MarketMaker online tool helps La. ag-related businesses sell their products

Schultz Bruce, Westra, John

News Release Distributed 11/24/10

A free Internet marketing tool offered by the LSU AgCenter for Louisiana agriculture-related businesses provides an avenue to increase opportunities to buy and sell locally produced food.

John Westra, LSU AgCenter economist, said the MarketMaker website is like a sign that says, “We are open for business.”

“It’s an online tool that can help them get the word out about what they have for sale,” he said.

Westra said so far more than 150 Louisiana producers are registered, along with 145 farmers markets and roadside stands. Quite a few, given that the site has only been open a few months.

Louisiana is one of 17 states that participate in the National Food MarketMaker Project, which originated with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The website has a range of marketing programs that allow producers to identify specific income levels and ethnicities across the state, so specific markets can be targeted. “Those tools are available for free,” Westra said.

The website also can be useful for consumers, including individuals, restaurants and retail stores, who are seeking produce, meat, dairy products, seafood, farmers markets, roadside stands, grocery stores and restaurants.

“It serves as a central clearinghouse for locating agricultural and seafood products in Louisiana,” Westra said.

The website gives producers, large and small, an equal footing to list their products, especially small producers of specialty commodities.

One of those producers is Daniel Romero, owner of Daniel and Anna’s Orchard near Coteau in Iberia Parish. The business has more than 3,000 pecan and fruit trees.

Romero said at least two sales have originated with MarketMaker, and one of them was an out-of-state buyer of persimmons.

“Every little bit helps,” said Romero, who runs the orchard as a sideline business.

Robert Dupuy, owner of Pecan Ridge Farms in Avoyelles Parish, said he found a potential buyer for his pecans by using MarketMaker.

His pecans, from the farm’s 2,000 trees, are sold as far away as St. Tammany Parish, and the goal is to provide a fresh product. “We try to get them out of here and into the customers’ hands,” Dupuy said.

Dupuy learned about MarketMaker from employees at the LSU AgCenter Pecan Research Station in Shreveport. “I’m glad to see it, and I think it has potential,” he said.

Dupuy said LSU AgCenter personnel helped him register for MarketMaker and improve his website.

Marguerite Constantine and her husband, West, of Hessmer run a dairy goat operation near Hessmer. She registered the business, WesMar Farms, on MarketMaker as soon as the website was available this summer.

They make goat cheese from their herd of 25, and their products are sold in stores from Lafayette to Shreveport and Monroe.

She’s optimistic that MarketMaker will boost their business. She said producers who lack the money or expertise to develop a website will benefit from the free service.

“This is going to allow them that web presence,” she said. “It’s something we very much needed to put local consumers in touch with local producers.”

Bruce Schultz
1/4/2011 1:10:57 AM
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