New Tools for Sustainable Entrepreneurs and Service Providers
Communities often have access to a variety of production agriculture expertise, including University Extension Educators, Resource Conservation and Development coordinators and assistants and vocational agriculture instructors who are commonly consulted for advice and guidance, especially in the area of sustainable agriculture practices. University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Extension Specialist, Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel, says that these resource experts can feel unprepared to help when it is time for a product or service to move to the marketplace. Burkhart-Kriesel is working to create targeted professional development for creating feasibility and marketing plans, and conceptualizing and organizing online direct marketing websites.
In a survey, University of Nebraska Extension faculty were asked what areas they felt they needed to learn more about so that they could better help local entrepreneurs. The results of that survey showed that marketing was an area of need. In 2009, Burkhart-Kriesel and a team of researchers from Nebraska applied for a NCR-SARE Professional Development Program grant, and were awarded $73,984 to increase the small business knowledge, skills, and confidence of recognized public sector agricultural experts to improve their ability to consult with sustainable agricultural producers as they formulate and develop business enterprises.
“If producers can successfully connect with viable markets and grow those markets, they can dedicate more time and resources to keeping their business sustainable,” explained Burkhart-Kriesel. “It can become a positive spiral upward. Conversely, when producers struggle financially it can become very difficult dedicate these resources when there are so many short-term demands.”
The goals of their NCR-SARE project were accomplished through three face-to-face trainings and a series of follow-up internet webinars, the development of a web-based “tool box” of resources including regionally relevant agri-entrepreneur examples, new and improved educational individual and institutional networks, and an evaluative case study.
More than 50 educators attended the face-to-face training sessions, and the participants indicated that their awareness, knowledge, motivation, confidence, and potential skills that were targeted for each learning objective had increased. According to Burkhart-Kriesel, several programs evolved and incorporated this training information within Nebraska, South Dakota, and Iowa Extension as a result of this opportunity.
“The project brought together public service providers from across the state (and even from other states) that work with agri-entrepreneurs,” said Burkhart-Kriesel. “From a process perspective, this was an opportunity for us to get to know and to strengthen the agrientrepreneurial ‘network’ in Nebraska.”
The agri-marketing website that they developed is a “one-stop” shop for sustainable entrepreneurs and service providers. The site includes a discussion board, media resources, marketing resources, entrepreneurship educational videos, and more.
Their “Direct Marketing of Specialty Food Products,” curriculum was developed with experts from the University of Nebraska and North Dakota State University. It teaches producers strategies to direct market and sell specialty food products online. As the user pages through the magazine-style online tool, they can read the content and watch embedded videos.
View Jim Crandall's presentation from the 2012 Farmers Forum through NCR-SARE's YouTube playlist. Visit www.youtube.com/NCRSAREvideo for this and other videos.
Want more information? See the related SARE grant(s) ENC09-109, Business Feasibility, Marketing, and On-line Direct Marketing; In-depth Training to Better Serve Sustainable Agriculture Business .
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This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.