Extension help available for non-production agriculture

Thursday, December 13, 2012
Craig Torden (left), Iowa State University (ISU) Extension, Sioux City, says several valuable market tools are available for aiding non-production ag producers wanting to market their products. Torden is seen here discussing the programs with Laura Kuennen, regional foods program coordinator, ISU Extension/Outreach, in Sioux City, at the Dec. 7 Tri-State Fruit & Vegetable Growers Symposium, in Sioux City.

Craig Tordsen, a program director for Iowa's Value Added Agriculture, acknowledges that overcoming the "hurdles" of non-production agriculture marketing can be a challenge for new producers.

Tordsen, Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach, said there are solutions to the problem.

"That concept of marketing is not in the vocabulary of usual farmer," he said. "The biggest hurdles are getting producers out of their little picture and into the think process on marketing."

Tordsen was among those taking part in the Tri-State Fruits & Vegetables Growers Symposium Dec. 7 at Bev's On The River, Sioux City.

He evaluated what he sees as one of the hurdles this way:

"Producers are very good at producing. Unfortunately, however, marketing has sort of been put aside," Tordsen said. "With commodity marketing there's always a market for products at the local elevator. Someone will buy the grain any hour of the day any day, and the marketing is done."

He suggests the situation is a quite different one for ag producers wanting to market a new product other than corn or soybeans.

"On the other hand, it is for the non-production farmer a matter of trying to find a place to market products and break into the market," he said. "He or she must continually be reminding themselves they are a marketer not a producer, that they have to take a market segment away from somebody else."

The new marketer must determine what makes his or her product "better than, cheaper than" the competition, Tordsen said.

He added that this is the start of the success of a non-production ag marketer.

"This is when he or she is better able to find a new or expanded market for the product and do so with a positive attitude. It takes a lot of work but there are people who are learning and are doing it," he added.

Several new marketing "tools" have been developed to aid these new marketers, Tordsen said. Among them is the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC) he describes as "a virtual library" of information for those wanting to start a value-added business with their product.

Available on the web at www.AgMRC.org the information program is partially funded by USDA Rural Development.

The marketing concepts are those initially utilized by farmers seeking answers to start-up solutions for local ethanol plants, Tordsen said.

The program has since been successfully used for start-up of other Iowa industries, as well as for preliminary studies of new small hotels or nursing homes in the state.

Tordsen said still additional marketing help for this newer segment of Iowa producer is the on-line Iowa Market Maker provided by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, and ISU Extension's Value Added Agriculture Program.

The Market Maker available at www.marketmakeriowa.com provides information on market connections, target market demographic information and registration of marketers products with nationwide outlets.

"While not a tool to do business online, it is where potential sellers and potential buyers find one another," Tordsen said "When they find one another they can then communicate and make their respective purchasing deals privately."