A comment made by a producer some time ago really hit home. He said one needs to have the mindset to produce what others want to buy rather than the mindset to sell what one produces. Traditions are difficult to change. Long-time practices and habits are hard to change. The fact is, today there are more and more people reading food labels and seeking specialty foods. Organic foods are nothing new though there are more people willing to pay a premium for organically grown foods. While figuring crop budgets for this year, one has to scratch the head and ponder how to make 2008 profitable. Fuel and fertilizer in particular are escalating while the producer manages greater risks with profit margins no different than the past.
Jerry Nelson, Purdue's New Ventures Extension Educator, has told of an Illinois farm operator who explained that 400 acres from a larger corn and soybean operation had been converted to growing specialty grain. The specialty grain was not white corn or blue corn for chips or tofu soybeans. It was plain old yellow dent corn, yellow soybeans and soft red winter wheat always grown by the farmer. The difference was that the 400 acres had been grown organically. The farmer was receiving a premium by growing what the consumer was wanting to feed organic livestock. This is certainly a different mindset than growing non-specific yellow corn and taking it to the elevator. This specific example is not for everyone, but like the Taco Bell slogan, which says "Think Outside the Bun," we in agriculture need to have minds focused to improving our service to market needs. For some it may be grass-fed livestock. Others may not switch practices but switch breeds or species entirely.
Others might consider agri-tourism as we sit in the middle of the Bloomington and Terre Haute urban centers. The key to all of the ideas is having or establishing a market. One does not want to blindly rush into new ventures, however Purdue Extension has a number of tools to help one make decisions and consider new agricultural related interests.
Several programs are forthcoming that might be of interest to those who want to consider diversifying. A program series entitled "Making Some Dollars on a Few Acres" will be held on a series of Wednesday's during this month and next. On April 19, in Bloomington, the new Indiana Market Maker-Marketing 101 program will be offered. A "Specialty Food Business" workshop in Indianapolis and an aquaculture workshop at the Southern Indiana Purdue Ag Center both occur on April 24 that folks with these interests may want to consider. All of these events are listed in the "upcoming events" portion of this column below.
Contact the office for more information about any of these programs.
These sessions and tools will be helpful for one to consider the pros and cons of diversifying an operation. I find I learn as much or more from the people I meet at these sessions as I do the presenters. One producer said, at a past small farms advisory meeting, that if you want to be successful at an alternative enterprise, go see how someone else is making a go of their operation and learn from their successes. Though agriculture is becoming more competitive, it is still one of the few industries where folks are still willing to share and learn together.
You can contact the local Purdue Extension Office by calling 829-5020 x14 in Owen County or 448-9041 in Clay County for more information or publication copies regarding this week's column topic or to RSVP for upcoming events. Please call first to assure items are ready when you arrive and to RSVP for programs. While most publications are free, some do have a fee. All times listed are Eastern Time.
April 15 Community Blood Drive, Purdue Extension-Owen County Office, 3-6 p.m.
April 16 Developing Business Plan for New Venture & Finance Options, Spencer, 6:30 p.m.
April 17 IBEP Bull Sale, Springville, 6 p.m.
April 19 Indiana MarketMaker: Marketing 101, Bloomington, 1:30 p.m.
April 23 Test Drive your New Business Plan, Spencer, 6:30 p.m.
April 24 Starting a Specialty Food Business, Indianapolis, 8 a.m.
April 24 Fish Farming Workshop, Dubois, 9 a.m.
April 26 Pond Workshop, Clay County, 9 a.m.
April 30 Attracting Customers to Your Produce Market Spot, Spencer, 6:30 p.m.
April 30 Fish Cleaning Workshop, Bloomington, 6 p.m.
May 1 Deadline for Online Marketing Course
May 1 Fish Cleaning Workshop, Crawfordsville, 6 p.m.
May 3 Owen County Farmers Market Opens
May 3 Pond Workshop, Prairie Creek Park (Vigo), Noon
May 12 Farmer's Market Workshop, Greencastle
May 19-21 Indiana Recycling Coalition Conference & Exhibition, Bloomington
May 21 Small Farm Ideas and Marketing for Success, Spencer, 6:30 p.m.