July 21, 2016. The Farm Credit MarketMaker Innovation Awards were recently announced at the 18th Annual National Value Added Agriculture Conference, which was held July 20 - 22nd in Madison, WI. This award recognizes outstanding efforts by state and local MarketMaker programs around the country. These showcased best practices contribute to the development of local and regional food systems and help farmers’ connect to new market opportunities. Farm Credit has sponsored this award for 6 years and contributes incentive cash rewards for the winners and runners-up to use to advance their MarketMaker related programs. Paul Dietmann, Farm Credits Emerging Markets Specialist with Badgerland Financial in Madison Wisconsin was on hand to present the awards.
Receiving top honors was John Westra with the LSU AgCenter and Louisiana MarketMaker. His proposal entitled, “Components that Worked for Louisiana MarketMaker” built upon a previous award winner, the Market Ready Training Program, developed at the University of Kentucky. Westra and his team adapted the program for Louisiana and were able to prepare over 200 farmers to sell into wholesale markets. During the program the LSU team also introduced producers to ways they could use MarketMaker to find buyers and identify new market opportunities. In addition, producers, grocers, restaurants and caterers learned how MarketMaker could be used as a way to source locally and regionally grown products.