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Meeting expounds on organic marketing

By Dave Wilkins
Capital Press

Two-day conference helps farmers sharpen skills

For years, organic farmers enjoyed a comfortable niche as one of the fastest growing segments in the U.S. food industry.

Sales were soaring about 20 percent a year.

Then the Great Recession hit. Suddenly consumers who had been willing to spend a little more money for organic food started to have second thoughts.

The sector is still growing, but not nearly at the torrid pace it was. In 2009, organic food sales posted a modest 5 percent gain.

With the cooling of the once-hot sector, there's never been a greater need for organic farmers to have a solid marketing plan, according to industry representatives.

"Organic farmers have always needed a strong marketing plan, and now they need it even more so," said Jennifer Miller, sustainable agriculture coordinator for the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides.

In the past, there has sometimes been a perception that organic farmers didn't really need much of a marketing plan.

But it was a myth that cost producers plenty if they believed it, Miller said. Simply growing organic food isn't enough.

"Organic farmers all need to know where they're going to market their products," she said.

To help organic producers sharpen their marketing skills, NCAP has organized a two-day conference next month in Idaho.

The event will be held Dec. 7-8 at The Historic Ballroom, 205 Shoshone St., in Twin Falls, Idaho. Visit www.pesticide.org for complete details and registration information.

The conference will bring together national and regional produce distributors, a grain marketer, and Idaho farmers and marketers of vegetables, hay and feed grains, potatoes and livestock.

Presenters will include David Lively, marketing director of Organically Grown Co., of Eugene, Ore., the largest wholesaler of organic produce in the Pacific Northwest, and Tim Ennis, organic grain marketing manager for the National Farmers Organization.

Local presenters will include Nate Jones, King's Crown Organic Farm, King Hill; Cheryl Bennett, Lava Lake Lamb, Hailey; Jodi Peterson, Valley Creek Local Foods, Boise; Lou Andersen, S&L Commodities, Fairfield; and Cody Richins, Eagle Eye Produce, Idaho Falls.

The second day of the conference will feature concurrent working sessions covering a variety of topics including creating an effective marketing plan, developing financial statements, lending programs and a mock certified organic inspection.

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