Proactive marketing strategies have proven to be a key to success for many agricultural enterprises, and a team of researchers and educators in Ohio are working to connect willing markets to quality sources of food.
MarketReady is a comprehensive educational program that prepares food producers to sell directly to consumers and wholesale buyers, and the Ohio MarketReady Team provides professional education to improve marketing planning and marketing relationships.
The story doesn’t start there, however. A few years ago, the Ohio Direct Marketing Team received USDA FSMIP funding to conduct survey research to better understand producers’ marketing practices, plans, and challenges. Some of the findings included the challenge of acquiring new customer and intentions to enter new markets. They shared resources with many state partners in the MarketMaker network, including a team from Kentucky.
Dr. Tim Woods, from the University of Kentucky had previously led a project to develop a curriculum he called Retail Ready. Working with the University of Kentucky, the Ohio Direct Marketing Team piloted the program with producers in 2010, conducted an initial train-the-trainer program, and developed an Ohio version of the curriculum. After the first round of workshops, the team changed the program name from Retail Ready to MarketReady. Their program has now expanded to 16 states and they continue to work with the team from Kentucky on program development and evaluation.
In 2010, the Ohio Direct Marketing Team looked to NCR-SARE’s Professional Development Program for funding, and received $67,337 to expand program content and delivery throughout the state. With their grant funds, they formed an advisory group, developed multimedia curriculum resources, trained 84 professionals, and evaluated their work.
“For years, many educators were preparing and presenting seminars and workshops on marketing various products through various marketing channels, but there was limited consistency and efficiency,” explained Julie Fox, Program Director for Direct Marketing & Tourism at The Ohio State University. “To help educators, and ultimately to help producers with marketing decisions that supported sustainability, we integrated the MarketReady framework into our education to provide a more consistent, systematic and in-depth approach to direct marketing.”
The MarketReady materials they developed include a comprehensive curriculum with an educator notebook, interactive participants materials, evaluation forms, multimedia online support resources, and program communication materials.
“The NCR-SARE grant funding was essential to building the education network, the program, and an instructional framework to guide producers as they explored and developed new markets,” said Fox. “While the project reports communicate a snapshot of what occurred during the scope of the project, the investment continues to benefit educators and producers.”
Fox is especially enthusiastic about the long-term outcomes from this project. She explained that producers who learn from these educators not only develop marketing plans, but that they have a lasting framework to help them make decisions during shifts in the market and changes during various stages of growth in their business operation. She says the network of educators in Ohio continue to build on the MarketReady curriculum by developing new versions for specific products, such as aquaculture, and specific markets, such as school food service.
MarketReady is now a core resource offered by educators throughout the state, according to Fox. Resources for educators continue to be shared through BuckeyeBox and resources for producers are continually being developed by professionals and added to the website, https://southcenters.osu.edu/marketing.
Want more information? See the related SARE grant:
- Retail Ready - Wholesale Ready (ENC10-115)