Benefits of Brownfield Programs: Tips to Help Your Community Get Started

Brownfield building

Photo (CC) Ohio Redevelopment Project, on Flickr

When you think of brownfields, we often think of land for which there is little or only limited use. And even the potential cost of contamination cleanup make it hard to move forward.

Kathie Brown, an University of Illinois Extension educator, though encourages communities to take a new look at such sites. She says they may be opportunities and gives, in a blog post, some examples.

To help communities she lists some tips such as potential funding opportunities and encourages the community to take a long-term vision.

Extension in Illinois and across the country is focused on a variety of community development efforts. Check out this example. 


Agritourism Interest Continues to Grow

Female farm worker

Millennial and Food, Photo by Mary Peabody

Agritourism – Bringing people back to the farm!

More and more people are showing interest in having an agritourism experience.  It may be picking fruits and vegetables or a wine tasting or a corn maze. Others are interested in learning how their food is grown and others want to purchase local foods. And the list goes on.

Many small farmers and ranchers are looking at responding to this growing interest by starting a agritourism venture alongside their ongoing enterprise. However in lots of cases, the agritourism business is substantially different than their current business and requires different skills, talents, and marketing

Extension across the country has stepped up to provide educational programs to cover these new areas of  education and support that agritourism operators are requesting. An example of a recent effort has been the University of California Cooperative Extension Small Farm Program. It has provided lunchtime webinars, led by Penny Leff, as part of their offerings.

The webinars were recorded and offer tips on marketing as well as negotiating regulatory issues. And you can find more agritourism resources on their website. A colleague and I have done several articles on the topic including:

Agritourism is an opportunity that continues to grow. Check it out to see if it might be right for you.


Field to Fork: Growing, Processing and Selling Local Food Safely

Farm workerThere are two big food movements currently going on in this country.

The first, the one we all have heard of, is that of local foods. Every state has some sort of activity going on. More and more people are enjoying getting fresh food from local producers. It’s great to get food ripened in the great outdoors and brought to us at its peak of freshness and taste.

The second movement we also have heard much about, although not lately. That issue is food safety. It arises most often when something happens somewhere in the process and people suffer. No one wants that to happen. Regulations have been passed and laws made but sometimes such events still occur.

It is important for anyone in the system, from growers through distributors and merchants, to do everything possible to keep our food supply safe. And that responsibility continues right on to the consumer to do his or her part.

With those thoughts in mind, Field to Fork, an effort of Julie Garden-Robinson of North Dakota State University Extension, was development of information on building a successful local foods business along with making sure the products stay safe throughout the process.

Check out the videos offering a variety of tips, including those for food safety.

And good luck.


Pricing for Direct Market Sales

Mary PeabodyPricing can often be a frustrating process for small business owners. 

In this video, Mary Peabody, Community Economic Development Specialist, University of Vermont Extension, gives a review of the pricing process and adds some new tips and ideas on how to ensure you are maximizing your revenue.

Discussed are aspects of identifying costs, knowing the factors that may influence what you can charge, and some survival tips.

In addition to the pure business items that are included in the pricing model, Mary discusses both the psychological and emotional aspects of pricing. She identifies how some goods are seen more as a luxury item, something a customer is wiling to pay extra. The customer might also be willing to pay more if the product/service is in its growth phase.

Throughout the video, Mary urges the small business owner to know their costs before deciding

Price tag

Photo (CC 2.0) by Ben Ostrowsky, on Flickr

on a price. And she says it may not be a good idea to just “follow the herd,” or price at the level of your competition.

Hope you find the information helpful as you develop prices in your business. Click here for the video. 

Sale Point Alternatives


Photo (CC 2.0) by PunkToad, on Flickr

If you are running a small business you know that one part of the equation is getting your product in front of the customer.

The link provides you with a creative solution being used by one local foods entrepreneur.  The business owner didn’t invent anything new but simply took existing technology and put it to use somewhat differently. In this case, the different way was the selling of local meats.

As noted in the article, such machines are, and have been, used in similar ways for a few years. I can remember getting food out of vending machines in college and airports. So why not use it for local foods.

Yet it took someone to think a little bit out of the box. The idea allows for 24/7 sales, adds a virtual sales person, and can help someone expand their market reach.

This is just one way that a creative thought can move your company forward. Remember, standing still is not an option.

Starting a Business? Looking for Help? Try Extension!

Power of Business - Connecting Entrepreneurs to EntrepreneursExtension offices across the country have the capacity to help small business owners.

In Michigan, Michigan State University working with local libraries, chambers of commerce, and others formed Business Resource Center Network. The network is part of the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance.

Many of the resources are available online and open to anyone interested in starting and/or better running a business. There are business planning tools, books, and additional links to help the entrepreneur. The MSU Library offers regular book reports on new materials that help inform business owners and their decisions.

And if you live in the area, you will find a calendar of training events and workshops. 

Being successful in business means taking advantage of resources. This resource is just one example of the local resources you might find in a community. Give your business a boost; check out these resources. 

Finding Ideas

Ugly Food of the NorthIt is not uncommon for individuals wanting to start a business to struggle finding a  business idea.

Many people do know what they want or are told that something they are already doing would be a good business. But not everyone falls into one of those categories.

Even for those who know what they would like to do, they know that making money would be hard, if not impossible, and so they end up searching as well.

Sometimes finding that idea happens by luck. Often, though, it happens by staying open to opportunities. 

I want to share an example of sometimes are right in front of us. And while this group is doing something for a social good, this same idea in other places has been turned into a viable business idea.

Ugly Food of the North sprang out of the discussions of a group of North Dakota thinkers. Like many ideas, the issue was right in front of a whole community. Yet few saw the opportunity and even fewer took action.

So are you looking for an idea?  Just let your mind wander. It might be right in front of you. Perhaps invite a group to wander with you.

Just one way to find your idea.

Facebook Marketing Using Contests

Online Marketing

Online Marketing Options

Just want to do a follow up to the Jan 20th post when I highlighted Dr. James Barnes chat on Facebook ads.

If you are a Facebook follower, you know that one of the marketing tools you can use on Facebook are contests. This article, also done by James, looks at how such contests can boost consumer engagement.

He notes, however, the need to follow Facebook’s contest rules.

If you want to do contests make sure you “play by the rules.” Not doing so may harm your future marketing efforts.

With 1.4 billion users using Facebook, it will be time well spent.


Getting Found: It’s a Must!


Photo (CC 2.0) by Blullana_Miranda, on Flickr

The idea of getting one’s business in front of the target audience remains a crucial step.

Yet getting this done continues to become harder and harder. The number of marketing messages grows on a daily basis. As the number of messages grow, consumers are just tuning out more and more of them. Some estimates suggest that 90% of the messages placed before us don’t even register in our minds.

So business owners face getting noticed among the forest of competing marketing messages.

A couple of year’s ago, I did a blog for Small Business Survival in which I noted the importance of networking. That remains one effective tool.

Another tool is the importance of “you” the owner. Your efforts in networking as well as in establishing the brand, reputation, and identity of your business are crucial.

Third, develop your ambassadors. Today with social media and third-party review sites, this step perhaps is easier than it has even been. Encourage people to rate their experience with your company. Just this last weekend, my wife and I ate a favorite restaurant. As we finished our meal, the staff person at our table brought us a postcard and said if we liked our meal to send the card to a friend. The card offered a discount. What a great way to encourage people to spread the word.

The bottom line is that your customer will typically not find you without a great deal of effort on your part. Marketing is key to a successful business.


Dr. James Barnes Talks Facebook and Facebook Ads

In our December Friday 15, Dr. James Barnes, Mississippi State University Extension, discussed Facebook and Facebook Ads for your business.

In her introduction of James and the topic, Jenny Nixon, moderator and Extension Educator with University of Nebraska, mentioned that 50% of people online have a Facebook account. This means potentially great opportunities by having your business on this social media platform.

In his chat, James mentioned the need to have your Facebook page up and running well before you started using any ads. Some of the components necessary include fresh and engaging content, good images, and changing, diversified content. He said that a 30-day calendar, at a minimum, of planned content was important.

Once a business owner gets ready to run ads, he or she need to know their budget, should start small, set goals and monitor the metrics, especially impressions, reach, and frequency. Also, there needs to be a consistent core message

Finally, Dr. Barnes mentioned that a business Facebook page cannot just be sell, sell, sell. There needs to be a flow of information, tips, contests, and other items that will keep people engaged.

You can find more resources about the Mississippi “Bricks to Clicks” effort including a variety of publications at: . One specific publication looks at the economic benefits of Facebook marketing.

Dr. Barnes mentioned that the rules and opportunities for Facebook, and other social media platforms, are always changing. For example, Facebook has just recently added the opportunity to add a shopping cart on your Facebook page.

Facebook and Facebook ads can be a great marketing tool for your business. But like any other tool, it must be done right and an integrated part of the overall marketing plan.