One of the many important parts of making a living as an agricultural entrepreneur is not only being a successful producer, but also finding markets for your goods.
An online tool called MarketMaker now offers a portal to a virtual marketplace that will provide increased access and acquisition of Virginia products, further connecting the farm to the fork. Farmers and ranchers, fisheries, farmers markets, processors and packers, wineries, restaurants, and individual consumers can benefit from the online resource.
The MarketMaker portal is the largest and most in-depth national database of products and services offered for the agricultural industry. Completing the registration process immediately provides access to search tools that connect buyers of farm products with producers and distributors.
Kim Morgan, assistant professor of agricultural and applied economics and Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, spearheaded the initiative to bring MarketMaker to the commonwealth.
“MarketMaker has proven to be a valuable resource for industry members in 21 states since 2004. I am very excited that we can offer this as a tool for producers and consumers and to see Virginia join the MarketMaker team," she said. "The key to gaining access to MarketMaker was the support and funding from our partners Farm Credit of the Virginias, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia Agribusiness Council, Colonial Farm Credit, and the Virginia Farm Bureau. All the Virginia MarketMaker partners welcome the support and participation of all interested parties and agencies for future programming."
The benefits for producers are many. For example, a rancher can search for very detailed information about a beef processor including types of cuts and packaging offered, pricing options, and which facilities offer processing that best meets the needs of their customers.
Once producers register they have access to an account they can be updated up-to-the-minute to make restaurateurs and consumers aware of their selections of herbs, meats, and produce.
Consumers who have struggled with scanning markets far and wide for a fresh or hard-to-find ingredient can now locate them without leaving home, saving the added costs and time of driving to Saturday farmers markets in hopes of finding specific ingredients.
“The MarketMaker website will be a valuable marketing tool for our Northern Virginia constituents,” said Kenner Love, agricultural and natural resource Extension agent for Rappahannock County. “I have a lot of interest in a tool like this as an agent because I know how difficult it is to run a farming operation and still have time to turn your product into a profit. It’s a great marketing tool that will assist farmers and buyers to form profitable business alliances.”
The national MarketMaker portal operates in several states in the Southeast and the District of Columbia, and stretches from Florida to Texas and from Ohio to Wyoming.
“This is good business for producers and buyers alike," said Shaena Muldoon, owner and operator of the Palisades Restaurant in Eggleston, Virginia. "Being able to get our name out there so farmers know that we are a buyer for their products would also be important to us. Researching takes valuable time that we don't have to spare in the restaurant business, so this puts all the pieces in one place. It's a great idea and I'm looking forward to using this resource.”