MYRTLE BEACH — Farmers and specialty food producers have the opportunity to learn how to expand their customer base to restaurants and niche markets during a new pilot program training seminar set for next week.
South Carolina Market Ready training will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 30 at the Clemson Extension office in Conway to give food producers information on how to sell their products directly to restaurants and retail managers, said Blake Lanford, an extension agent.
“This is one pilot program in broad array of efforts that facilitates the development of a local foods system. Not only do we anticipate that this program will be expanded statewide, but we hope that it leads to actual business relationships between local producers and local restaurant and grocery scale consumers,” Lanford said. “There are many other projects such as local foods incubators and distribution hubs in planning stages, but we first have to be able to address issues of supply and demand.”
For the Myrtle Beach area the concept is fairly new, compared with areas such as Charleston and Charlotte, N.C., and it is the first such program to be offered in the state, Lanford said. It is modeled after a program developed by a University of Kentucky professor.
“This is an ideal training for fruit and vegetable growers; producers who have meat, seafood, dairy or poultry products; and makers of value-added or processed foods, such as sauces, wine, jams and jellies, desserts or breads – any food product our South Carolina producers want to sell to a restaurant directly,” said Ansley Rast, program coordinator with S.C. Department of Agriculture. “This is intermediate-level training for entrepreneurs with existing products who want to establish accounts with local businesses.”
Program organizers seek to create another venue for local producers to sell their goods and not infringe on already established manufacturers, officials said.
“Growing interest in locally grown has fueled demand by restaurant chefs and foodservice managers for local products,” said Hugh Weathers, South Carolina agriculture commissioner. “This increase in demand for local has created a great opportunity for food producers looking for new markets.”
Once interest in the program grows, Lanford said he expects two or three such training classes will be held annually to expand farmer’s marketing expertise.
“Our interest has always been to provide farmers with the tools they need to sustain their businesses. We’re just adding to this array of assets in the area,” he said. “We’re not trying to take anything away from these current specialty shops, in fact we’re trying to help with things like our local food guide, which will feature all the sources of locally grown food and then let the consumers make the decision of the best source of what they’re after.”
Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723.