Local: The Gift that Gives Back

Vacant storefronts and barely-surviving businesses dominated downtown Chillicothe when I moved to Ohio in 2011. Today downtown is home to thirty thriving businesses, offering everything from retail items to food, personal and professional services. The revival of the downtown area and the continued success of its tenants depends on residents’ support and contribution to the local economy.

Shop local, Give local

Every dollar you spend in the local economy has a threefold multiplier effect: direct, indirect and induced, according to the American Independent Business Alliance. A direct impact occurs when businesses spend revenue to operate the business itself; purchasing inventory from local vendors, paying utilities, rent, and wages to employees. Indirect impact is the result of recirculating dollars in the local economy. The induced impact is additional consumer spending that happens when employees, business owners and others spend earned income locally. ¹

Supporting local businesses has non-economic benefits too. It cultivates hometown character and creates cohesion among community members. “It’s great to see decorated storefronts downtown instead of boarded-up windows,” a longtime resident of Chillicothe said, “The new downtown Chillicothe is something the entire community is proud of.”

Giving local gifts communicates your hometown pride. Givers can share the story behind the gift and what makes it special. For example, give a fruit basket from a local farm and share how your family looks forward to visiting the farm’s pick-your-own each fall. Give a personal recommendation with a gift card to an independent coffee shop, “The jumbo cinnamon rolls are the best!”

Local food makes great stocking stuffers and party gifts: wine, honey, jerky, candies and other products from area producers. These items are easy to ship and send a piece of your hometown to far-away family and friends. My husband has standing dibs on a turkey leg at holiday meals. One year he was stationed in Korea and missed the holidays with his family. His grandmother mailed the turkey leg across the Pacific Ocean. Although I don’t recommend sending perishable items, sending nonperishable local food products are a way to make the world feel a little smaller.

Small businesses are a great place to find locally made body products, housewares and jewelry. Small, independently owned businesses often serve as a retail gateway for local producers and artisans, who can work directly with the manager to stock products at a small volume, instead of coordinating a large volume through a regional distributor.

Don’t forget services- the person who has everything will appreciate the gift of local spa services, classes, or tickets to experience area attractions.

Buy local, online

No time to go downtown? You can still shop and give local online. Many local businesses have ecommerce websites that allow customers to pick-out, purchase and ship gifts without stepping foot in the store.

Looking for local food and products? You can find local produce, beef, dairy, herbs and value-added product at www.localharvest.org.

You can find locally made clothing, crafts and retail items from over 300 Ohio small businesses and farmers at Celebrate Local shops in Cincinnati and Columbus, or buy online at www.celebratelocalohio.com.

  1. “The Multiplier Effect of Local Independent Businesses.” American Independent Business Alliance. (n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2018 from https://www.amiba.net/resources/multiplier-effect/

*Article originally published in Farm & Dairy Newspaper

Buy Co-op Mastery Workbooks Online

Looking for the perfect holiday gift?

Look no further!

The Co-op Mastery workbook complements Co-op Mastery: Beyond Cooperatives 101, a free online training from the Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences Center for Cooperatives, available at www.go.osu.edu/coopmastery.

Co-op members, directors, managers, employees, and students of cooperatives can use the workbook individually as a self-paced tool, or as a guided activity to learn about the cooperative business model.

The 48-page workbook enhances learning with activities and examples in cooperative principles, governance, legal considerations, taxation, finance, and formation​ planning.

Co-op Mastery workbooks, $13 hard copy, $8 PDF, available at the Extension Publications website.

U.S. Ag Co-op Trends: Numbers declining, business volume increasing

Dr. Iryna Demko, formerly an agribusiness researcher with the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics (AEDE) at Ohio State University, has released a report on research she conducted while at OSU about trends of U.S. agricultural cooperatives, showing how the number of agricultural cooperatives in the U.S. has declined while cooperative business volume and number of members has increased.  Dr. Demko currently is a research associate at the Center for Economic Development at Cleveland State University. Dr. Demko’s full report, Trends of U.S. Agricultural Cooperatives: 1913 to 2016,” has been published by the Center for Cooperatives and is now available for viewing on the Center’s webpage.

Latest World Cooperative Monitor report available

The latest edition of the World Cooperative Monitor report on the world’s largest cooperative and mutual organizations has been released, providing rankings of the Top 300 and sector analysis based on 2016 financial data. This report has a new feature: an analysis of the Top 300 and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), taking a look at how the largest cooperative enterprises and mutual in the world are moving toward achieving the SDGs. There are many examples of cooperative development of projects to ensure fair labor, protect the environment, and more to meet the SDGs.

 

Food Hubs Connect Healthy Food, Farms, and Communities

The USDA defines a food hub as a “business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand”, but food hubs do much more. Food hubs are a catalyst for community wellness. They address problems of food insecurity and connect community members to the source of their food.

Building a regional food hub requires collaboration of multiple partners. Each partner contributes unique strengths and resources to the project. Community stakeholders amplify success by participating in project planning and execution and supporting the food hub in their community.

In 2018 the Ohio State University’s Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation (InFact) partnered with the Methodist Theological School in Ohio (MTSO), Seminary Hill Farm, and Franklinton Gardens Urban Farm, to develop a model for food hub businesses in underserved urban communities. The organizations invite community stakeholders, individuals and organizations to attend the Building Regional Food Hubs Conference on Nov. 9, 2018.

The conference will host local food leaders from across the state of Ohio. Anna Haas from Local Food Connection will share online possibilities for urban food hubs. Piper Fernway will describe how Bon Appetit Management Company connects institutions to local food in Appalachia. Leslie Schaller, the founder of the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks’ (ACEnet) Food Venture Center and Nelsonville Food Hub, will tell how ACEnet helps producers enhance their businesses with value-added products.

The conference will feature a panel of practitioners discussing challenges and opportunities for producers in food hub models. Panelist Tadd Petersen, manager of Seminary Hill Farm, notes that producers face many challenges. Tadd says, “Storage is the number one barrier facing producers.” Food hubs can provide aggregation, packing, processing and storage space to help farmers expand business capacity. Seminary Hill Farm works with 30 local farms to provide catering and event services, supply MTSO’s dining facilities with farm fresh food, and operate a 300-member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription. A tour of Seminary Hill Farm will follow the conference.

Attend the Building Regional Food Hubs Conference

Date: Friday, Nov. 9, 2018

Time: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Location: Methodist Theological School in Ohio, 3081 Columbus Pike, Delaware, Ohio

Fee: $10

To learn more and register for the event visit www.mtso.edu/foodhubconference

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References

1. Barham, James, Debra Tropp, Kathleen Enterline, Jeff Farbman, John Fisk, and Stacia Kiraly. Regional Food Hub Resource Guide. Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service. April 2012.

*Article originally published in Farm & Dairy Newspaper

Get ready for retail: Selling farm products at grocery stores and restaurants

Retail and restaurant sales are an opportunity for farmers and food businesses to increase sales volume and revenue, while building brand awareness in the local marketplace. But selling farm products to retail buyers isn’t as easy as showing up with samples. Before approaching grocery store and restaurant buyers, farmers must understand the market, obtain required insurance and certifications, and comply with industry standards for packaging and labeling.

Understand the market: products, people, promotions and pricing

Visit the grocery store(s) you wish to sell product to. Survey the store’s current products, customers, promotions, and pricing. Pay special attention to similar products that your products will compete against, noting the price range. Typical retail mark-up is 40%; if the retail price of fresh asparagus is $2.89 per pound, the grocer paid about $1.73 per pound.

Enjoy a meal at the restaurant you wish to sell products to. Look for language or signage that promotes local sourcing. Notice fellow diners- will your products appeal to the restaurant’s typical customers? Review the menu and consider if your products are a good fit. Make note of prices on the menu. Restaurant industry food costs average 30-35%, depending upon the style of restaurant.

Insurance and certifications

Retail and restaurant buyers may require vendors to maintain a level of product liability insurance, worker’s compensation and/or other insurance policies. Grocers may require vendor farms to be Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certified. Buyers will appreciate a copy of your farm’s food safety plan, and an invitation to perform an on-farm food safety inspection.

Be prepared to provide buyers with documentation proving your products are USDA Certified Organic, Certified Natural, Verified Non-GMO, Animal Welfare Approved or other specialty certifications. You may need to explain terms like “grass-fed”, “pasture raised”, “natural”, “antibiotic free”, and how those terms can be used to market products to customers.

Packaging and labeling

Grocery stores and restaurants require product to be delivered in packaging that complies with industry standards. Packaging may need to include USDA or industry grading, sizing and quality standard information.

Understand legal regulations for labeling retail products, including Country of Origin labeling, USDA inspection seals, label claims, weights and business contact information that allows for product traceability. Many grocers require a price look up (PLU) or universal product code (UPC) label.

Pitching your farm products

Farmers that understand the market, obtain required insurance and certifications, and comply with industry standards for packaging and labeling, can approach buyers with confidence! The first successful sale is the start of a long-term mutually beneficial buyer-seller relationship.

Need help getting ready for retail?

Join the Ohio State University Direct Food and Ag Marketing Team for MarketReady Producer Training.

Dates: Two-part training on Thursday, November 1, 2018 and Friday, November 9, 2018

Time: 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. both days

Location: OSU Extension- Cuyahoga County, 12200 Fairhill Rd. E Bldg. Cleveland, OH 44120

Fee: $30 covers both days (lunch is provided)

Register: Contact gardner.1148@osu.edu or 740-289-2071 ext 132 by October 30th.

*Article originally published in Farm & Dairy Newspaper

ACE Webinar Series Features the CFAES Center for Cooperatives

The Association of Cooperative Educators (ACE) presents the 2018 webinar series “Planting the Seed: Empowering the Next Generation of Co-op Rural Development Professionals.” Staff from the CFAES Center for Cooperatives presents the Center’s signature online training, Co-op Mastery, an online education resource for rural and agricultural cooperatives to start, grow and participate in a cooperative business.

The free webinar takes place November 15th, from noon to 1 p.m.

Register at: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/ace-webinar-co-op-mastery-tickets-51658370577

For more information about the webinar series contact info@ace.coop