A natural resource enterprises workshop aimed at educating farmers about agritourism will be held at Curry Farms, Inc. in Rayville, La., on Tuesday, November 9. Registration begins at 8 a.m., and the workshop is from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. Attendees will learn agritourism basics from experts in the field and tour an agritourism operation. An attorney will discuss liability issues related to agritourism, and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry will discuss the 2008 Agritourism Limited Liability Law.
The day will conclude with a program on MarketMaker, the new online tool for marketing Louisiana agricultural products and agritourism.
The workshop registration is $25; see agenda for travel information and details.
MarketMaker is an Internet-based program that provides sellers of food products (principally small- and medium-sized operations) an efficient means of communicating product availability to potential buyers. It’s like an online farmers market. MarketMaker offers buyers a convenient Internet search tool to locate products they want, either directly from producers or through some other channel.
MarketMaker is free to buyers and sellers thanks to the sponsorship of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Farm Bureau and the LSU AgCenter.
Who can use MarketMaker? It’s available to anyone with Internet access. It’s a free marketing tool for individuals who grow food, process food, sell food or eat food.
How does it work? Producers register a profile by listing their agricultural products, such as vegetables, fruits, grains, meats and seafood, and ornamental plants. At the same time farmers, ranchers, fishers and other individuals who produce agriculture-related products register, buyers can also register. MarketMaker includes individuals who own restaurants, wineries and agritourism ventures.
MarketMaker is used by individuals or businesses who are searching for producers of agricultural products and by producers who wish to find new markets for their agricultural products. Here are some examples of how MarketMaker works: a praline business can use MarketMaker to locate pecans; a restaurateur can locate fresh produce by searching the database for farmers selling produce. Those interested in agritourism can use MarketMaker to search for agritourism ventures and their locations and hours of operation. The possibilities are endless.
So, how do you register? Simply log on to the internet and go to http://la.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/main. Click on “Register your business” and follow the instructions provided on the screen to enter your business information. Once you submit your information, you will automatically receive an e-mail from MarketMaker that will include your username and temporary password. This access will allow you to make changes to your profile and keep the information up to date. When you receive the e-mail, log in to your account through the URL (La.FoodMarketMaker.com) or (http://la.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/) and change your password to one that you will remember. Your information should appear on the website within one to two business days.
Besides saying cheese, visitors can taste it at WesMar Farms, a self-proclaimed agricultural respite owned by West and Marguerite Constantine.
“The ultimate goal is for them to buy, but we want them to come back and spread the word, to bring their cameras,” Marguerite Constantine said.
The Constantines say their full-time work in the National Guard taught them structure, commitment and hard work to begin WesMar Farms, the only Louisiana Department of Agriculture-certified goat dairy north of Interstate 10 and west of the Mississippi River.
Wearing a “No goats, no glory” shirt, West Constantine touted several ways the LSU AgCenter has assisted their goat farm. He and his wife mentioned MarketMaker – an online service to help producers connect with consumers – agritourism, the Louisiana 4-H Museum and mastitis research at the LSU AgCenter Hill Farm Research Station.
MarketMaker will be effective because it will give younger and middle-aged consumers awareness of locally produced food, Marguerite Constantine said. “They are computer savvy. Older people are producers, and MarketMaker will fill the gap.
“MarketMaker will allow agritourism operators to market their value-added products such as cheeses, wines, salsas, jelly, jams and honeys,” she said.
WesMar Farms and the Louisiana 4-H Museum just a few miles away in Mansura have partnered for school group tours. “It is fun for the kids. We let them milk by hand,” said West Constantine.
A group tour is $5 per person, and up to 25 can be accommodated, depending on their ages.
The couple also hosts a farmers market at their home every Thursday from 2-6 p.m. “If they see the animals and the way they’re raised and interact with them, they’ll likely be customers and take pride in the connection,” Marguerite Constantine said of market visitors.
A gift shop includes artisan goat cheese, Grade A pasteurized goat's milk, handcrafted goat-milk soap, reusable shopping bags and T-shirts. A cookbook gives Marguerite Constantine’s recipes for fig-and-goat-cheese flatbread pizza.
Their products also are sold in Shreveport, Natchitoches, Ruston, Lafayette, Alexandria and Monroe.
Trent Bonnette, chef and co-owner of Brown Bag Gourmet in Marksville, uses the cheese on burgers at his restaurant and sells the farm’s chocolate goat milk truffles for dessert.
“I’ve always been interested in a greener way of doing things,” Bonnette said. “Marguerite’s goat cheese is phenomenal.”
The restaurant’s beef is locally grown, and the bread comes from New Orleans.
“Agritourism operators can sell to local businesses like the Brown Bag Gourmet to increase their profit and allow the restaurateur to have that as his specialty,” Marguerite Constantine said.
Local foods create great niche marketing for restaurants, said Dora Ann Hatch, an LSU AgCenter agent who has recently assumed statewide responsibilities in agritourism for the LSU AgCenter and regional responsibilities with MarketMaker. “You have to be known for something. You go to the Brown Bag Gourmet because you know you’ll eat local produce,” she said.
Goat's milk has more vitamin A, vitamin B, riboflavin, calcium, iron and phosphorus than cow’s milk and has less cholesterol, West Constantine said. “There is no cow’s milk in our house,” he said seriously.
At 6:30 a.m. every day, West Constantine milks 15 Nubian goats, collecting 7.5 gallons a day. The goats are not treated with hormones to increase milk production, he said.
Marguerite Constantine grew up with seven siblings on a farm in Godeaux where she milked cows. “The first five girls baled hay. As far as our dad was concerned, we were boys.” Her mother taught her how to make soap.
Goat’s milk has three times more beta-casein than cow’s milk, West Constantine said. Caseins are easily absorbed into the skin and allow for quick hydration of dry skin.
WesMar’s soaps are made with pure essential oils, not synthetic fragrance oils, the Constantines said. The soaps also don’t contain preservatives, dyes or colorants. Varieties include basil and mint, eucalyptus and mint, lavender, lemon and geranium, marjoram, palmarosa, patchouli, rosemary and mint, and unscented.
The couple also grows basil, figs, pears and garlic on their eight-acre farm.
More information about MarketMaker is available on the LSU AgCenter website. WesMar Farms’ website is www.wesmarfarms.com. Story by: Mary Ann VanOsdell, communications specialist with the LSU AgCenter.
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