Sunday, December 23, 2012

What's New in Ag Business Education? (part 2)

In last week's post, I talked about 2 of the educational opportunities available for future or current farm and food business owners.  Below you will find 2 more classes we offer in our class catalog. 

Estimating & Bidding for Landscape Installation  
Allentown, PA

Preliminary Day - January 15, 2013 (9:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.)
This session is for newer businesses or owner-operators who have not established a confident bidding procedure. Designed to be a preliminary day to cover the very basics including terminology and the different types of estimates. The pitfalls of some common bidding practices will be discussed. Explore production rates in depth, including why you need to know what they are for your business and how to find them. Discuss profit and reasonable returns. There will be opportunity to ask questions and discuss bidding with other contractors.

 Nuts and Bolts - January 16 & 17, 2013 (9:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.)
This is a two day intensive workshop to determine the overhead of a business and create a bid. This workshop is for businesses who want to be sure they are including all overhead costs in their calculations and fine-tune their bidding procedure. The first day we will work through an Excel spreadsheet to figure overhead costs. Each participant will receive an electronic copy of this spreadsheet so they can adapt it and use it for their own business. The second day we will create a bid for a small hardscape and plant installation job in detail, using the overhead costs determined in the first day of the class.

For more info or to register, please visit the registration page.

Annie’s Project  
January 15, 2013 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM in Gettysburg, PA

This national Cooperative Extension program is an 8 session class that empowers women in farming to manage information systems used in critical decision making, and to build local net-works of like-minded friends.  The sessions focus on all five areas of Risk Management – Production, Market, Financial, Legal, and Human Resources, and combine a short educational presentation by a Penn State Extension educator, class discussion, individual and small group activities, and guest speaker(s) who share the day-to-day application of proven risk management techniques and strategies. Several sessions will be held in a computer lab for participants to gain hands-on skills with software applicable to farm information systems.

By the final session, participants will have begun writing business risk management plans for their farms, and applying action steps that have been discussed in class, to daily operations.

For more info or to register, please visit the registration page

More educational opportunities to come in future blog posts!  As always, please check the Ag Entrepreneurship Calendar for all event listings.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

What's New in Ag Business Education? (part 1)

Did you know that Penn State Extension regularly holds classes on a multitude of different business topics?  Classes range from beginner (those just starting to think about creating an ag business) to advanced (those who are veteran business owners thinking about succession planning).  Below is a brief description of just a few of the courses Penn State Extension will be offering in early 2013.

Social Media Boot Camp for Ag Businesses 

During this 2-day boot camp, we'll discuss the basics of several tools such as Twitter and Facebook and get you thinking about their strategic use.

The first day of the workshop will be spent in a computer lab where you will begin developing your Facebook, Twitter, foursquare, and Yelp pages.

On the second day you will develop social media goals and objectives, a strategy for achieving those, and be introduced to tools for measuring and analyzing your social media impact.  You’ll also hear from a farmer on their use of social media tools.

For more info, please visit the program page.

Your Future in Focus 
Sessions will be held on Mondays between January 14 and March 11, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. in York, PA

This 8 session class empowers farming and food entrepreneurs to build a business plan for their venture – whether a start-up or a long-established business.

As a member of the Your Future in Focus class, you will consider appropriate business structure, actively pursue goal-setting, build a strategy for marketing your products/services, and gain skill in the development/analysis of financial documents – all steps that lead toward writing a complete business plan. As the weeks progress, experienced instructors will guide you through the process of business and risk management planning, providing feedback throughout the course. Most important, you will receive training and support needed to produce a draft written business plan – the key business risk management tool that can be used both for daily management decision making, and as well as serve as a proposal for start-up or expansion funding.

For more info and to register, please visit the registration page

I'll be talking more about our other class offerings next week.  You can also view entire the Penn State Extension Ag Entrepreneurship Team's calendar now on our website

If you see a class you want to attend but not in a location near you, don't fret!  Let us know on our Facebook page and we will try to schedule a class near you.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hot Sauce is Hot in 2013! How Demographics Help Mold Food Trends

Fellow blogger Sarah Cornelisse recently tweeted a link to an article on the biggest trends in business in 2013.  One of the trends included the popularity of hot sauces.  Hot sauce production is one of the 10 fastest-growing industries in the US reports IBISWorld, an industry analysis firm.

Why is the hot sauce industry expanding so much?  Both Dave DeWitt (producer of the National Fiery Foods & Barbeque Show) and IBISWorld point to the increasing popularity of international foods.  In the article, they illustrate the increased sales of hot sauces.  "Research firm Mintel reports that sales of sauces and marinades--including hot sauces--jumped 20 percent between 2005 and 2010 and are expected to increase another 19 percent by 2015."

An article on also discusses the popularity of spicy flavors.  In 2011,  the “Packaged Facts Food Shopper Insights Survey” showed that 53% of U.S. grocery shoppers “somewhat” or “strongly” agree they “like hot and spicy foods" with a percentage rise to 58% among Gen Y (born 1977-1994)  adults.  The article also says that, "The same survey revealed that a majority of adult shoppers seeking global foods purchase Mexican and Chinese/Japanese flavored items. However, a larger percentage of Gen Y adults than adult shoppers in general seek out Indian/South Central Asian and Middle Eastern flavors. This indicates a broad interest in global flavors of all kinds."

By knowing your target audience, you can develop the best marketing plan for your product.  For example, the  “Packaged Facts Food Shopper Insights Survey” showed  that 58 % of Gen Y respondents "like hot and spicy foods".  By looking at demographic information on, you could find where the highest concentration of Gen Y adults are in Pennsylvania (see Figure 1).  Thus, you can target the release of your product in areas where your audience is most highly concentrated.  

Figure 1.  Population concentration of 19 to 24 year olds in Pennsylvania.

Check out the Resources tab on for more information on using demographics in developing your marketing plan as well as relevant industry information.