Market development is critical for farmers, market gardeners, and producers who are trying to gain leverage and position in retail, wholesale and institution markets. Data about the market potential and capacity in Virginia, along with some of the challenges, are shared and outlined throughout the Virginia Farm to Table Plan. Below are the specific recommendations for market development from pages 29 -32 of the Plan.
Objective: To promote the expansion of the market for regionally produced agriculture and food products through creating new value added and differentiated products, converting new consumers to buy local foods, increasing market access and to increase current consumption from individuals already engaged in the local market.
Benefits of recommendations: Increased regional market capacity; Enhancement of food system infrastructure, including hubs, processors, and packagers; Local food system innovation and expansion through regional scaling up.
Possible partners: Appalachian Sustainable Development, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, Virginia Foundation for Agricultural Innovation and Rural Sustainability, Local Food Hub, Rural SCALE, SustainFloyd, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia State University, Virginia Tech, USDA Rural Development and others.
1.1 Develop a comprehensive market development educational program at the state and local level to include: 1) strategic market development and long-term goal setting; and 2) tactical market planning for farmers, entrepreneurs and processors.
1.2 Survey the capacity of Virginia-based meat and other food processing facilities for storage, processing and increased sales and implement these food processing resources where there is an obvious need.
1.3 Assess the supply and demand for value-added food processing (i.e., canning, milling, freezing, on-farm milk processing) in Virginia and identify the hindrances and opportunities for operating value-added food processing facilities in the state.
1.4 Assess and establish financial incentives for small and midsized value-added food processors in Virginia (i.e., fruits, vegetables, meats and grains).
1.5 Offer recurring Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), as well as Good Aquacultural Practices, educational workshops and training for extending the season, scaling up, opening new market opportunities, and encouraging overall environmental stewardship and food safety.
1.6 Assess the capacity for establishing other food hubs throughout the state to meet institutional demand.
1.7 Establish a comprehensive informational website and networking resource for all Virginia local food and food system resources— with information for producers as well as consumers (e.g., Community Food System Explorer).
1.8 Examine the potential for a Chesapeake Bay brand for Virginia seafood, aquaculture, and food products that recognizes and incentivizes sound environmental practices and the health of the Bay as a key criterion.