Marketplace readiness workshop series helps grow local food economy

Fledgling food entrepreneurs can receive startup assistance by participating in the “Marketplace Readiness” workshop series offered in Hood River on Aug. 12, 13 and 14 from 1-5 p.m. OSU Extension, Gorge Grown Food Network and Columbia Gorge Community College are collaboratively hosting the series.

The classes are designed to assist new food business entrepreneurs working to launch a local food product. Information about the agenda, registration and workshop costs can be found online at www.gorgegrown.com or by calling 541-490-6420.

Each workshop in the series will feature a different focus area. The Aug. 12 workshop will address getting your product to market with Sarah Masoni from the Food Innovation Center and Laura Barton from the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Topics will include pricing, labeling requirements, food safety, wholesale markets, and marketing strategies.

The Aug. 13 workshop will review the rules and regulations that food businesses must navigate in Oregon and Washington; local and state agency representatives will be on hand to deliver information and to answer specific questions.

The Aug. 14 workshop, taught by marketing professionals and graphic designers with food branding experience, will focus on how to develop a strong food brand. Students will learn about logo design, branding, labels and packaging and have a chance to work on their own branding concepts.

Additionally, immediately preceding the marketing workshop, CGCC is hosting an information session about the commercial kitchen it operates as a resource for value-added producers. Students who complete all of the courses will earn a “marketplace readiness” certificate.

New food enterprises are sprouting up throughout the Gorge. Banking on the idea that local ingredients make good business sense, local entrepreneurs are bringing new cheeses, hard ciders, hot sauces, sauerkraut, sausages and more to the regional marketplace.

These producers are referred to as “value-added producers” because they are adding market value to food by altering it from its natural state (for example, you add value to cucumbers by turning them into pickles).

GGFN, OSU Extension, WSU Extension, CGCC and other regional partners are working together to support these new value-added businesses.

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