Marketing Aquaculture Products

Greetings from the 2014 North Central Aquaculture Conference in Toledo, Ohio!

Aquaculture is a fast growing sector of our agricultural economy. As this part of our industry grows, we get many questions on starting an aquaculture business.  How can we help?  We can help you get MarketReady!

The Direct Marketing Food & Ag team is ready to help producers. This presentation is a quick outline of how to start the marketing plan, starting with the marketing combination.  The marketing combination consists of Plan & Process, People, Products, Places and Promotions. This program will help you identify your personal situation within the context of this marketing combination.


HANDOUTS: MarketReady Aquaculture –  This link includes the entire presentation from the conference.

For more details on marketing aquaculture products, see our website at

Best wishes in your new adventure!

Trends for Direct Food & Ag Marketers

Join us for a FREE webinar on the Top 10 Direct Marketing Trends! OSU Extension Educator Mike Hogan will give you the skinny on trends for 2014 to help you market your farm.  You will learn about what your customers are leaning towards for their 2014 buying plans. Also, gain an understanding of the newest technology trends and what they mean for your marketing plan in the coming season.

The webinar will be at Noon EST on Thursday, February 27th.  Simply log on to: and attend as a ‘guest’. The screen will prompt you from there.

To read about our future webinars (last Thursday of each month), you can find the details at:



Grants and Low-Interest Loans for Agricultural Enterprises

Grants Vs. Loans

Q – “I hear grants are free money! So, how can I get a grant?” A – Grants are not exactly easy, but with a little innovation and work writing proposals – you can have some success!

  1. Start with a great idea.  Actually, make a list of all of your ideas for the future of your farm.
  2. Do some research. Decide what would work best for you and what has the best chance of getting attention.
    1. Review sites like those listed below to see what kinds of projects have been funded in the past.
    2. ‘Google’ your ideas to see what similar things exist.  Unique ideas have a better chance for money.
  3. Write at least a basic business plan for the new endeavor.  Do not get caught up in the pages and pages of documentation, simply make an appointment with the local Small Business Development Center or get budgets and detailed information through university Extension programs. You can also find fill-in business plans online.
  4. Follow the rules.  Many times, getting a grant involves being the best not only at writing, but at following the guidelines set forth by the funding agency.

Q – “I don’t want a loan…but I don’t have a choice. Where do I start?” A – Try a low-interest loan program.

  1. Low-interest loan programs do one of two things:
    1. Lower your interest rate
    2. Increases your loan package above the bank offer in order to finance the project.
  2. Most loan programs require the cooperation of a local bank and you still need to qualify for the loan.
  3. Be sure to have your finances in line and have a reasonable plan outlined before going to get the loan.

Where do I start?

This may not be a comprehensive list, but is a start to finding assistance with agricultural operations.  For other opportunities, please search the web and other agricultural resources in the area.

  1. The Ohio Department of Agriculture can assist with loans. CONTACT: 800-282-1955
  2. The Farm Loan Program with Farm Service Agency helps with grain storage and now hay storage buildings and many other projects.  It is a lower-interest loan program. This program is helpful to beginning farmers and ranchers who cannot receive loans in other ways. CONTACT: 614/255-2547
  3. The AgriLink Deposit Program is available to farms headquartered in Ohio which maintain 51% of all land and/or in Ohio may apply for low interest loans through a State Depository Bank. Approved bank loans are submitted to the Treasury which purchases a reduced interest CD with the lender. CONTACT: Ohio Treasurer’s office: 800-228-1102  search ‘Agrilink’
  4. The Progress Fund is a non-profit organization that lends money to unconventional ideas for people with good character.  If you have a new idea for the farm, but can’t get lending from the bank – they can help. CONTACT: Mark Nicholson 814-215-9176
  5. SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education) Grants are available through USDA for farmers/ranchers who submit proposals that test, evaluate, and adapt sustainable agriculture practices for their operations and related activities, including marketing. These grants are for sustainable agriculture research and education projects, NOT for everyday farming expenses.  Grants are for up to $7,500 per farm, $15,000 for a group of two farmers, and $22,500 for a group of three or more farmers. The deadline for application is typically early December.
  6. USDA Rural Development – “To increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for all rural Americans.”  Higher monetary values for business ventures are available through the Value Added Producer Grant program (VAPG)
  7. Farm Aid  Yes, this is Willie Nelson’s baby organization.  They offer competitive grants to farmers in three areas: Growing the Good Food Movement; Helping Farmers Thrive; and Taking Action to Change the System.
  8. AgMRC – The marketing website for value added agriculture has lots of info on writing and apply for grants:

By Eric Barrett, OSU Extension Educator, OSU Direct Food & Ag Marketing Team . Review by Mike Hogan

Agritourism: New Inspections from the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA)

Ohio farms that complement their agritourism activities with inflatable “bounce houses” and slides for kids to play on will soon be subject to new safety standards proposed by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA). Based on its authority to inspect “amusement rides,” ODA is proposing the regulations to ensure public safety through minimum standards for the operation and use of inflatable devices.

Read the blog from our Ag Law professional, here:

And, this is just the start. ODA has been inspecting other aspects of activities at many Ohio farms. Our team will be reporting the details and changes as soon as more details are availble.

Accepting SNAP at Ohio Farmers’ Markets & On-Farm Markets – February 18

If you are a farmers’ markets or direct marketing farmer who is interested in accepting SNAP/EBT benefits here is your opportunity to learn more. Join us for a 1 hour webinar on Tuesday Feb. 18, 2014. The webinar will share information about best practices for accepting SNAP, utilizing Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) resources and available funding.
12:00 – Welcome
12:10-12:30 – Market Considerations and Best Practices for accepting SNAP.
12:30 – 12:50 – Equipment options and resources available through Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
12:50 – 1:00 – Q&A

To join the webinar go to:
Login as a guest.
To join the audio portion of the conference Call Dial-in Number: 1-605-475-5950 (Midwest)
The Participant Access Code is: 5717403
Anyone who has questions during the webinar, will be able to utilize the chat feature of the Carmen Connect and type in their questions.  Speakers will be attentive to the questions and address them during the program.


Christie Welch
Farmers’ Markets Specialist, The Ohio State University
740-289-2071 x. 234 Office

Top 10 Attributes of the BEST Farmers Markets

A farmers’ market is an organized group of farmers who offer fresh, local farm products at a specified location at schedule times. Farmers’ markets are growing in number and size around the country. Why? Because the public is seeking fresh, local food from farmers they know and can interact with.

Farmers benefit from increased income from direct sales, promotion of their farm and an expanding customer base.  Farmers’ markets are great business incubators for small farms and promote the importance of agriculture in the community. The economy can benefit from the increased traffic in the area, related activities during market times and keeping profits in the local economy.

There are good farmers markets and ones that could use a lot of improvement.  But, what makes a Great Farmers’ Market? Many would argue which are the best attributes, but after working with many farmers’ markets in Ohio and visiting markets throughout the country, I have come up with a list of what makes “The Best” farmers markets. These markets:

1.    Have a marketing plan and advertising schedule by month. This includes a website dedicated to the market and products offers. The plan includes social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others. The plan includes highlights of vendors and products which will attract business to the market.

2.    Inspect vendors to verify they are producing/growing what they are selling at the market.  And, in cases where a local crop is not available, they are honest and upfront about the product belonging to another farm.  Vendor farmers should list where the product was grown and why it’s not local.  This fosters confidence with the consumers to ensure they are getting locally produced foods (authentic).

3.    Are serious about a market manager and have given the manager the authority to uphold the rules and regulations of the group.

4.    Do not skirt the rules of the county or state.  Instead, they work cooperatively to advocate for rules which support the sales and profitability of locally grown foods.

5.    Involve the community through activities and events.  They give back to the community through inviting fundraising activities or donating their excess produce to the local food bank.

6.    Require signage for vendors’ booths and the products they sell.  A farm name starts the building of a brand.  It distinguishes one farm from another.  It tells a local story.  Product information increase sales.  If the market is busy, it is difficult to talk to every customer about every product.  Signage tells your story for you, and provides a good return on investment. And, to project the proper image, the group will have a basic dress code for vendors with plain shirts and jeans or apparel with logos.

7.    Provide workshops for vendors or work with other local agencies like Extension to provide educational workshops to improve vendors’ booths, growing information and more.

8.    Have hours ALL Year.  Re-establishing a customer base each spring can be time consuming and expensive. (If this is not possible, the group keeps up social media, including the happenings of farmer vendors or other sources of local food during the winter.)

9.    Complete a vendor gap analysis regularly to ensure a proper mix of vendors to meet customers’ needs. Maple syrup producers are not located in every county. Fresh flowers are not grown year round. But, there could be a farm vendor who would be willing to grow that product and sell at your market. Be sure to have a complete array of products by tracking products offered.

10. Make it fun for vendors and customers.  It’s too easy to get caught up on the tiny, insignificant negative parts of any group or activity.  Do everything you can to keep things fun – and your market will have a good, long life!

By Eric Barrett, Ohio State University Extension, Direct Food & Ag Marketing Team  Blog : Reviewed by: Julie Fox, OSU Extension Direct Marketing Specialist & Christie Welch, OSU Extension Farmers’ Market Specialist.

Marketing Trends We Saw in Super Bowl Ads

Watching the superbowl with a bunch of farm direct marketers changed the way we thought about the game and the ads. We found ourselves looking for themes and trends which farmers could use in their marketing. Here are our observations:

1. Iconic, Rugged Attraction (Farming is cool) – Hereford Bull & Chevy Truck
2. In Your Face Branding (It works with humor) – Pistachio & Colbert
3. The Rise of Health Foods – Yogurt Wars have replaced cola wars?!
4. Social Good (Make a difference, Give support)– Bono, (red) & Bank of America; Budweiser & Soldier
5. Social Changes – Cheerios & Interracial Family; Coke & Gay Couple
6. Staying Power Works (Cross-generational marketing) – Bob Dylan & Chrysler
7. Change (Relating to it) – 80’s & Radio Shack
8. Classic Humor – VW & Rainbows
9. Timing Is Everything (Be sure to plan) – Second Quarter and Second Half ads were missed by many due to boring game.
10. Capitalize on the Situation – NFL sold Seahawks gear immediately after game

How can you use these themes to update your farm’s social media plan?
Will the trends change the way you promote your farm through other marketing channels?