Cultivating community and local food production in West Virginia: The 2018 Small Farm Conference

“Agriculture can and will be part of the solution to stabilize and grow our economy with the right plan,” stated Kent Leonhardt, West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture. West Virginians consume over $7 billion dollars of food each year, but produce only $800 million dollars of food. The commissioner believes growing and producing more food in the Mountain State will strengthen West Virginia’s food system, boost farmers’ profitability, and create new jobs in agriculture that will benefit individuals and local economies. ¹

Barriers to small farm profitability

The average farm in West Virginia is 175 acres. Farmers face several barriers to operate a successful small farm enterprise. Achieving profitability with limited production yield on less land is a major challenge. Farmers have fewer options to diversify small operations. They experience difficulty finding the right market mix and scaling production to serve larger markets. Additionally, lack of infrastructure and distribution are common barriers.

The West Virginia Small Farm Conference offers solutions

The 14th Annual West Virginia Small Farm Conference offers solutions to unlock the potential of West Virginia small farms to produce food profitably. The conference will take place February 21-24, 2018 at the Morgantown Event Center in Morgantown, West Virginia. The goal of the conference is to help farmers develop a successful small farming enterprise by providing reliable, tested knowledge about current trends, needed skills, and latest production and operation information. The conference also aims to strengthen West Virginia’s food system by encouraging local production, processing, wholesale and retail marketing, and consumption.

There will be a wide variety of educational workshops during the three-day event. Farmers will learn about livestock, fruit, vegetable and specialty crop production. In-depth discussions led by experts in farm management, marketing, finance and risk, will benefit farm enterprises of all types. Food producers will learn how to add value to their farm products, utilize agricultural cooperatives to gain market access. Special sessions will highlight West Virginia’s Farm-to-School initiative, Farmers’ Markets and agritourism opportunities in the Mountain State.

Know your farmer, know your food

The Winter Blues Farmers Market will take place on Thursday, February 22, 2018, from 4-8 p.m. at the Morgantown Event Center. The community event is family-friendly and open to the public. The market will showcase local food, goods and products. Enjoy the aroma of delicious food cooking while browsing the market. Area chefs will be on-hand to prepare pay-as-you-go dishes and entrees with locally grown food.

What: The 14th Annual West Virginia Small Farm Conference

When: February 21-24, 2018

Where: Morgantown Event Center in Morgantown, West Virginia

Cost: Registration is $70 per day, or $190/3 days for adults. Students, active military and veterans receive a discounted rate. Registration includes breakfast, lunch, snacks, Friday dinner, and conference materials. A $10 convenience fee increase per person per day for walk-in registrations.

Link to register and learn more:


  1. 2017 Annual West Virginia Agricultural Statistics Bulletin. No. 48. USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, West Virginia Field Office. 2017. Date Accessed 5 Feb 2018.


YAP Conference to Educate, Empower and Encourage the Next Generation

The future of farming is just over the horizon. Are young farmers prepared to fill their predecessors’ boots? Do they have what it takes to conquer challenges facing the agricultural industry? Are they confident to lead themselves and others?

The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s annual Young Agricultural Professionals Winter Leadership Experience will take place February 3-4, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. 650 Young farmers from across Ohio are registered to attend the 2-day event.

“The YAP Winter Leadership Conference is where young farmers and Ag professionals can professionally and personally grow by attending a variety of educational breakout sessions,” said Melinda Witten, Ohio Farm Bureau Director of Leadership Programming. “It is a place to connect and build a community with folks who have shared experiences.”

The upcoming conference offers a wide variety of programming to educate, empower and encourage the next generation of Ohio farmers.


The Winter Leadership Experience prepares future farmers with knowledge and skills to build a farm business or successful career in Ag. Industry experts and educators will offer workshops in business and financial planning, strategies to manage risk and comply with regulations.

Marketing workshops will teach young farmers how to effectively position and sell their farm products. Attendees will learn how to find and communicate with consumers. Video and social media workshops will instruct young farmers how to harness the power of digital marketing to grow their agribusinesses.


The YAP Winter Leadership Experience empowers young farmers with confidence to lead. A compelling Discussion Meet Competition will showcase young agriculturalists in a dialog over issues impacting the agriculture industry. The winner of the Discussion Meet will receive a $1,000 cash award from Nationwide Insurance.

A panel of Ohio Farm Bureau Federation leadership featuring Farm Bureau’s OFB President Frank Burkett and Vice President Adam Sharp and will share their vision for the Farm Bureau’s future in an interactive session with young farmers. Additional workshops in conflict and human resource management will offer tools for young farmers can use to effectively lead themselves and others.


Networking at the Winter Leadership Conference creates meaningful connections. Young farmers will enjoy fellowship other farmers, explore potential partnerships, and meet mentors and business advisors.

On Saturday, The Ohio State University CFAES Center for Cooperatives will present a panel of grant experts from university, government and private organizations. The Agricultural Grant Opportunities Workshop will encourage attendees to utilize federal, state and private grant programs to develop value-added products, accomplish on-farm research and make conservation improvements.

Don’t forget the funYAP 2017

The Winter Leadership Conference has something for everyone. Fun workshops will teach attendees how to preserve food, make soap and prep for healthy meals. The conference kicks-off with Friday night food, games and entertainment featuring Big Bang Dueling Pianos.

Details about the upcoming conference are on the Ohio Farm Bureau website,

Article originally published in Farm & Dairy Newspaper

Ohio Produce Network 2018

Learning the produce industry’s latest and greatest at the Ohio Produce Network conference in Sandusky, Ohio. Growers, marketers and their families are having a wild time at Kalahari Resort and Convention Center! The convention brings together Ag business owners, supply and service providers, Ohio State University Extension educators and industry experts.

Growing ‘Better Together’ at the Ohio Produce Network conference

Every January Ohio’s fruit and vegetable growers, farm managers and agricultural marketers come together to talk trends, share best practices, and learn how to grow better produce. The Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association will kick off the New Year with the 2018 Ohio Produce Network (OPN) conference, January 15-17, at the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center in Sandusky, Ohio.

The theme of the 2018 OPN is ‘Better Together’. The two-and-a-half-day conference offers over 50 breakout sessions covering diverse topics: produce trial research results to pest management to accepting digital payments at your farm. Educators from the Ohio State University Extension Direct Marketing Team will offer ideas and teach techniques proven to grow business and sales revenue.

Farm to Facebook?

2.789 billion people use social media to connect with friends and follow influencers, businesses and organizations.¹ An increasing number of consumers are abandoning search engines and turning to social media to find products and services. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram provide business owners with a lucrative platform to promote their products. Agricultural producers can use compelling photo and video content to attract new customers and enhance relationships with current customers.

Ohio Produce Network breakout session “How to Take Video with your Smartphone” Session one will provide technical instruction to take videos and discuss consumer video preferences. Growers will learn how to create viral videos and have an opportunity to practice before attending session 2 the following afternoon. Session two will direct attendees to apps and tools to enhance their video content.

“Taking Pictures for your Social Media Site” teaches growers to boost their brands on rapidly growing social photo platforms like Instagram and Twitter, and how to spark clicks and conversations posting photos on Facebook and Twitter.

2018 Ohio Produce Network Highlights

Ohio Produce Network attendees can register to attend Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) training at no additional cost with conference registration fee. PSA training is a standardized national produce safety training program that prepares produce growers to meet the regulatory requirements in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule. The curriculum covers food safety, Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), and natural resource management. Space is limited, so register today if you are interested in the PSA training.

Keynote speakers include Michele Payn, Cause Matters Corporation, and Melinda Witten, Director of Leadership Programming at the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. Michele Payn is a speaker, writer and advocate for healthy food and farms. She is the author of two books: No More Food Fights! and Food Truths from Farm to Table. She founded Cause Matters Corporation to de-bunk food myths, develop science communication and connect farm to food. She educates the public through weekly online Twitter conversations, AgChat and Food Chat.

Melinda Witten ignites the next generation of leaders in agriculture, overseeing the Ohio Farm Bureau’s Young Agricultural Professionals and AgriPOWER Leadership Institute programs. She draws from vast experience growing and selling produce direct to consumers. The Witten Family operates a multi-generational farm market and greenhouse in Beverly, Ohio, and 22 satellite farm stands across Ohio and West Virginia.

A new opportunity for producers is a value-added product tasting contest to be held Tuesday morning, January 16th in the tradeshow area from 8 Aa.m. to 10:30 a.m. OPGMA will provide crackers and/or biscuits for sampling. All you need to do is bring a jar or two of your best tasting products to share with attendees. The item voted best tasting will be recognized during Melinda Witten’s presentation in Indigo Bay from 10:45 a.m. to noon on Tuesday. You will receive “bragging rights” among your peers as well as recognition on our social media sites during OPN.

The trade show features exhibitors from business and industry, education and non-profit organizations. Attendees can access experts in supply, marketing, financial and risk management to ask questions and discover solutions.

See you there

The cost to attend the Ohio Produce Network full conference is $130 for members and $180 for non-members. Early bird discounts may apply before Jan. 11, 2018. Visit the Ohio Produce Network website to register for the event,

Questions? Contact OPGMA at or (740) 828-3400.

Read this article in Farm and Dairy Newspaper


  1. Kemp, Simon. “Digital in 2017: Global Overview”, (Jan 24, 2017). We are Social.


Ohio Proud: helping producers market local food

American food shoppers have a huge selection of food products to choose from. According to the Food Marketing Institute, the average U.S. grocery store stocks 38,900 products! ¹ On a recent visit to my local grocery store, I counted no less than 12 brands of mustard; each brand offered multiple product extensions to fit every taste preference.

Which product did I pick? Ben’s Sweet n’ Hot Mustard, because it is made right here in Ohio.

Ohio Proud companies

Ben’s Mustard is a licensed Ohio Proud company. Ohio Proud is a marketing program created by the Ohio State Department of Agriculture to promote locally grown, raised and processed foods. The Ohio Proud program began in 1993. Today Ohio Proud continues to support the marketing efforts of local farmers and food producers.

“Ohio Proud provides growers and producers an opportunity to increase sales and reach new markets and offers consumers a quick, reliable way to identify locally made products,” states Lori Panda, Senior Program Manager of the Ohio Proud program. “Currently, Ohio Proud has more than 520 partners. The program also has approximately 50 distributors, retailers and restaurants, known as our Ohio Proud Affiliate members, who promote and support Ohio Proud products throughout the year.”

Benefits for food producers

Ohio Proud makes local products stand out among national competitors. According to the Ohio State University report “Building Capacity for Local and Organic Ohio Proud Foods”, consumers see the value of locally produced food, and are willing to pay more when their purchases support a resilient local food system and local economy. ² A consumer survey detailed in the report found:

  • 81% of survey respondents indicated they prefer locally grown foods.
  • 90% percent of participants desire to increase their local food purchases.
  • 32% percent reported a willingness to pay up to 10% more for locally produced foods.

The colorful Ohio Proud label helps consumers identify local foods. The label bears the shape of the state with tagline “Made in Ohio- Grown in Ohio.” Consumers see Ohio Proud as an opportunity to support Ohio farms and food producers.

In addition to labeling rights, licensed Ohio Proud partners gain access to Ohio Proud promotional items. The Ohio Proud website promotes partners’ products and boosts businesses’ online presence with individualized profiles that showcase products and tell consumers where to buy.

Ohio Proud licensed producers gain access to new marketing channels. Grocers, restaurants and distributors that support local food can become affiliate members of Ohio Proud. Ohio Proud facilitates connections between partners and affiliates at networking and educational events.

Be Ohio Proud

Licensed Ohio Proud products must be at least 50% grown, raised of processed in the state. Products must comply with federal and state inspection and labeling regulations.

Interested producers should visit the Ohio Proud website, create a profile and complete an online application. Ohio Proud companies pay a $25 licensing fee annually. Visit the Ohio Proud website at for more information.

  1. “Supermarket Facts” (2016). Food Marketing Institute.
  2. Inwood. S., Bergman. L., & Stinner. D. “Building Capacity for Local and Organic Ohio Proud Foods” (Sept 2003). The Ohio State University.

Ohio Proud: helping producers market local food

South Centers Synergy: OSU South Centers offers MarketReady™ Producer Training in Cuyahoga County

Northern Ohio farmers and foodpreneurs gathered in downtown Cleveland to learn how to sell locally produced products direct to consumers, grocers, restaurants, institutions and wholesalers. The OSUE Direct Food and Agriculture Marketing Team and the CFAES Center for Cooperatives provided MarketReady™ Producer Training in collaboration with OSU Extension Cuyahoga County.

MarketReady™ teaches farmers and foodpreneurs how to gain access to profitable markets for their products. The MarketReady™ program was developed by Dr. Tim Woods at the University of Kentucky. The Direct Marketing Team at OSU South Centers began offering MarketReady™ training to Ohio farmers in 2010. Today, cooperative extension services across the United States provide the comprehensive training to help food producers get ready for market.

Direct Marketing Team members Christie Welch and Charissa Gardner kicked off the day-long training with a discussion of current food trends. Christie gave an overview of direct marketing channels, and assisted attendees in identifying target markets for their products. Attendees honed in on specific market segments and created unique customer profiles. Farmers Don and Regenia Lear plan to add a pick-your-own blueberry enterprise to their Hocking County farm. The Lears aim to serve families visiting the acclaimed natural area during summer vacation, which coincides with blueberry season.

Ivory Harlow is a Cooperative Development Specialist at the CFAES Center for Cooperatives. She shared how cooperative marketing facilitates small farms access to larger markets, such as institutions and intermediaries. A farmer who is currently producing local pork saw how the cooperative model can help her expand business beyond farmers’ markets. Aspiring small ruminant farmers considered joining an established livestock marketing cooperative to achieve their business goals.

Cuyahoga County Extension educators offered attendees practical tools to price local food products. Attendees learned the average price margins for restaurants and grocers. They calculated food cost profit margins. The group discovered how best practices for order fulfillment and invoicing improve food business operations.

MarketReady™ Producer Training graduates gained a better understanding of direct marketing opportunities and challenges. A grad commented, “[MarketReady™ is] the best marketing training we’ve ever attended!”

The Ohio State University CFAES launches a new integrated Center for Cooperatives

Center for Cooperatives reception at the OSU 4H Center in Columbus, Ohio Wednesday October 18th, 2017. (Christina Paolucci, photographer)

Friends of Ohio’s cooperatives joined the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and OSU Extension to celebrate the newly established CFAES Center for Cooperatives at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center on October 18th, 2017.

The celebration commemorated the 2017 National Cooperative Month of October. The event also coincided with Ohio Cooperative Week designated by Governor John Kasich as October 15-21, 2017 in a Resolution presented to Mid-America Cooperative Council Executive Director Rod Kelsay at the event.

Dr. Graham Cochran, CFAES Senior Administrative Officer, welcomed cooperative leaders from United Producers, Select Sires, Nationwide, the Ohio Farm Bureau, and others to the event, and shared the college’s commitment to organizational development and workforce preparation. Associate Dean and Director of OSU Extension Dr. Roger Rennekamp highlighted the importance of cooperatives and how the Center will be part of the overall network of OSU Extension programming to reach stakeholders in all 88 counties of Ohio. Dr. Tom Worley, Director of the new Center, announced the University has been awarded a Rural Cooperative Development Grant totaling approximately $200,0000 to improve rural areas of Ohio and West Virginia through the development of cooperatives and other mutually-owned businesses. Debbie Rausch, from the Ohio office of USDA Rural Development spoke to the group, highlighting the College’s 18 years of USDA cooperative development efforts.

Along with Worley, Dr. Ani Katchova is leading research programs for the Center and Hannah Scott is serving as leader of Extension and outreach activities. Programming for the Center will occur within and link all major mission areas of CFAES, including teaching, research and Extension. This integration is expected to extend knowledge to emerging and established agricultural cooperatives and support rural economic development. Furthermore, the Center will provide students and agricultural professionals with more interdisciplinary training and research opportunities.

“The CFAES Center for Cooperatives is expected to be comprehensive and bring together all three mission areas of the College – teaching, research, and Extension. We are very pleased to be well positioned to serve the wider cooperatives community in Ohio through the combined faculty and staff resources of the Center,” OSU South Centers Director Tom Worley said.

The Center maintains staff based in Piketon, Ohio and also has faculty presence on the Columbus campus. It will integrate the College’s current activities and operations that support cooperative business development, engage directly with long-established cooperatives, and provide cooperative education both in the classroom and via Extension and outreach programs.


Welcome to Collaboration Nation

The Ohio State University CFAES Center for Cooperatives has a brand new blog!

The blog features cooperative businesses, current events and research. It showcases leaders in the cooperative movement and gleans best practices. Collaboration Nation is all about building great teams and working together to achieve goals.

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