2016 Virginia Market Maker News, Update #1: Virginia Market Maker: A Year in Review.

Kim Morgan (klmorgan@vt.edu), Assistant Professor, Agricultural & Applied Economics (540) 231-3132

MarketMaker, a web-based portal that serves as a virtual marketplace for producers, distributors, and sellers, and buyers of agricultural products, seeks to provide farm-to-fork access to participants in the food supply chain. Currently, alternative online lists and portals are offered that contribute to connecting people and businesses involved in the production, distribution, storage and sales of local food,   and resources produced by Virginia farms and agribusinesses. This purpose of this article is to highlight the unique characteristics of MarketMaker that offer added value to registered businesses and consumers who seek to use the portal as a marketing strategy to improve overall profitability of their operation.

Local Market

Local Market

In June of 2015, our Virginia Market Maker portal was successfully launched. With the help of our Virginia Market Maker program associates, Garrett Gregory (VT 2016) and Montgomery McCarthy (VT 2015, VT 2017), we have had the opportunity to attend many events to spread the word and encourage producers and agribusinesses to register on the site. Our team has traveled with our custom-made Virginia Market Maker kiosk to provide live demonstrations of the portal and to raise awareness of this resource in our communities. Our team has received a great deal of support from extension agents and specialists across the state, who invited us to their events, farm visits, and conferences to directly interact with potential Market Maker users.

Garrett Gregory (left) and Montgomery McCarthy with Virginia Market Maker kiosk

Garrett Gregory (left) and Montgomery McCarthy with Virginia Market Maker kiosk

farm

On farm sales

Our promotion circuit began in Rappahannock County with farm visits led by Kenner Love. Kenner took us to eight farms where we talked with farmers who were very interested in Market Maker and many of which signed up. Our next two events were Virginia Tech related events- an extension field day at Kentland Farms and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences tailgate. The field day participants and game day tailgaters were excited to speak with us and expressed great interest in the opportunities offered to Virginia’s agribusinesses that use the Market Maker portal. We spoke with more than 100 businesses and individuals at each event who were interested in registering their businesses for free on Virginia MarketMaker.

Our next round of events concentrated around showcasing the local food options in different communities. The Agritourism and Local Food Experience in Chatham had multiple local vendors selling and promoting their products. At the Taste of Botetourt event in Blue Ridge, we had the chance to enjoy a lunch that featured a great variety of local food options in the region, as well as promote Market Maker to the people in the community that are passionate about solutions to make locally-sourced food more readily available to Virginia residents.

Lynchburg Farmers Market

Lynchburg Farmers Market

Two events that played a key role in successful promotion of the Market Maker portal were the Southern Virginia Agritourism Workshop and a Soil Health extension meeting hosted by the Halifax and Campbell County extension agents Ashley Nauta and Livvy Gill. The events each had thirty people in attendance. Ashley and Livvy (along with Kenner and Kelli Scott) are also members of the Virginia Market Maker “dream team,” and their invaluable feedback has helped us to find ways to help people who are motivated to improve their business connections and promote the value of the agriculture to their community.

The largest and final event of the year that our team attended was the 2015 Virginia Farm to Table Conference in Weyers Cave, hosted by Eric Bendfeldt. The conference brought together some of the most influential people that are shaping and improving the way we get food from the farmer to the consumer. This conference was by far the biggest with approximately 250 attendees. Aside from the speakers, there were hundreds of farmers, small business owners, and community advocates that had the potential to benefit from Market Maker. The conference gave us the opportunity to bring the kiosk and share Market Maker with the people who would most benefit from this resource. It was a great experience to interact with the exact market we are trying to reach and to demonstrate how the portal will add value to their agribusinesses and communities.

Registering new Market Maker users

Registering new Market Maker users

2015 has been an incredibly successful year for promoting Market Maker, and we have more than 160 unique farms, ranches and buyers that have registered across Virginia in just 180 days of operation. We have had the opportunity to talk to a variety of people from many different backgrounds. We are excited to continue to raise awareness among our many agribusinesses, restaurants, grocers, and consumers about Virginia Market Maker, and provide educational opportunities to show how it may be used to make their farm, business, or buying process more efficient and successful.

Visit the Virginia Market Maker page on the Virginia Cooperative Extension site for new updates and information on educational programs offered. If you would like to host the Virginia Market Maker kiosk team at your event, please contact Dr. Kim Morgan for additional information. Share this post using the links following this article, and, stay connected by subscribing to this blog to receive updates on Virginia Market Maker programming, follow Dr. Morgan on Twitter and, like the Agricultural and Applied Economics Department on Facebook!

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