PIKETON, Ohio -- Ohio farmers' markets and their vendors looking to boost their marketing efforts in providing fresh, local foods to consumers will receive assistance through a new Ohio State University Extension program.
OSU South Centers at Piketon was recently awarded a $99,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business Enterprise grant to launch the Growing! Ohio Farmers' Markets program. The program provides assistance to farmers' market managers, board of directors and vendors/producers in three main areas of business: marketing, money and management.
"With the tremendous growth in consumer demand for locally produced foods, we are pleased to be able to assist Ohio's food producers in taking advantage of this opportunity," said Christie Welch, an OSU Extension farmers' market specialist for OSU South Centers at Piketon. "This is a win-win for producers and consumers alike. The producers increase their financial stability, which helps maintain their farms, and the consumers have access to the fresh local foods they demand."
Welch and her colleagues are partnering with USDA Rural Development in implementing the program, the focus of which will be on providing business training and technical assistance. The technical assistance is designed to increase the knowledge, skills and abilities of the farmers' markets participating in the program. Training will include such areas as developing marketing plans, establishing producer standards, building a business plan, developing accounting systems, leveraging resources, and conducting feasibility studies.
Trainings will be provided beginning this fall.
Tom Worley, director of OSU South Centers emphasized the importance of the program and its connection with local foods.
"This funding is expected to expand the availability of locally grown products by working with current and potential growers and vendors, as well as managers of farmers' markets," said Worley.
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.
For more information on the program, contact Christie Welch at (740) 289-2071, ext. 234, or e-mail email@example.com.