"Market Maker" Matches Food Products to Buyers

Ray Hansen, Director of AgMRC and Marsha Laux, P&S, Value-Added Agriculture    


Producers of food products struggle with finding sufficient marketing opportunities or avenues for their products.  Agriculture producers also want to validate and quantify demand for specific products and/or product attributes as they plan their production.  Determining the types of products and the quantities of products to grow are problems that many food producers struggle with.


The Iowa Market Maker program is an interactive mapping system that locates businesses and markets of agricultural products in Iowa, providing an important link between producers and consumers.  It is a collaborative and cooperative program developed with the University of Illinois specifically for Iowa producers.  Additionally, Market Maker has taken off from Illinois and then Iowa, to be utilized in Nebraska, Kentucky and New York in just a few short years.  Additional states coming on board are Michigan, Indiana, Mississippi and Georgia.  Other states expressing interest and currently evaluating their participation are Ohio, Colorado, Washington DC, Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas, North Carolina and Delaware.  The momentum indicates that a complete nation-wide Market Maker is on the horizon.


Success for the Iowa Market Maker program depends upon utilization of the system and building sufficient products and buyers of those products.  The program provides individual producer (seller) contacts, listing products and attributes and individual buyers, providing retail, wholesale, and direct marketing outlets.  Farmers markets, meat processors and businesses such as restaurants and grocery stores can all be found by zip code or by attributes and criteria entered by that entity. 

Staff in the Value Added Agriculture office and from the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center has been promoting the Market Maker program to producers and consumers at every educational and promotional event possible.  Tri-fold, business card size brochures, full-page brochures and other promotional materials have been distributed to participants in workshops, meetings and conferences around the nation, leveraging federal, state and local dollars and programs. 


Producers in Iowa can utilize the Iowa Market Maker, the National Market Maker, or another individual states site to access markets by geographic location.  For instance, a producer in the Quad Cities may be ale to search for buyers of a meat goat product by searching through the information database at the Market Maker site derived from Census and commerce data, for instance, to find a region of Illinois or Iowa to market his high value meat goats.  He can find restaurants and grocery stores by zip code, and then overlay that with Census data that identifies pockets of various ethnic populations.  Within that zip code, he can locate the phone number or addresses of lists of retail, direct or wholesale buyers, for instance.  Additionally, those buyers can locate the seller, by searching for specific products and attributes of products within various ranges or distances. 

Case Studies have been developed and several specific-area programs have targeted utilizing Market Maker as a way to increase producers marketing awareness and to increase demand for local foods.  Those programs have been initiated in a collaborative nature, working with local RC&Ds, Farmers markets, Buy-Fresh, Buy-Local programs, Practical Farmers of Iowa, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, the Value Added Agriculture office, the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, field specialists and county Extension offices.

In Iowa alone, since the introduction of the Market Maker interactive web site was introduced a year ago, over 217 producers have self-registered on the web site.  Combined with the other 4 states currently online with the Market Maker program, there are a total of 3,677 registered producers.  Additionally, in Iowa, there are 12,501 businesses, 241 meat processors, 63 farmers markets registered.   The five states bring a total of over 160,000 businesses, 1,739 meat processors, and 782 farmers markets.  Additional information is being added as more states are added on to the Market Maker system. 

This activity has generated interest in marketing through the site and Iowa users average nearly 20,000 hits per month on the web site, while nationally there are now well over 100,000 hits per month on the site.  The Iowa Market Maker site, sponsored in part by the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center and the Value Added Agriculture program can be found at: http://ia.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/ and nationally at: http://national.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/.

120  Farm and Business Management


Page last updated: September 28, 2007
Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu