PIKETON, Ohio -- Effective marketing is one of the biggest challenges faced by both new and existing farmers' markets, but managers are getting a little assistance from Ohio State University's South Centers at Piketon.
OSU South Centers recently received a one-year, $75,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to provide resource and marketing tools to assist farmers' markets throughout Appalachian Ohio in better communicating with potential consumers. As a result, consumers looking to frequent farmers' markets in the Appalachian region will be better able to identify where those markets are located and what products they offer.
"Many markets in the region are run by volunteer managers," said Christie Welch, an OSU South Centers farmers' market specialist. "Due to time and resource restrictions, many do not have the luxury of developing a strategic marketing plan to help inform consumers of the benefits of their markets. OSU South Centers will develop customizable marketing materials to assist these busy producers."
Fred Deel, director of the Ohio Department of Development's Governor's Office of Appalachia, presented the monies during a recent awards presentation.
"This initiative will assist Ohio's Appalachian communities by creating opportunities to share the bounty of their natural resources with greater Ohio and the entire region," said Deel.
Farmers' markets can be a boon for a region or community, providing consumers with fresh, healthy, locally produced foods while keeping farmers sustainable and boosting an area's economy. According to the Farmers' Market Coalition, the number of farmers' markets in the U.S. has increased 40 percent over the past decade. More than 3 million consumers shop at farmers' markets, spending over $1 billion a year.
If the consumer is not being reached, said Welch, then farmers' markets and the communities they support are missing out on a wealth of economic opportunities. Welch will offer information on the best ways to market farmers' markets during the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association Congress.
"Marketing Local Farmers' Markets" will be presented on Jan. 14 from 9 a.m. until 10 a.m. OPGMA Congress will be held Jan. 12-14 at the Nia Center at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio. For complete program information, log on to http://www.ohiofruit.org.
"For new markets, having a plan in place to attract enough farmers as vendors in order to be successful can be a real challenge. For existing markets, not developing a sustainable management system is one of the biggest mistakes managers can make," said Welch. "The goal for farmers' markets is to be customer-focused."
Welch will offer information on the differences between farmers' markets and traditional businesses and will share best marketing practices from across the state and the nation on how vendors can work together within a specific farmers' market yet maintain their own business identity.
Tom Snyder, program manager of OSU South Centers' Ohio Cooperative Development Center (OCDC), will also present information on the cooperative structure as an option for persons looking to work together for mutual benefit and/or cost avoidance. OCDC at the OSU South Centers can provide information and assistance on the benefits of cooperatives, as well as resources that are available to explore the cooperative structure. Snyder will discuss grants and micro-loans that may be available for groups exploring cooperatives.
OPGMA Congress is an annual event that offers a plethora of topics on fruit and vegetable production from university specialists and industry professionals. OPGMA is an organization of produce growers and marketers whose goal is to produce exceptional quality crops, for consumers and processors, utilizing environmentally friendly practices. OPGMA was formed in January 2007 with the merger of the Ohio Vegetable and Potato Growers Association, the Ohio Fruit Growers Society, and the Direct Agricultural Marketers Association of Ohio.