Foodpreneur Coaching: Crafting a Blueprint to Grow Your Food and Farm Business

The CFAES Center for Cooperatives is working to help businesses keep things moving forward in these difficult times. Marketing is a key aspect to maintaining or growing any business, including food and farm businesses.

The CFAES Center for Cooperatives, OSU Extension Direct Food & Agricultural Marketing Team, and Ohio Farm Bureau in Ross, Hocking, Fairfield, and Pickaway counties are hosting a virtual interactive experience for small and medium food entrepreneurs who are eager to grow their businesses. Foodpreneur School Coaching will give attendees an opportunity to engage with experts in marketing and promoting their local food and farm products, and more, to help them learn strategies to meet their growth goals. This educational opportunity will cover marketing locally raised meat, increasing produce sales, and promoting local food and farm retail products.

Foodpreneur School Coaching will be offered over a three-week span, in three sessions, and will focus on ways to grow food and farm businesses. Entrepreneurs can attend one session that best fits their needs or all three sessions. Each live Foodpreneur Business Coaching virtual session will offer small group coaching from industry and university experts.

The first session, Marketing Local Meat, will be offered on Tuesday, September 15th.  This LIVE Foodpreneur Business Coaching virtual session is for farmers and ranchers seeking to increase local and regional meat sales or explore new market channels for farm-raised proteins and local meat products.

Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative, a southwest Ohio co-op that markets member-farmers’ beef to retailers and consumers, will share results from a recent research project to assess multiple marketing channels to grow sales. Co-op members will share their experiences marketing local meat throughout the region. Additionally, Dr. Lyda Garcia, Animal Science professor at The Ohio State University, will be available to offer insights and answer participant questions.  Garcia specializes in meat science and manages the OSU Meat Lab.  Through her background in meat industry internships, livestock production, training and research in graduate school, and many other meat related experiences, she seeks to bring product value to the meat industry, producers, and consumers.

The second session, Increase Produce Sales, will be offered on Tuesday, September 22nd.  This session will offer insights and best practices for produce growers looking to increase produce sales or explore new market channels such as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), farmers markets, farm stands, or specialty stores.

Brad Bergefurd, Ohio State University Extension Horticulture Specialist, and owner of Bergefurd’s Farm Market, will share his expertise built over 30 years of experience in produce education, production, and marketing.  Bergefurd’s education and research at OSU has focused on a variety of produce crops, including strawberries, pumpkins, hops, pawpaws, and more, in addition to research and education on marketing innovations like produce auctions.  Bergefurd’s Farm has specialized in growing a variety of produce that is sold through CSA’s, farmers markets, and an agritourism operation.  In the planning of this session Bergefurd stated that, “Produce farmers have many channels of marketing opportunities available today more than ever. Marketing is less expensive, and online options now allow farmers to reach customers in areas they never were able to reach before these marketing channels became available.  It’s all in how you market yourself, so it’s important to get it right”, said Bergefurd.

The third session, Promoting your Local Food, will be offered on Tuesday, September 29th.In this session, educators and industry experts, will discuss how farm and food producers making products such as cheese, salsa, honey, baked goods, and body items, can expand a farm’s offerings  or serve as a standalone business. During the live Foodpreneur Business Coaching session attendees will learn how to expand their sales and build their brand.

A large part of growing any business is effective marketing to keep customers engaged. Christie Welch, Ohio State University Extension Direct Food and Agricultural Marketing Specialist, and owner/operator of Welch Farms LLC, explains that marketing is key to keeping customers engaged with your business, especially in the current environment of the pandemic. Welch shared that, “Customers are craving experiences and seeking the locally produced foods they have come to love.  Because of the rapid changes in how business is conducted while maintaining social distancing, communicating with your customers is more important now than ever.  They want to know what you are doing to keep them safe while still purchasing the local foods they love. Sharing this information in a manner that reflects your brand is key.”

Christie Welch is the owner/operator of Welch Farms, LLC, a third-generation family farm in southern Ohio.  Christie has been involved in the operation since 1992 and during that time, the farm has diversified.  The farm, which began as a dairy operation, has diversified over the years and currently focuses on u-pick plasticulture strawberries.  The farm also sold at several farmers’ markets and Christie served on the board of the Chillicothe Farmers Market Association for seven years.  Direct marketing to consumers is vital to Welch Farms and provides many opportunities to share experiences with other local food producers.

Foodpreneur School Coaching sessions will all be held online and will be offered over a span of three weeks with each session held on a Tuesday evening.  The cost to attend the Foodpreneur School Coaching is $20 per session for Farm Bureau members, and $25 per session for non-Farm Bureau members. There is a separate registration for each session.  We encourage early registration; each session will have a limited number of seats available. To learn more, go to https://cooperatives.cfaes.ohio-state.edu/events or to register for the Foodpreneur School Coaching you can go to go.osu.edu/foodschool2020.  For additional information you may contact Charissa Gardner at gardner.1148@osu.edu.

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