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Last updated:

December 10, 1999

UW-RF Grant to Aide 19 Farming Communities

By Jennifer Gottschalk
UW-RF News Bureau

Farmers in 19 west-central Wisconsin communities will receive help in increasing the value of their products as a result of a planned marketing web site and workshop series.

UW-River Falls Professor Larry Swain, a community development specialist, and David Kabes, research project assistant, in the Regional Development Institute recently received a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for $30,825.

"Our goal is to put money in the hands of farmers in rural communities," Swain related.

Swain and Kabes will establish a marketing resource system that provides marketing assistance, ideas, information and procedures to help current and potential alternate agriculture farmers develop and evaluate individualized marketing plans to capitalize on their products. Once the information is compiled, it will be available for surfers on the web.

"Our web page will be a one-stop shopping center for individuals interested in making money," commented Swain.

The web site will contain the marketing system and links to other pages on the subject of alternative farming and other entrepreneurial ideas. The purpose is to allow individuals to gain information in the fastest and simplest manner possible.

Under the grant, computers also will be utilized in senior centers, schools, and libraries in Birchwood, Mikana, Reserve, New Post, Chetek, Bruce, Exeland, Weyerhaeuser, Shell Lake, Turtle Lake, Winter, Radison, Lake Holcombe, Glen Flora, Sheldon, Tony, Ingram, Ladysmith, and Hawkins, in the CESA 11 region.

To guarantee that all people are able to take advantage of this resource, the Managing Information with Rural America, or the MIRA organization, has integrated youth and senior citizens into the program. High school students will train senior citizens how to use the computers and the Internet. Once trained, the seniors will serve as resources at these sites to farmers interested in improving or establishing their businesses. Sites will also be available in agriculture departments in high schools.

Other ways that the information will be distributed is through mailings, workshops, and programs.

The communities were selected because they are lagging economically behind other regions in Wisconsin, Swain said.

Swain commented, "We want to try to improve their income and educational level. Currently, farmers only get an average of 24 percent of the income potential from consumers. That means there's still an average of 76 percent that's available for the farmer to collect. That's what we're going to help the farmer get."

The concept of value-added marketing is taking raw products and coming up with an innovative approach to increase the amount of profit. In other Wisconsin communities Swain and Kabes have implemented various schemes to help farmers to use this concept. Some examples are shared-use kitchens where farmers can rent time to process and market jams and jellies, having mini dairies, or marketing meat and dairy products. Value-added products allow the farmer to directly market to the consumer.

An alternate farmer is someone who produces commodities not normally found in conventional farming operations. Products such as organic vegetables, herbs, ostrich or deer meat, and dairy goat products are all examples.

Swain and Kabes are compiling information for the site by meeting with high school vocational agricultural instructors, city administrators and librarians, and University of Wisconsin extension agents, developing a questionnaire, and conducting a survey.

All of this information should be available for farmers to access on the Web by next August.

"We're continuing the Wisconsin idea-transferring information," Swain said.

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