Free UF courses supporting the smallholder market on social media

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The above piece from the sketch comedy show Portlandia may scoff at the organic, farm-to-table lifestyle, but there is a growing demand for quality, locally produced food.

Sales of local farm products in the United States increased 26% from 2015-2017 to a total of $11.8 billion, accounting for 3% of all farm sales.

That’s what Trent Blare says. He is a professor in the Faculty of Food and Resource Economics at the University of Florida.

This bodes well for aspiring entrepreneurs just getting their small farms, urban garden fields and grocery stores off the ground.

The Harpke Family Farm is a small urban farm in Broward County, South Florida. It is owned and operated by a couple who grow a variety of microgreens, edible flowers and specialties for top chefs and other niche businesses. One article, for example, is a finger calc project associated with Trent Blare, assistant professor of food and resource economics at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead.

VIDEO: The Harpke Family Farm, a small urban farm in Broward County, South Florida. It is owned and operated by a couple who grow a variety of microgreens, edible flowers and specialties for top chefs and other niche businesses. One article, for example, is a finger calc project associated with Trent Blare, assistant professor of food and resource economics at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead.

Blare is part of a team of experts from the university’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences that is producing a free series called ” How to market in the digital age. The program includes webinars followed by face-to-face training sessions in English and Spanish.

Blare says IFAS decided to launch the program after hearing directly from Florida growers about their business challenges.

“They know how to grow the food that we have and make these great products, but they weren’t sure how to connect with consumers and get their products to market,” Blare said.

UF/IFAS received a $50,000 grant to be used over 18 months to fund the free business development courses. UF/IFAS experts will guide attendees through a step-by-step process to create marketing plans, share best practices for various social media platforms, and set up online and electronic sales.

According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, between 2007 and 2014 the number of farmers’ markets increased by 180% and the number of regional food centers increased by more than 288%. Blare explains that consumers are turning to Instagram and TikTok to find these outdoor markets and food hubs.

For small farming businesses in Florida, a region-specific marketing strategy could be particularly ineffective given the ever-expanding tourism industry.

“We have a lot of tourists and a lot of visitors, especially in winter,” Blare said. “A lot of these people don’t know about the great products that we have in Florida, so we have to keep educating people about these products who are coming to Florida so they know about the really cool things we have here to have.”

All virtual courses are available online in English and Spanish. All courses can be viewed online after class. Classroom training begins May 18, 2022.

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