By Christie Welch
Direct Food and Agricultural Marketing Program Specialist
Despite the continued struggles with the global pandemic, The Ohio State University Direct Food and Agricultural Marketing team has continued to adapt to provide resources and education for Ohio’s local food producers. With the hopes of having the pandemic behind us, the team planned the first Tri-State CSA Conference, titled Thinking Inside the Box, to be held in-person.
Unfortunately, due to continued concerns about the pandemic and to keep everyone safe, the conference pivoted to a virtual format. Collaborating on the Tri-State CSA Conference were OSU Extension Fulton County Educator Eric Richer; SARE State Coordinators in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana; and Michigan State and Purdue universities. The virtual event was attended live by 62 participants and recordings of the presentations have been viewed 86 times.
Comments on the post conference evaluation included: “Fantastic speakers! Sharing specific information of what worked for them and life-family balance that was reality based” and “Very informative!”
The team is in the process of planning the 2022 Tri-State CSA Conference to be held in person in the fall. If you would like to be added to the listserv for information about the conference, please email email@example.com.
According to Feeding America Action’s 2020 Project Overall Food Insecurity Rate, food insecurity is predicted to increase in Ohio by up to 28% in some counties. While the data is not yet available, anecdotal information has demonstrated that food insecurity was exasperated by the pandemic. In response, many Ohio farmers markets that accept SNAP benefits and offer nutrition incentive programs saw participation in the food assistance programs increase. Produce Perks reported $2.2 million in health food sales and 22,619 customers served. Produce Perks works with farmers markets across Ohio to implement nutrition incentives.
To assist more farms and farmers markets to accept nutrition incentives, the team developed a series of factsheets. The first two in the series: Introduction to Nutrition Incentives and Types of Nutrition Incentives Offered at Ohio Farmers Markets and How They are Funded have been published on Ohioline. Two additional factsheets on the topic are planned for 2022.
Late in 2021, as the state began to hold in-person gatherings again, the team had an opportunity to offer DeviceReady to Pickaway County businesses in cooperation with the Pickaway County Chamber of Commerce. DeviceReady offers social media marketing training to assist farms and businesses with becoming more visible online to better connect with their customers. The resulting connections increase the sales of locally produced and direct marketed food and agricultural products. As consumers increasingly turn to online resource to make purchasing decisions, having an effective online presence is crucial for success. If you would like information about hosting a DeviceReady training in your county, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Virtual Agritourism Conference
The 4th annual Ohio Agritourism Conference was held virtually due to the pandemic. As agritourism continues to be a viable option for Ohio farmers to diversify their income, continuing to provide training and education to help them make informed decisions is critical for their success. More than 100 registered for the virtual conference and the recordings are available to be viewed at: go.osu.edu/agritourism2021.
In addition, the team worked with several stakeholders across the state in 2021 – assisting the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association with hosting their 2021 conference virtually, and helping several Ohio producers with development of their application for the USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant, resulting in $250,000 award for an Ohio grower. The team also applied, and has been accepted, to the International Agritourism Conference (postponed from the fall of 2021 to the fall of 2022). Team members Eric Barrett, Rob Leeds, and Christie Welch will present Agritourism Emergency Preparedness to help farmers and farmers markets develop an emergency plan. If you would like to learn more or develop a plan for your farm you can do so here: u.osu.edu/agritourismready.
Finally, the team continues to work with organizations throughout the state to help Ohio’s farmers and food producers be successful. Numerous presentations on a variety of direct marketing topics were given virtually to the Ohio Beekeepers Association, OSU Agricultural and Natural Resources, and Family and Consumer Sciences educators during their annual conferences; collaborated with the CFAES Center for Cooperatives to offer direct marketing training to producers in West Virginia; and many more. The team also continued its monthly Marketing Matters video series to discuss a variety of topics related to direct food and agricultural marketing. You can view the videos here: southcenters.osu.edu/direct-marketing/marketing-matters-videos.