Access to Research and Technical Assistance
“Access to Research and Technical Assistance”
Feasibility Specialist- Agricultural Development Center
The University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service
It is always a pleasure to be the first in a series of speakers because: “the early bird gets the worm,” right? Well, my colleagues on this panel will probably be quick to remind me that while “the early bird gets the worm…the second mouse gets the cheese.” Regardless of the order, I am here to kick-off this session titled “Access to Research and Technical Assistance .” If I was going to make one change in that title I’d like for it to read “Access to Research, Marketing, Financial and Technical Assistance. Because it is those last three [Research Marketing, Financial] in which my organization specializes. I certainly appreciate the opportunity to be with you this afternoon to present information about the exciting, new program on which The University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service has embarked.
Sometimes the mention of the Extension Service creates a certain “thought” in your mind. Sometimes its a good thought and sometimes maybe not so good. Tennessee is fortunate to have a strong agricultural extension service in each of its 95 counties. Our heritage is solid in the delivery of sound production, financial and marketing information and education However, during recent years, a need to “get outside the box” and go beyond our comfort zones has been identified. We looked at the philosophy: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” And we decided to reach for more.
In cooperation with the Governor’s Conference on Agriculture and Forestry, the Agricultural Development Center was created to work with individuals [farmers and entrepreneurs] who have ideas on adding value to agricultural commodities . Our mission is: “to increase the value of Tennessee’s economy through new, expanded and improved processing and marketing of agricultural, aquacultural and forestry products and home-based businesses.”
Our job this afternoon is pretty easy. Everything that I’m going to say has already been said today. But I’m going to try to put the value-added, entrepreneurship, cooperative efforts, feasibility, marketing and production concepts together in a little different fashion.
Because we at the Agricultural Development Center work with individuals on evaluating their value-added ideas, we had to work to define what we mean by value added. We settled on identifying value added as processing, packaging and marketing. This can be looked at as doing more of the preparation of a product for the consumer than you did before. Therefore, a value-added activity for one producer may not be a value-added activity for another. Adding value can also be achieved by preparing and positioning an agricultural product in a way that it better meets the consumer’s needs. Adding value can also be considered as doing something to capture part of the consumer dollar that is not being captured beyond the farm gate.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture,(on average) only 23 cents of every consumer dollar spent on food makes it back to the farm level. So, there is (on average) 77 cents available to the farmer (entrepreneur) through adding value. Another way to look at this same scenario is to compare the average cost of producing all agricultural goods with the average prices received. Graphically, it is easy to see that the average cost of production is greater than the average price received today. So, it is clear that there would be a growing interest by farmers seeking to add value to their enterprises in order to compete and sustain.
The Agricultural Development Center is designed to provide a multi-disciplinary approach to each value-added project. We do this by involving specialists from production, feasibility and marketing on each project. These three disciplines contribute to provide feasibility studies, market analyses, marketing plans, management audits, financial analyses, production plans, regulatory investigations and other programs and services.
The Agricultural Development Center is currently staffed with a full-time marketing and feasibility specialist as well as partial appointments from three food scientists, a forest products specialist, a business analyst and a food engineer. In addition, we have access to all of the other specialists in the Extension service such as our aquaculture specialist, poultry specialist, agronomy specialist and turfgrass specialist.
Because we are committed to doing things different than we have done them in the past, we implemented an application process to help streamline the procedure for selecting projects in the Center. Once an application form has been completed and returned to the Center, a team of specialists evaluate it and determine whether it meets our pre-defined criteria. All projects must have a relation to Tennessee agriculture, aquaculture or forestry, must be produced in Tennessee, must be within the Center’s capabilities and must propose to add value.
Once a project has been accepted by the Center, it is researched, evaluated and analyzed to the best interest of the applicant in order to assist them in further considerations or development. A printed report of the Center’s findings is prepared for each project. The report is delivered and presented to the applicant in order to best assist in the project’s evaluation. The Center and other Extension programs can often step-in to assist in the actual implementation of the project once the planning and evaluation are completed.
As we work on particular projects, we often determine many useful items for those in addition to the project applicant. For instance, many folks could utilize information prepared concerning applying for a trademark. So, we try to take advantage of these opportunities by preparing individual fact sheets to extend the use of our evaluation and research. Many of these fact sheets can be found on the Agricultural Development Center’s web site at: www.utextension.utk.edu/adc/.
In summary, the Agricultural Development Center is a “one-stop-shopping” resource. We provide a multi-disciplinary team approach for the evaluation and development of value-added agricultural idDeas. We cooperate with other branches of the U.T. Institute of Agriculture [Teaching and Research], the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Other Branches of the University System, Private Interests and Other Agencies [S.C.O.R.E., SBDC, USDA].
The Agricultural Development Center has only been in existence since April of this year. We have completed evaluating nine different value-added projects and are currently addressing seven others. Project ideas have included free-range chickens, special recipe preserves, hot sauces, a composted soil amendment, a new cabbage-based condiment, value-added sweet potatoes and farm fresh milk products. The Agricultural Development Center is responding to a unique opportunity to improve local economies and enhance sustainable agriculture efforts by working to assist in the planning, evaluation and development of value-added ideas.
Return to Presentation Menu