The Wild Ramp Annual Producer Meeting and Business Training
Saturday, November, 1 2014
1:00 – 5:30 PM
The Wild Ramp works to inform and educate producers in regards to creating business plans and marketing information. This year the annual producer meeting, held at Heritage Farm Museum, featured Leslie Schaller of The Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet).
Leslie led a workshop about effective labeling and packaging; offering Wild Ramp producers an opportunity to reflect on their own labeling and marketing schemes. The workshop reviewed hundreds of product labels for their use of color, photos, text, design, and overall appeal. In small groups producers worked together to rate a variety of value added products based on the appearance of the labels. The small groups reported what they liked about the labels, the appeal of the product (i.e. natural packaging vs high gloss plastic), and how the labels can be improved. Leslie took a moment to relate the creation of a farm business plan to choosing the correct the level and design of packaging. Leslie also reviewed several stages or iterations of packaging for the same products; demonstrating the importance of a business plan and growth goal setting.
Leslie also briefly review the considerations of pricing and need to include labor involved in packaging, but also setting a price that reflects your goals as a business. In addition gave examples of businesses that made small adjustments in price to cover cost of improved packaging.
About 45 minutes of this training day was set aside to discuss training needs and concerns for small producers as well as delivery format.
- Panel discussions with successful food and farm entrepreneurs, with focus on specific issue or producers- i.e. farmers vs value added.
- Farmers were interested in getting into financials including; enterprise budgeting, profitability ratios and financial sustainability and planning.
- A focused workshop or series about non-edible farm products; soaps, lotion, cut flowers, forest products, non-timber wood products, seedlings/plants, fibers, and other possibilities to increase. A focus on communicating value of product (i.e. artisan design cutting board vs block utilitarian- a customer may go visual when that is not the best choice) using demonstration and merchandising techniques.
- Regulations Panel- working with regulations across state lines for farm and cottage food producers, finding the hidden hoops, and working with regulators. Producers were interested in talking about the benefits and challenges of coming to Wild Ramp from other states.
- The majority is able to access email and the internet for electronic self-paced learning and webinars.
- Farmers were also interested in having peer conversation about production practices; most were very excited about this possibility. Tips and tricks for running off pests and varmints, high tunnel production, grass grazing animals, animal care and husbandry, artisan products, and more. Setting up a mentoring network was also mentioned.
- Some were interested in more farm to school activity
- All producers were near demanding production planning training; they see the advantage of a coordinated effort to supply the market with diverse products. This effort would help producers large and small reduce direct competition and stagger planting/harvesting for a more reliable market. Most were in agreement that they could grow more if they knew they could market it.
- All were also interested in the possibility in aggregating products under a unified identify to increase marketing to large buyers; including farm to school, restaurants, and regional value chains.