If you're looking for producer-based inspiration on expanding your farm marketing finesse, you've come to the right place. The national MarketMaker web network is a free online link to profiles of about 500,000 farms, processors, retailer, consumers and other food chain resources.
You'll find many innovative farmers there, like Dani Baker and David Belding of Cross Island Farms on Wellesley Island, N.Y. They're working all angles of the organic market with beef, pork, goat, eggs, fruits and vegetables plus agri-tourism.
The network, http://national.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/, currently includes 20 states from New York and Pennsylvania in the East and west across the Mid West, and across the South from Texas to the East Coast. It also contains one of the most extensive collections of searchable food industry related data, adds Kristen Park, ag economist at Cornell's Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.
You can also tap into the New York window at http://nymarketmaker.cornell.edu. The main objectives are to expand and improve the use of web tools to better supply markets and support buyers and sellers by sharing "market intelligence". The sites also hope to improve business-to-business, business-to-government, and business-to-consumer activities and increase the availability of regionally-grown foods in urban markets.
New York is #1
Today, NY MarketMaker contains information on over 2,000 food producers representing vegetables, fruits and nuts, dairy, grains, herbs, wine, fish and seafood, and meat and poultry products from 56 counties. These numbers make New York the state with the most producer participation in the entire MarketMaker system.
Conducting market research, locating targeted markets, and advertising and promoting products require significant expenditures. MarketMaker provides some of this information for free, says Park.
• Search demographic and business data, and details can be summarized on a map showing concentrations of consumer markets and possible strategic business partners.
• Search MarketMaker to locate Census tract populations with desired demographic characteristics, then target sales to retailers in those tracts.
• Search for potential customers or business partners in specific industry segments, such as Agritourism, Buyer, Eating & Drinking Places, Farmer/Producer (vegetables, fruits & nuts, grains, herbs, dairy, meat & poultry, and specialty products), Farmers' Market, Fishery, Food Retailer, Processor, Wholesaler, and Winery. These also can be summarized on a map pinpointing their location and can be downloaded off the site.
• List your business on your state's MarketMaker site for free, so you can be "found" by buyers, such as individual consumers, retailers, wholesalers, or institutions, such as schools, hospitals, faith-based organizations, senior dining sites and food banks.
• Post ads for available or needed food products on MarketMaker's Buy & Sell forum.
The MarketMaker program also includes educational outreach programs that teach food entrepreneurs how to use the site and the basics of marketing value-added food products, adds Park. We developed MarketMaker online training curricula and "How-to" manuals. Training manuals and training schedules are available online at http://nyc.cce.cornell.edu.