One of the top food trends recently has been the demand by consumers who want to know where their food comes from and who is producing it, and who want to buy products from as close to home as possible, says Mark Mechling. But farmers who want to take advantage of the "buy local" movement have to follow a rigid and precise set of rules designed to ensure consumers purchase wholesome and safe products.
Mechling will discuss those rules and procedures during a presentation March 9 at the "Opening Doors to Success" Small Farm Conference and Trade Show. The conference, held March 9-10 at Wilmington College in Wilmington, will feature 30 sessions from Ohio State and industry experts.
The trade show will offer information that can benefit a variety of growers, says Tony Nye, an OSU Extension educator and Small Farm Program coordinator.
The conference starts at 5:30 p.m., with the session, "Meat Marketing - Front and Center," which will be presented by Mechling and Francis Fluharty, a ruminant nutritionist with joint appointments with OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.
Mechling and Fluharty's workshop will provide participants information about: obstacles to marketing meat; labeling; the meanings of grass-fed, antibiotic-free, free range, organic and grain-fed; how to find the right processor; and how to price a product.
"Farmers can capture more of those retail food dollars by selling directly to the consumers that they're leaving on the table when they sell that product as a commodity," he says.
Traditional farmers get about 18 to 20 cents of each retail dollar that a consumer spends in a restaurant or grocery store, Mechling explains.
"They're leaving 80% of that retail dollar to others, including grocery stores, distributors, wholesalers and other components of the food chain," he says. "By marketing directly to consumers they can capture more of those dollars, but it requires more management and marketing skills."
The conference is also key for Ohio growers who want to expand their farm operations or those people who want to get into the agriculture industry, Nye says.
"Whether you are a landowner who is looking for development opportunities with a limited amount of acres, or have parcels of land and are looking for economic opportunity to add income, or are looking to cost recover your land taxes, this is a great place to get helpful, in-depth information," he says.
Workshops on March 10 include: "Vegetable Disease and Insect Management;" "Beef Production;" "Website Design;" "Invasive Species;" "Aquaculture: The 'Nuts and Bolts' to Fish Farming;" "Food Safety;" "Green House and Tunnel Production;" and "Livestock and the Law: Managing Legal Risk."
Registration is $20 to attend the March 9 session, $50 to attend the March 10 sessions or $60 to attend both days. The registration deadline is March 5. For more information or to register, go to 2012 Small Farm Conference And Trade Show.