Acadiana Business

From farm to (online) market

by Heather Miller

Launched about a year ago, MarketMaker program hopes to see more local ag merchants take advantage of its free farming network.

Regional ag industry leaders are spreading the word about a niche agriculture website that's 500,000 profiles strong, urging more local farmers to hop on the bandwagon of MarketMaker, an online resource for local agriculture merchants looking to connect with consumers.

What began several years ago as a place for Illinois farmers to connect with buyers, MarketMaker includes roughly half a million profiles detailing a wide variety of local products and businesses that dabble in the agricultural business. As reported recently on The Advocate's website, Louisiana is one of 18 states to join the farmers' Facebook of sorts, which gives Lafayette's growing affinity for farm-to-table cuisine a big boost in the way of finding locally grown grub:

Anybody in Louisiana with an agricultural product to sell - seafood, pecans, crawfish, strawberries - can establish an account on MarketMaker for free, said professor Roger Hinson, of the LSU AgCenter's Department of Agricultural Economics and one of the coordinators of the project.

Hinson said he first became aware of the program in the middle of the last decade, as it was demonstrated at various agricultural gatherings. Hinson and Westra began working with MarketMaker to bring it to Louisiana, but the cost could never quite be justified with the administration. But then in the late 2000s, the price of shrimp plummeted in the face of foreign imports, and people began to take notice. The potential impact of MarketMaker became a bit more appreciated.

It is not restricted to food products, but the business has to be agriculture-related, like agritourism, for example.

Providers can add images of their business and a link to their website, if they have one, and can add a narrative with more details about their business.

A simple MarketMaker business search for fresh vegetable farmers within 50 miles of Lafayette returns four listed businesses in Acadiana: D&K Growers of Abbeville, Gabrielle Acres Farm in New Iberia, Lajaunie Vegetable Farm in Carencro and Robins Farm in Church Point.

The site also has a separate market research feature for business owners and merchants to use, as well as a resource tab that offers dozens of agriculture website links and articles about the locally grown food industry.

Check out Louisiana's MarketMaker website here.