There are many opportunities for producers of Virginia value-added agricultural products.
Whether someone is reaching new customers, finding niche markets, applying for grants or expanding processing facilities, Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability staff can connect growers to crucial resources.
An overview of the services available, including strategic planning, grant assistance, feasibility studies and co-operative assistance for rural agricultural enterprises, was presented at the VA FAIRS co-operator conference in Richmond on 23 March. Agriculture and Consumer Services discussed dozens of potential funding sources like loan assistance programs and grants.
Although VA FAIRS is not a source of funding, it helps connect producers, business owners and cooperatives to these resources, said Whitney Perkins, deputy director of agriculture, development and innovation. of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.
“We really do our best to take your ideas and your projects, see what’s available and connect you to the best resources out there, and help you take advantage of those programs,” she said. “Having a viable business idea is where it all begins!”
Tony Banks, Senior Deputy Director of ADI, shared opportunities for meat retail businesses. Meat stocks in the United States have declined over the past 20 years as the local food movement has grown steadily, he said. Consumers are willing to pay more for locally grown and processed meat.
Pandemic-related supply chain and processing disruptions boosted demand for local meat as consumers saw grocery store shelves empty. Now the economy is waking up.
“It’s a choppy start, and we’re still feeling the effects,” Banks said. “To circumvent market behavior as a local meat processor or retailer, you need to think outside the box. This can be accomplished by offering quality products and making sure your marketing is personal – tell them how the product was grown and processed. It’s about customer relationships. Social networks make things easier. »
Kerry Messer, owner and operator of Sweethaven Lavender in Williamsburg, understands the power of social media in growing her niche business. She discussed strategies for marketing artisanal lavender products, attracting her target demographic to the site, and building the brand.
“Who is going to have an emotional connection to your product? asked Messer. “Think about how your product will improve the lives of your (customer) base.”
To learn more about VA FAIRS, visit vafairs.com or his Facebook page, facebook.com/vafairs.