Extension launches Local Flavor microsite

The Mississippi State University Extension Service has launched a microsite that delivers information on each facet of the state’s local foods industry, including farmers markets like this one in Hernando.

The Mississippi State University Extension Service has launched an Internet microsite that delivers information on each facet of the state’s local foods industry.

Local Flavor is a new Extension initiative that brings together a team of Extension and research experts to support the development of Mississippi’s local foods industry.

“The Local Flavor site has been designed by MSU Extension to create a clearinghouse of Extension educational programs and research that supports all sectors within local food systems across Mississippi,” said James Barnes, MSU Extension associate professor of agricultural economics. “We hope the site makes it a little easier for people to find the right resource or Extension specialist or agent that can help answer their questions.”

The Local Flavor site also features the newest publications related to the development of the local foods industry in Mississippi.

“Some of the recent publications that we’ve focused on range from the economic contribution of specialty crops to Mississippi’s economy to how local governments can take a proactive role in supporting the development of farmers markets across Mississippi,” Barnes said.

The microsite is divided into five sections: farmers markets, culinary tourism, specialty crop production, local food system economies, and marketing and business planning.

“Extension’s role is to provide research-based information to help improve lives in Mississippi,” said Rachael Carter, instructor with the MSU Extension Center for Government and Community Development. “We are the primary resource for anyone wanting to start a food-based business and learn how to market that business to be profitable.”

The site has Extension publications, videos and other resources that help users walk through the steps related to starting a local food business. These include production, marketing, regulations, food safety and business planning.

“Local foods can range from having a small dairy farm to producing such value-added food products as bread or jams,” Carter said. “We wanted to bring together all the pieces of the local foods puzzle in one place that is easy to navigate.”

Each page lists contact information for Extension specialists who can help users get answers to their questions.

“There are modules where consumers can educate themselves, but they also can contact an agent if they’re interested in a particular program and want more information,” Carter said. “Food system economy information is broken down to a local level so users can evaluate the economic climate in their area before they take their next step.”

Thanks to a Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce grant, local food system profiles for every county are now available as well.

“Agriculture makes a large economic contribution to Mississippi’s economy, so more work will focus on agricultural economic development of local food systems,” Barnes said. “A tool that we’ve developed to help is a series of local food system county profiles. The profiles show changes in local food systems across Mississippi.”

Extension will host a workshop July 31 in Hattiesburg on a Local Flavor topic: Funding, Financing, and Grant Writing for Local Foods Growers, Farmers Markets and Local Food Initiatives.

“This workshop will cover all the bases for someone needing access to capital for a local foods venture,” Carter said. “Topics will range from working with a bank on financing, to understanding funding resources and farm programs, to basic grant writing and what grants are right for what types of projects.”

Nathan Gregory | MSU Extension Service

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