Soil to Shelf matches growers with retailers

By BY SUSAN COLLINS-SMITH MSU EXTENSION SERVICE,

JACKSON, Miss. -- Mississippi fruit and vegetable producers, specialty foods producers and interested farmers can learn how to get their products on local store shelves and into new markets during an upcoming meeting.

Soil to Shelf: A Grower-Retailer Matchmaking Meeting will be held Dec. 10 at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum in Jackson.

Topics include Genuine MS, the Farm to School Program, steps for direct selling, website and social media marketing, farm financial and production planning, and Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices certifications. Attendees will hear presentations from Mississippi State University Extension Service experts, multiple grocers and other retailers. Participants also will have the opportunity to talk one-on-one with presenters and retailers.

“Building relationships between local grocers and retailers and our agricultural producers has the potential to grow our rural economies in Mississippi,” said Rachael Carter, community planning specialist with the Extension Center for Government and Community Development. “Our grocery stores are such an important part of keeping a small town strong.”

On-site check-in begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Sparkman Building, located at 1150 Lakeland Drive in Jackson. The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. and conclude at 4 p.m. Lunch is included.

There is no cost to attend, but preregistration is required. Sign up on the Soil to Shelf registration page at https://register.extension.msstate.edu/soil-shelf. The project is part of Local Flavor, a new Extension program that supports the growth of the local foods industry by connecting growers, retailers and others in the food industry.

“A big part of Local Flavor is helping growers and others in the food industry grow their businesses,” said James Barnes, associate Extension professor in the MSU Department of Agricultural Economics. “We have some great partners who are working with us to accomplish the same goal here in Mississippi.”

The Soil to Shelf meeting is a partnership between Extension, Mississippi Power, the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, and the Southern Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education Center.

“The opportunity to meet and network with key buyers interested in purchasing local foods is important for our producers as they look to expand their marketing strategies and grow their businesses,” said Andy Gipson, Mississippi Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner. “We are proud of the partnership that was created to bring this opportunity to our farmers and local food producers.”

For more information about the meeting, call the MSU Extension Center for Technology Outreach at 662-325-3226 or the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce at 601-359-1159.

Mississippi State University is an equal opportunity institution. For disability accommodation, contact Michael Lasseter at 601-359-1120 or MichaelL@MDAC.ms.gov.