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New Mexico State University

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NMSU hosts six regional workshops on increasing profits at farmers' markets

New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service will hold six workshops for current and future farmers' market vendors across the state during January, February and March. The events are jointly sponsored with the New Mexico Farmers' Marketing Association and Farm to Table.

"With 58 farmers' markets now in New Mexico, there is more demand than ever for locally grown food. Gross sales have been on the rise, but in many cases farmers can use some outside assistance to help make their operations more profitable. These workshops connect farmers to new ideas and good resources for working into the future," said Denise Miller, executive director of the New Mexico Farmers' Marketing Association.

With the increased opportunities to market their produce through farmers' markets, NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service wants to help farmers increase their profitability through the sale of high-value crops and value-added products.

"Farmers' markets are a growing direct-marketing arena, where the business transaction occurs between the grower and the consumer. Through these workshops we want to help producers reduce their risk and increase their profits," said Michael Patrick, NMSU Extension community resource and economic development specialist, who is coordinating the program that is funded by a Western Center for Risk Management Education grant.

Scheduled Saturday workshops include Las Cruces on Jan. 16, Silver City on Jan. 23, Los Lunas on Feb. 6, and Clovis on Feb. 27. Two additional workshops will be on Wednesday, March 3, in Espanola and Tuesday, March 30, in Farmington. Registration fee is $10, which includes lunch and workshop material. For location and an agenda for a specific workshop, contact the local Cooperative Extension Service office.

The workshops are being developed by local teams of farmers' market managers, local producers and vendors, and county Extension agents.

"We did some market research to determine the topics of each session. We surveyed the farmers' market managers and vendors to see what information they would like us to present. So each workshop is tailor-made for the producers in the area where it is presented," said Patrick.

Workshop topics will include crop diversification, growing season extension, value-added products, recordkeeping, enterprise budgets, and marketing and sales strategies. Each workshop will have a session unique to the location and a specific presentation during the lunch.

"The main area in which workshops will vary is in what crops and value-added products we discuss," Patrick said. "We will have Ron Walser, Extension fruit specialist, and Stephanie Walker, Extension vegetable specialist, discussing a variety of high-value crops that producers in the various areas are interested in growing."

Besides talking about how to grow the produce, home economists will discuss food demonstration and food preparation in the marketing portion of the workshop.

"Many people will see produce at a farmers' market that is new to them and they will ask how to use it," Patrick said. "The vendor has to be prepared to educate people on how to use or prepare their product."

For vendors who plan to make a product to sell at the market, Nancy Flores, Extension food technology specialist, will present information about processing and preserving produce and producing value-added products such as jams and jelly. She will discuss the regulations associated with producing these products in home kitchens and commercial kitchens.

One aspect of farmers' markets is that many vendors are not aware of the economics and marketing side of the business.

"We find that a lot of folks don't keep good records so they don't know if they are making a profit or not," Patrick said. "Moreover, some are producing two or three items and selling them. One item may be making money and another is not, and the vendor doesn't know that because they are not keeping good records. So we're going to talk a little about recordkeeping and enterprise budgets."

Merchandising and marketing practices will also be presented, including how to display produce, pricing and signage techniques. Ideas will also be presented on using promotional materials such as brochures, flyers and recipes for produce preparation.

To register, contact Rosanne Lehman at (575) 646-3215. For more information about the specific agenda for each location contact the local Extension office.