Vegetable growers in Ohio who learn what buyers want make more sales.
That’s the premise of MarketReady, a program developed at Ohio State University, in conjunction with the University of Kentucky.
The program helps growers, regardless of size, reach new markets, said Julie Fox, direct-marketing specialist at OSU.
MarketReady brings growers together with panels of buyers from retail, foodservice, wholesale and distribution centers in a series of workshops, Fox said.
“The Ohio MarketReady (staff) provides professional education to improve marketing planning and marketing relationships,” she said.
The first workshops were held last year, and the program brought in more trainers this year, Fox said.
“We expanded our group of trainers, with the support from the North Central SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education) Professional Development program,” she said.
MarketReady had two workshops and added some online support resources, Fox said.
Fox said MarketReady helps growers improve their command of marketing opportunities and build their roster of customers.
“While the program touches on many important practices to improve marketing communications, it also helps us address two critical factors identified by producers — pricing and how can I get new customers,” Fox said.
An online tool called MarketMaker, at www.ohiomarketmaker.com, helps make connections in the food industry, Fox said.
“Consumers benefit from producers and buyers working together as market partners to improve access to local, fresh food,” Fox said.
There are benefits across the supply chain, Fox said.
She said growers appreciate the program’s best-practice checklists and opportunities to speak with buyer panels.
“Buyers appreciate OSU and our partners for providing education for producers so they do not have to educate every one that comes through their doors,” Fox said.
Ultimately, she said, the consumers benefit because they have increased access to a variety of fresh, local food.
“When producers and buyers work together as market partners, everyone wins,” she said.
The process of evaluating various marketing channels can be overwhelming, but MarketReady helps cut through the complications, Fox said.
“The MarketReady framework helps them gain knowledge, discover resources and make decisions about packaging, labeling, pricing, distribution, communications, etc., as they relate to various marketing channels, such as restaurants and grocery stores,” she said.
The two sectors are different but many of the marketing factors involved in dealing with them are similar, Fox said.
“The workshop and checklists are an efficient way to help them enter a new market more prepared than if they tried to put together the pieces on their own,” Fox said.
Price point is another issue MarketReady touches, Fox said.
“When producers consider pricing for different marketing channels, they begin to recognize the value of knowing their true costs and begin to understand the difference between wholesale and retail pricing,” she said.
When it comes to growers selling to grocery stores, they learn to think of this from the customers’ point of view, Fox said.
“Grocers carry thousands of items, which all have margins and a standard retail pricing formula. Tim and the local instructors help the producers see how they can discuss margins and what it means for their pricing, as well as the price the retailer chargers customers,” Fox said.