Making Markets

June 22, 2008 07:00 PM

Sara Muri
, Top Producer Business & Crops Online Editor


Rarely is the link between producers and consumer direct. A web-based marketing tool, Food Industry MarketMaker, is hoping to change that by providing direct paths between anyone who eats or produces food.

"MarketMaker basically links everyone from farm to fork,” says Sandy Shelter, extension specialist, educational technology for University of Illinois.


The tool aims to be a one-stop shop for producers, consumers and business owners in finding marketing opportunities. It serves as a networking device to connect all these food-related groups to develop direct-marking opportunities. Currently, 4,854 agricultural producers in 10 states participate in the program, Shelter says.


Basically, MarketMaker works as a search engine for food-related queries. Farmers can post what products they have for sale, restaurants can look for specific products they need and consumers can locate nearby producers or farmers markets. "There are a lot of ways to use this tool,” says Ken Hood, extension professor at Mississippi State University. "It ties together both sides of the marketing equation.”


In addition to providing the opportunity to locate specific producers or consumers, MarketMaker also allows users to use multiple factors in locating markets in one place on the Web, Hood says.


For example, Hood says if oriental vegetable growers in Mississippi wanted to find a strong market for their product, they could request a map showing an area with a high concentration of upper-income Asian descent households. Then, the producer could find all the grocery stores or restaurants in that area and access contact information for these businesses. Users can also perform multi-state searches.


MarketMaker allows users to query the database for census data in the following areas:

  • Household Type
  • Education
  • Foreign Born
  • Race
  • Income
  • Income by Race

"Normally that type of information is not easily available,” Hood says.

Shelter predicts the number of participating producers to increase, which will provide more opportunities for all types of farmers. "As this grows,” she says, "producers will have a greater chance of finding people who want their products.”

MarketMaker began at the University of Illinois around five years ago. Shelter says she believes several more states will sign on by the end of the year.

To learn more about MarketMaker, visit



You can e-mail Sara Muri at


This article appeared in the June 5 issue of Top Producer's Moneywise eNewsletter. To sign up for a free subscription, click here.
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