Dec 19, 2012

Local Food News

 Niche Marketing Guide Available for Kansas Farmers

   Farm producers interested in selling their goods into local, niche and direct markets will have a new resource this month when the Kansas Rural Center’s “Finding Your Niche: A Marketing Guide for Kansas Farms” rolls off the press. 

   Packed with more than 150 pages of information, tips, resources, links and profiles, the guide has been a labor of love for KRC’s Our Local Food program team. Funding for the project was provided by the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant through the Kansas Department of Agriculture and by the USDA Risk Management Agency.

   The Guide provides information for farms producing a wide range of products, from specialty crops to livestock products, honey, aquaculture and more. Topics include how to set prices, develop a wholesale business with restaurants and institutions, set-up online marketing, and more. The Guide also includes a special section for beginning farmers.

   Cole Cottin, OLF-Kaw River Valley coordinator for KRC this year, served as editor of the guide, and said it is intended for experienced farmers and aspiring farmers alike. “If you are interested in selling farm products of any kind to local or regional markets, this guide is for you!"

   The guide will be available at the Kansas Rural Center web site. Or, you may order a print copy while supplies last by e-mailing your full contact information -- including address and phone number -- to or call 785-873-3431. A donation to KRC to help cover shipping and handling costs, and to help continue our work with Kansas farmers in sustainable agriculture, is appreciated.

   The guide is in production now and expected to be printed by December 31.

Local Connections Workshop Draws Farms, Food Businesses, and Locavores

by Natalie Fullerton

   Fifty-six people attended the November 10 “Local Food Connections Workshop” held in Wichita, Kansas.The workshop focused on networking, marketing, and locating local food in south central Kansas. Those in attendance included farms, food businesses, and locavores looking to start or expand marketing and purchasing locally sourced food.

   Breakout sessions, comprised of ten different presentations, brought in speakers ranging from a chef Michael Beard, owner of 715 Restaurant in Lawrence, KS using a nose-to-tail meat use approach in his restaurant to Paula Miller, a dietitian offering advice on how to find and use local food in Kansas.

    Other speakers included: Rebecca McMahon, Sedgwick Count Extension Agent who presented on “Planning Crops for Consistent Yields;” Brady Krueger, Krueger Insurance, “Liability Insurance for Market Farms;” Pam Paulsen, Reno County Extension Agent, “Post-Harvest Handling for Produce;” Brian Phillips, Store Operations Manager for The Merc in Lawrence, “Local Food as a Marketing Tool”; Cherie Schenker, owner of Schenker Family Farms “Regulations of Buying & Selling Animal Products” and “Niche Livestock Marketing;” and Tracey Graham, Our Local Food-Twin Rivers Coordinator “Eating by the Calendar in Kansas” and “Preserving the Harvest.”

    A local food buyers and sellers panel shared their experiences. Challenges to buying and selling local food and how to overcome them, how far in advance connections with farms or businesses need to be made, important regulations and resources were a a few of the topics addressed.

    The workshop concluded with keynote speaker, Diana Endicott, founder and president of Good Natured Family Farms (GNFF). The company is a pioneering alliance of over 160 family farms within a 200 mile radius of the Kansas City metro area. Endicott manages the company’s many facets including sales to area grocery stores, a workplace wellness CSA which services employees at companies in the Kansas City community, a partnership with Bistro Kids to bring a farm to school program in eight Kansas City metro YMCA Head Starts, and Good Natured Market at Harvest Learning Center, a non-profit grocery store in Kansas City’s Ivanhoe neighborhood. Endicott discussed her current and future endeavors with the company and filled the room with excitement about the opportunities local food can provide for small farms and businesses.

Marketing Discussion Aims to Move Lawrence Forward 

      by Cole Cottin

    Niche marketing and under-tapped markets for farms was the discussion topic at a monthly Growing Lawrence ( meeting on November 6.

    Participants were surveyed about types of wholesale or direct-to-consumer markets they are already selling farm products to. Nearly all were currently selling through multiple marketing outlets, primarily farmers markets, restaurants, and/or grocery stores. Several farms also sold through community supported agriculture (CSA) or on farm sales. Very few attendees were engaged in selling through internet, food distributors, caterers, or institutions (such as schools and hospitals).

    Following the survey, discussion focused on the benefits and challenges of selling to various market outlets. Participants addressed issues of scaling-up to meet growing demands for higher volumes of farm products. Ideas for the way forward included:

    *Saving on overhead expenses through the creation of an agricultural production co-operative for purchasing farm inputs (such as fertility irrigation supplies) and sharing farm equipment (such as a grain mill, or root washer);

    * Labor-savings through the creation of a agricultural marketing co-operative and/or “food hub” – to increase efficiency of local food distribution by aggregating and delivering higher volumes of farm products from multiple farms to a broader range of marketing outlets;

    *Exploring options for opening a food processing facility that could take raw local food products and process them into the types of foods needed by institutions, such as schools, that may not have access to equipment or labor for accomplishing food processing themselves.

    As a follow-up to the identified need for collaboration, Growing Lawrence’s December 4th meeting will center around sharing resources, such as seed catalogues, equipment catalogs, or other farm related resources with the group. Growing Lawrence meetings are open and free to the public and take place on the first Tuesday of every month, from 7:00am to 8:00am at the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce (7th and Vermont). 

Rural Brainstorm Sparks Discussion in Northeast Kansas
      by Jamie Dysart

    One woman is taking the initiative to sustain rural communities, while letting the younger rural generation who are “rural by choice” have an active voice in their communities.

    Marci Penner, the director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation and the author of “8 Wonders of Kansas Guidebook”, was the facilitator of the Northeast Kansas Big Rural Brain-storm (BRB), which was held November 12 at the Holton Evangel United Methodist Church.

    The BRB brought local citizens of Northeast Kansas together to discuss issues of living rural and how to solve their concerns, in hopes to have “collective brilliance”.

    “If we are all the same, we will always have the same thoughts,” said Penner. Penner explained the “power up movement”, which includes six divisions of agriculturists. These groups include the “power ups” who are people between the ages of 21-39 who are rural by choice and struggle with the connotation that “rural isn’t cool,” Penner said, while “sparks” are people under 21 who add good energy to community spirit.

    “Power Ons” are ages 40 and older who are passionate about rural living, she said. Citizens 80 years and older, Penner said, who are still offering positive input in the community are known as “super powers”.

    She said, “power generators” include those who live in bigger cities, but work to better rural communities, while “rural enthusiasts” are comprised of people who live anywhere and are supportive of rural Kansas.

     When Penner traveled Kansas to do research for her book she went to all 626 incorporated towns. She said half of those towns had less than 400 citizens. Those 313 towns only thrived when they accepted the voice of young people, Penner said, “Those were the towns that had the most ‘explorer value’.”

    Discussion groups were asked to answer the question of how well northeast Kansas is connected, and how can we communicate better ? “Before we can communicate in a region, you must communicate in your town,” Penner said.

    Penner introduced the “We Kan! Bank” to the BRB group. This is a system that matches community needs with those who can donate services, labor or money, she said. Everyone participated in the exercise of posting their accounts of service and their towns accounts of needs, and later could look at these to find out if they could help someone or if a services would be beneficial to a community need.

    Teresa McAnerney, a facilitator at the Northeast Kansas Enterprise Facilitation, said she is surprised at the amount of resources there is in a community and the willingness of people to work together. Courtney Schmelzie, Seneca Chamber of Commerce, said she is excited about the community involvement especially in the “power ups”. With almost 60 people in attendance at the northeast Kansas BRB only eight people were “power ups”. Penner said that the results of other BRBs are a lot different when there are more “power ups” in attendance.

    At the end of the BRB everyone wrote down how they can help sustain rural northeast Kansas on their “This is my Rural Action” card, and was encouraged keep working on it when they went home.

    “We need to fight for what we need, “said Penner, “if we don’t say what we need, it will not get done.”  
      (Jamie Dysart is a senior in agriculture communications at Kansas State University.) 

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