Resources help Hoosier farmers learn to take advantage of local foods movement
The percentage of food purchased at farmers markets and farm stands in the U.S. is still tiny – but it’s growing fast, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
As of 2007, farmers markets accounted for only 0.4 percent of total sales, the USDA’s Economic Research Service said in a May 2010 report titled “Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues,” but that nonetheless represents $1.2 billion in sales.
In addition, that figure may have increased substantially since the study was completed because the number of farmers markets has ballooned, rising 9.6 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to USDA, and by nearly 350 percent since 1994. There are now more than 7,800 farmers markets in the USDA’s farmers market directory, http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/.
Indiana Farm Bureau considers this potential market very important to farmers – so much so that the organization is in the process of hiring a new staff member who will coordinate Farm Bureau’s efforts to help farmers market directly to consumers.
Farmers who have never marketed directly to consumers have a lot to think about – starting with the questions “Do I like interacting with people?” and “So, what can I produce that there’s a market for?”
Other important considerations, according to numerous sources, are: Do I want people to come to my farm or are would it be better to produce a product that can be sold elsewhere, such as at a farmers market? Where will the labor come from? What legal issues (health regulations, zoning regulations, permits, insurance) relate to this type of enterprise? How do we promote it?
This list just scratches the surface of the many factors that need to be considered. So, here is a list of some of the best resources. All can be found online, though some also provide information in a printed format.
- The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, www.agmrc.org. This inclusive resource center on value-added agriculture is one of the best sources around, according to Roy Ballard, Hancock County Extension educator and coordinator of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program in Indiana.
- The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, www.ams.usda.gov/, has in its “Farmers Markets and Local Food Marketing” section many resources to help farmers, with particular emphasis on farmers markets.
- The Indiana Cooperative Development Center, www.icdc.coop, has available in the “Farmers Market” area of its website links as well as recordings from the workshops it’s offered on farm marketing.
- Purdue, which has many resources: the Center for New Crops and Plant Products NEWCrop website, www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/; Indiana’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, www.northcentralsare.org/State-Programs/Indiana, offering links, resources and information on grants; and the horticultural marketing page, http://hort2.agriculture.purdue.edu/hortmarket/horticultural%20marketing/.
- My Local Indiana, www.mylocalindiana.com/, an organization formed last year to promote Indiana farms, agritourism, wineries/breweries, farmers markets, farm stands, and bed & breakfasts.
- The Indiana State Department of Agriculture, www.in.gov/isda. Among the resources found here is the “Agritourism and Farmers’ Market Directory.”
- Indiana MarketMaker, http://in.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/, which allows consumers and businesses to find products and helps farmers find customers.