COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Finding that local farmer who sells fresh eggs or connecting with a fellow retailer, restaurant or food processor is now just a computer click away.
Ohio MarketMaker, a free Web-based resource for all businesses in the food supply chain, has officially launched. The program is part of a national network of state Web sites that connects farmers with food retailers, grocery stores, processors, caterers, chefs, and other food supply chain contacts. Ohio is the 10th state to join the MarketMaker family.
"MarketMaker provides the ability to identify exactly what someone is looking for and where to find it. Connecting producers and buyers means more access to local, fresh produce. That's a good thing," said Ohio Governor Ted Strickland during the formal launch event at North Market in Columbus on March 18. "We need to do more to stress preventive health, support good nutrition and fight obesity, and one way is to make sure that people have access to high-quality foods."
Ohio MarketMaker is supported through the collaboration of Ohio State University Extension, the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the Ohio Farm Bureau and the Center for Innovative Food Technology.
Nearly 100 individuals in the agricultural and food industries attended the launch event to learn more about how Ohio MarketMaker works and how the program can benefit their business.
Jeni Britton, owner of Jeni's Ice Cream in Columbus, Ohio, described the MarketMaker Web site as "addictive."
"Once you start, the possibilities are endless," said Britton.
MarketMaker boasts one of the most extensive collections of searchable food industry-related data in the country -- categorized by buyers, sellers, location and other demographic information. Britton discovered its usefulness while searching for farmers who sell cherries for her ice cream products.
"While searching the site, I found that there is a farm that grows cherries just a few miles away from the business. In the past I was going outside of Ohio. But now I'll be saving time and gas," said Britton. "That's just a testimony of the effectiveness of the MarketMaker program."
Mark Newton, executive chef of Ohio State University's Office of Campus Dining Services, plans to use Ohio MarketMaker to build local relationships with farmers and others in the food industry.
"We serve 25,000 to 30,000 meals a day, so sometimes it's a challenge to meet and maintain that volume," said Newton. "But I can use MarketMaker to help fill those needs and also find local specialty items. I can click on the button and find local farmers who are selling basil. MarketMaker contains a wealth of business information that I never knew existed in Ohio."
The concept to converge a variety of related databases into one Web site and to summarize the information by using clickable maps originally came from collaboration between University of Illinois Extension and its state partners. In addition to Ohio, other states supporting MarketMaker include: Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, Indiana, New York, Kentucky, Mississippi and Georgia.
To learn more about Ohio MarketMaker, log on to http://ohiomarketmaker.com, or contact Julie Fox at OSU South Centers at Piketon at (740) 289-2071, ext. 225, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the national MarketMaker program, log on to http://national.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/.