator, and featured ideas from several of the growers who are regulars at Guided Explorations workshops.
Many farmers who have attended the Guided Explorations workshops, and are now nearing or are in production, of goods, have also requested information about agri-tourism and direct marketing. Four Guided Explorations farms attended the North American Farm Direct Marketing Association meeting, and will be sharing their information with other farmers in the state. 500 people in attendance.
A survey was sent to 120 farms who have attended Guided Explorations meetings. 35 were returned and results are currently being tabulated.
Five Direct Marketing workshops were held throughout the state to assist farmers interested in selling their products directly to the consumer.
Other items through the year:
Attended four Kansas Association of Horticulture Industries board meetings. Promoted the surveying of the states horticulture industry to determine size and value of crops. Attended legislative hearings on possible state funding of this project.
Presentations that promoted local value added products were given to 9 non farm groups. These are the end consumers of the value added products and appreciated the education. These groups included:
University Women’s Club (40 people)
3 Mom’s Clubs (total of 25 people)
Lawrence Chamber of Commerce Ag Network (20 people)
Baldwin City Rotary Club (50 people)
Partners in Progress awards ceremony (200 people)
Lawrence Welcome Club (80 people)
No Name Club (30 people)
Became a resource for the local media, referring them to at least 10 Guided Exploration farms for stories. Articles that were picked up included those about:
Locally produce alternative meats (5 Guided Explorations farms featured)
Eggplant growers (2 farms featured)
Local turkey producers (2 farms featured)
Berry producers (4 farms featured)
Heirloom vegetable growers (3 farms featured)
Sheep producer (1 farm featured)
Pea growers (2 farms featured)
Interviewed five times by local radio and newspapers about Guided Explorations workshops and bus tours.
Participated in events organized by the The AgriBusiness Network. The purposes of the AgriBusiness Network include advocacy for the agribusiness sector, networking, youth development within the agribusiness sector and economic development, including value-added agriculture.
Featured locally grown herbs in an article in the Kansas City Star. Utilized herbs in a flower arrangement.
To date over 200 farmers have contacted the project for information. 95 farms have participated in workshops or other events connected to the project. This project is granted through the Kansas Rural Center, and has cooperated with various other state and local agencies including:
Kansas Department of Commerce
Kansas Department of Agriculture
Kansas Department of Health and Environment
Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops
Kansas State University
Lawrence Chamber of Commerce
Lawrence Ag Network Committee
Douglas County Extension
Community Mercantile COOP
Lawrence Area Horticulture Producers
Lawrence Farmers’ Market
Brookside Farmers’ Market
Kansas Farm Management Association
Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, and the Nebraska Vegetable Growers’ Associations
Kansas Grape Growers’ Association
And I’m sure there are more… … … …
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
IMPACT AND CONTRIBUTIONS/OUTCOMES
There is now an easily recognizable pathway for farmers and others in Kansas who seek to develop a farm-based agricultural enterprise. Through workshops and outreach, and close collaboration with State agencies and Kansas State University, most farmers are referred to assistance very quickly as they consider these enterprises. As quantified in the accomplishments, many more people have developed relationships with service providers within the Dept. of Commerce, small business centers, and the available food processing labs. There is a much stronger network among food processors because of the tours and workshops. We see far fewer errors in labels, processing, production or marketing.
The Kansas Rural Center has also been working with the Department of Agriculture to develop a “domestic kitchen” exemption to the food inspection laws that would allow homeowners to produce non-hazardous food items (jams and jellies, baked goods, honey, salad mix, etc.) without full inspection and regulations.
It is difficult to quantify things production that happened with assistance from the project as a separate item. Many of these businesses would have happened in any case, but the path was made easier. Possibly some who were considering these enterprises found that they were not interested as they gained knowledge of what this work entails, and that too is a positive outcome.