- Farm Business Management: business planning, market study, marketing management, new enterprise development, value added
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, values-based supply chains
This research and education project will benefit family farmers and rural economies in Texas by stimulating the production of value-added goods from sustainably-grown fruits and vegetables. We will accomplish this through an integrated two-year effort that will include market research and extensive education. We will share research results, tools, and templates from this effort with communities throughout the Southern SARE region, enabling them to replicate these results.
Despite strong demand for local, organic, and sustainably produced foods, many Texas growers who sell directly to consumers report declining incomes. These growers believe they are missing out on excellent opportunities to create and sell value-added products offering higher profit margins. The limited evidence that is available suggests that these growers may be right. Although Texas grocery stores contain many value-added products that are made from local ingredients, very few of these are labeled and marketed as sustainably produced. And researchers at the Food & Agricultural Products Center at Oklahoma State University report that such products are a rapid-growth market segment that is only beginning to be explored in the region.
The National Center for Appropriate Technology, Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association, Texas A&M University, Oklahoma State University, and other project partners will carry out a deep and wide-ranging study of the opportunities for adding value to sustainable and organic Texas-grown fruits and vegetables. Our primary focus will be central Texas, which offers an ideal combination of strong markets and the greatest concentration of sustainable growers in the state.
In the first year of our research we will identify at least six promising value-added products, defining the scale of production at which these enterprises would be profitable and meet the manufacturing and marketing constraints of sustainable and organic farmers. In the second year we will implement the recommendations of this study: aggressively promoting and encouraging development of these opportunities. Our efforts will include connecting growers to likely funders (such as economic development agencies), as well as providing direct technical assistance.
Educational efforts will be ongoing throughout the two years of the project, and will include e-learning, workshops, and case studies of both successful and failed attempts. The results of our research will make sustainable growers in Texas much better informed about the value-added enterprises offering the greatest opportunities for success, as well as the costs and risks associated with these enterprises. By the end of this two-year project, we will be working closely with at least three farmer-directed value-added enterprises that are in early-stage development.
This pioneering effort will have lasting impact because it will answer fundamental research questions, stimulate interest, create user-friendly tools, and greatly increase collaboration among Texas-based organizations that have a stake in the economic success of the state's sustainable and organic farmers. Since the problem we are addressing is by no means unique to Texas, the lessons learned and tools developed through this project will be useful throughout the Southern SARE region.
Project objectives from proposal:
The objectives of this project are to:
1. Research opportunities for value-added processing of sustainably grown fruits and vegetables in Texas, with special attention to the appropriate scale of production.
2. Increase the sales and profitability of value-added products by sustainable and organic fruit and vegetable growers in Texas.
3. Educate and organize growers, facilitating key decisions about topics such as appropriate business structures, values-based branding, sustainability requirements, and scale of production.
4. Cultivate increased collaboration, coordination, and support for value-added enterprise development in the sustainable and organic sector by strengthening inter-industry value chains and rural-urban linkages and quantifying regional economic impacts.