Friday, April 29, 2011

Surveys of mid-Atlantic consumers conducted by Penn State researchers part 11

Continuing with the Penn State research I've been writing about the past few months, a series of questions asked participants to indicate their purchasing behaviors towards new varieties of fruits and/or vegetables. If participants indicated that they noticed and purchased a new variety of a fruit or vegetable, they were then asked to indicate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with a list of reasons for purchasing a new produce variety.

For the participants who noticed and purchased a new variety, they reported, on average, that they “somewhat agreed” to purchasing a new produce variety (an average of “5,” according to a scale, with “1” equaling “strongly disagree,” and “7,” “strongly agree”) because of the “visual quality” of the produce, that the “appearance of the produce was appealing,” and that they “enjoyed trying new foods,” as shown in the graph below. Participants also reported that they “somewhat disagreed” (an average of “3”) to purchasing a new produce variety because the “item was featured in an advertisement.” Additionally, they reported being “neutral” (an average of “4”) towards “price” of the new produce variety for choosing to purchase.

To read more about this topic, please see the press release.

As you can see by the graph, "visual quality" and "appearance was appealing" are 2 of the 3 highest ranking reasons for trying a new produce variety. As an ag entrepreneur, how do you showcase your new offerings? As a consumer, how do you agree/disagree with these results? What are your most important reasons for trying a new produce variety?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Get Marketing! Use Foursquare to Your Advantage

For owners of smartphones (iphone, androids, etc.) foursquare is a fun little application to download and use on their phones.  It's a location based application that lets users "check-in" at whatever location they may be at.  Check-ins are shared with other foursquare users, either all users or a smaller designated circle of friends.  For instance, when I come to work I check-in at my building - Armsby Building - as do some of my foursquare using colleagues.  And we've created a friendly competition out of this resulting in me being the "mayor" of Armsby (i.e. I've checked-in most often during a 60 day time period).

But foursquare can be, and is, more than a fun game.  Businesses can use foursquare to their advantage as a marketing tool.  At the most basic level, it can be considered "word of mouth" advertising.  Think of the power in having a foursquare user check-in at your business or market on a regular basis and that being shared with all of their friends!  Beyond that though, you can use foursquare to offer specials to your foursquare-using customers.  You can create a mayor's special, loyalty special, and newbie special, among others.  Think of it as electronic couponing - rewarding those who visit you.

Analysis of foursquare data is also available - a must for determining value in your foursquare use.  You can keep track of the number of check-ins, what time of day check-ins occur, as well as age and gender breakdown - all for a variety of timeperiods.

Hopefully you're intrigued.  If so, check out this article from about how to get started with foursquare marketing.  Foursquare itself also provides lots of assistance and information for businesses on using the application.

Friday, April 22, 2011

New USDA BioPreferred Label Launched

On March 31, 2011, the USDA launched the BioPreferred label program. According to the 2002 Farm Bill, “biobased products are commercial or industrial products (other than food or feed) that are composed in whole, or in significant part, of biological products, renewable agricultural materials (including plant, animal, and marine materials), or forestry materials…and biobased intermediate ingredients or feedstocks.”

This broad definition may bring about images of “eco-friendly” products, but is that really the case? A product only needs to contain 25% biobased content to qualify for this label. The label also doesn’t distinguish if the product was created with sustainable agricultural practices.

As an ag entrepreneur that produces these kinds of products, do you think the BioPreferred label helps or hurts your business? Do you think it helps or hurts your industry? As a consumer, do you think this label brings about clarity or confusion about these types of products? Will you be looking to purchase products with this label?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Surveys of mid-Atlantic consumers conducted by Penn State researchers part 10

Are you curious as to why people buy organic produce? Continuing with the research conducted by Penn State on consumer purchasing behaviors, reasons why people buy organics was specifically studied.

A series of questions asked participants to indicate their certified-organic purchasing behaviors including whether or not they purchased certified-organic fruits and vegetables. Participants who responded “Yes” to this question (34.2%) were then prompted to answer two additional questions: a) how frequently they purchased certified-organic fruits and vegetables and b) for what reasons they decided to purchase certified-organic, as opposed to purchasing conventional options. The majority of participants who reported purchasing certified-organic fruits and vegetables either made these purchases 2 to 3 times per month (30.7%) or once per week (29%).

Additionally, when participants who reported purchasing certified-organic produce were asked if a given “concern” encouraged them to purchase such produce, as opposed to purchasing conventionally-grown produce, a variety of concerns appeared to impact their purchasing decision. For each of the concerns presented, participants responded that they “Agree” to “Somewhat Agree” that the individual concern positively influenced their decision to purchase certified-organic fruits and vegetables. For example, participants responded that when making a fruit or vegetable purchasing decision, they “Agreed” that the “impact of pesticides on the environment” concerned them (see graph below).

To read more about this topic, please visit

As an ag entrepreneur (selling conventional produce), what does this information mean to you? If you are selling organics, how does this information align with what you hear from your customers?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What Can I Rent My Land For?

Last night I received an email from someone interested in knowing what they could rent some acreage for.  This is not an uncommon question, but it does pose difficulty in providing a specific dollar figure (which is what folks typically are looking for).  The problem in giving people a specfic amount lies in the fact that there is no one correct answer...even for two parcels that may be adjacent to each other.  There are numerous factors that go toward determining an appropriate rental rate and it is subjective to a degree on the land owner's answers to some questions which follow.
Land rental questions to consider:
  1. Is there an alternative use for the land that you're renting?  Does the alternative use create revenue?  If so, how much?  Land with alternative uses for generating revenue can potentially demand a higher rate.
  2. What are your for tillable land factors in the areas of soil quality, field size and field topography?  Large fields with higher quality soils that have more desireable topography can demand a higher rental rate than fields with poorer quality soils, small acreage, or less desireable topography.
  3. Are there similar rentals available in the area?  If so, what are they charging?  Sometimes this is difficult to find out so you may have to work on gut feelings as to what a going rate in the area may be.  Areas of PA, such as the Southeast, tend to have higher rates than other areas.
  4. How much are taxes on the land?  This is a cost in addition to general maintenance (for laneways, etc.) that needs to be built into a minimum rental fee.  Whatever the amount ownership costs add up to be needs to be covered.
  5. Is there more than one party interested in renting what you have available?  If so, what would they use it for?  Sometimes, depending on the intended use for what's being rented you, the owner, may want to charge less or more.  So for instance, if you as a land owner are passionate about organic agriculture, you may be willing to rent land to an organic producer for less than what you would rent to someone using conventional methods.  You should still charge enough to cover your costs, but to support organic agriculture you may be willing to forego some profit.  If there are multiple possible renters and use doesn't matter, determine the minimum rent (based on expenses), determine what you'd like to receive in rent and see who will pay that rate.  Negotiation can follow from there if needed.
Finally, not related to rental rate, but still important, you should have a written contract.  The contract (at its minimum) should spell out the rental rate, length of use, and any restrictions on use.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Making the Most of Your Domain Name

If you've decided to start a website for your business, you must first buy a domain name (aka a web address like A quick google search for hosting companies will bring back hundreds of companies that sell domain names. Choose one that has good reviews and the payment options you prefer.

Once you've decided on a hosting company, you need to choose what you want your domain name to be. In the article "Do's and Don'ts of Securing a Domain Name" on, author Jane Porter describes some important things to consider when choosing a domain name.

1. Include a location or keywords in your domain name, if you can. When Mikalai Krivenko needed a domain for his painting business in Hoboken, N.J. in 2009, he chose, which shows up at the top of keyword searches that include "Hoboken" and "painter." Whether it's location, or what your company does, Krivenko advises: "Put the most important keyword for your industry in the domain name."

2. Register yourself as the owner of the domain name. "It's just like a piece of property. If you don't own the property, you can't sell an existing business," says Jean Bedord, a Silicon Valley-based search consultant and author of the book I've Got a Domain Name--Now What???.

3. Remember to renew your domain name registration. If you lapse in renewing your registration, another company can buy your domain name and then you are out the domain name you have been using. Customers might lose touch with you because they can't find your website.

4. Don't use dashes, abbreviations or numbers in your domain name. "You get much more word-of-mouth if it's a name you can easily say without having to spell out," says Fan Bi, owner of clothing line Blank Label. His website traffic rose 25% when he changed from to

5. Don't waste money on extensions other than .com. "The reality is you have to pay for every one of those. The value is really in the .com," says Bedford.

6. Don't buy a domain without checking into its past. Even available domains can be exposed to legal trouble if the name is too similar to another company's trademark.

As an ag entrepreneur, do you have a website? How did you choose your web address?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Thinking About Starting a Business: Things to Consider

The purpose of this blog is to help future and current entrepreneurs make educated decisions about their businesses, so I thought it would be helpful to review what things you should consider BEFORE opening your business.

The Fox Business Small Business Center has a nice slideshow titled "10 Steps to Start a Business". This checklist is a great way to get a quick overview of tasks to do if you are thinking of starting a small business. There is a lot of work involved in starting up a small business, so this list can help you determine if entrepreneurship is right for you. If you go through the checklist and are confident that you want to open a small business, then you can get more in-depth information on how to complete these tasks from Penn State Cooperative Extension and your local Small Business Development Center.

The Checklist
1. Create a Business Plan
2. Get Business Assistance and Training
3. Choose the Right Location
4. Finance Your Business
5. Determine the Legal Structure of Your Business
6. Register a Business or 'DBA' Name
7. Get a Tax Identification Number
8. Register for State and Local Taxes
9. Obtain Business Licenses and Permits
10. Understand Employer Responsibilities

As a current ag entrepreneur, did you consider all of these things before opening your business? Do you have any advice for future entrepreneurs on how to complete these tasks? Are there any other things you would add to this checklist?