Dr. Kim Morgan, Assistant Professor and Kohl Junior Faculty Fellow
Virginia Market Maker, 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.
Virginia Market Maker was selected as a recipient of the 2015 Farm Credit National Market Maker Innovation Award, in recognition of the Strategic Management of Applied Economic Problems Through Directed Experiential Learning – Bringing Market Maker to Virginia project completed by the Kohl Centre. The formal presentation was held in Austin, Texas, during the National Value-Added Agriculture Conference in May 2015, and included a cash prize from Farm Credit which will be used to continue to promote the Market Maker portal to Virginia’s agribusinesses and consumers. Dr. Kim Morgan accepted the award on behalf of the Virginia Tech Market Maker team which includes Rose Jeter and Dr. Gordon Groover, Communications Manager and Extension Professor, respectively, in Virginia Tech’s Agricultural and Applied Economics department.
In the Fall 2014 Kohl Centre course, a team of four students worked directly with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) and Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) specialists from the Agricultural and Applied Economics and Animal Science departments to address an ongoing situation facing Virginia’s meat processors and packinghouses. Specifically, while there exists an online directory of these facilities on the VDACS website and a 2009 VCE publication, these items were judged as outdated and incapable of assisting VA animal producers in locating a nearby slaughtering facility. In light of the increasing consumer concerns over food safety, complicated regulatory environments, and growing consumer demand for locally-sourced VA meat and meat products, the student team identified the need for a current, up-to-date, accurate online listing of VA meat processors that could be managed directly by the owners. After consultation with their facilitators and VDACS personnel, the students identified the Market Maker Food Industry Portal as the preferred solution for VA’s meat processors’ need for an active, accurate, online presence that met the requirements of a wide range in user familiarity with online software and diverse technological skills. The team had an opportunity to meet with the founders of Market Maker, Dar and Rich Knipe, and asked many questions about the functionality of Market Maker to determine the value-added to VA meat processors that might select to use this portal as their primary customer interface.
After learning how to navigate the Market Maker portal, the team prepared an online video which detailed step-by-step instructions using screenshots and their own voice-over script, with the goal of informing owners and managers of VA meat processing facilities on how to properly register their businesses on Market Maker. The team also prepared a VCE fact sheet, which included these written directions as well as an overview on the features, advantages and benefits for VA meat processors who choose to register their facility on Market Maker. The team was also selected to present their findings to Virginia Tech’s new president, Dr. Tim Sands, during his inaugural meeting with just ten of the student clubs offered in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, during which time they explained their relationship to the project and their solutions for VA animal processing facilities using Surface tablets and a fact sheet created for the event. At the conclusion of the course, the team prepared a poster and final presentation that was shared at a formal reception and event attended by 70+ people, including Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) Dean Dr. Alan Grant, CALS Research Dean Dr. Saied Mostaghimi, CALS Teaching Dean Dr. Susan Sumner, and VCE Extension Director Dr. Ed Jones.
The following are key impacts as a result of this initial demonstrated success in involving undergraduate student teams to develop and implement solutions to problems facing Virginia’s stakeholders:
- VCE successfully secured funding to support the launch of the Virginia Market Maker Food Portal from Farm Credit of the Virginias and the VDACS for operating years 2015-2017.
- Kohl Centre students have shared that their work on these projects has been well-received by both industry and graduate educators. A top student recently interviewed for two internships, and was told by the recruiter that her work on the project was the first time he had seen a student have this type of real-world experience. Another student shared that their KC project gave them the desire to pursue graduate education, knowing they had research experience and, more importantly, a newfound desire to help people solve economic problems.
- VCE agents and VDACS personnel across the state of Virginia have expressed great interest in, and support for, bringing Market Maker to Virginia, and have indicated that the YouTube how-to video and VCE fact sheet are key components to their education and outreach efforts to VA meat processing owners and operators.
More About Virginia Market Maker
Virginia Market Maker, a multi-entity partnership that operates under the auspices of Virginia Cooperative Extension, is the largest and most in-depth national database for the agricultural industry, providing that provides a simple registration process and search tools to connect buyers, farmers and ranchers, fisheries, farmers markets, processors and packers, wineries, restaurants, and more. With the generous support of partners and stakeholders, Market Maker is available at no cost to Virginia producers, processors, and consumers. For a full overview of the Market Maker portal, including details on how to register your agricultural business, search for farmers’ markets or agritourism operations near your location, or to learn more about the portal, follow this link to an informational YouTube video: Market Maker Introduction.
Market Maker provides simple yet powerful search tools to connect with others across the production and distribution chain. For additional information on how registering your agribusiness on the Virginia Market Maker portal can add value to your marketing plan, Why Market Maker? highlights the value of building strategic partnerships that result in improved resource management, market access and long-term profitability.
Visit the Virginia Market Maker page on the Virginia Cooperative Extension site for new updates and information on educational programs offered, or, 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!