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Food for Thought: Savvy Marketing Spurs Ag-Biz Industry’s Growth

It’s no secret genetics and robotics are transforming the agricultural-business industry, from planting to production.

Less heralded, but no less important, are the innovative marketing efforts that Michigan’s agricultural community are embracing to spur sales, create jobs and grow awareness about our state’s world-class quality offerings.

Our industry is surging as farmers benefit from a global uptick in food prices and as Michigan consumers buy more local products. Agriculture has become our state’s fastest growing major industry over the past decade and now ranks as Michigan’s second-largest industry, generating more than $71.3 billion every year and employing more than 1 million people.

Communicating these positive messages about the success of Michigan’s agri-food industry—which includes farmers, food processors, equipment manufacturers, specialists and local food sellers—is critical to ensuring our state’s economic advancement.

At Ovid-based Great Lakes Hybrids (GLH), for example, we’ve expanded our marketing focus as Michigan’s largest company producing seed corn to include a new emphasis on GLH’s outstanding commitment to protecting natural resources, conserving energy and reducing our impact on Michigan’s water, land and air.

GLH is a proud recipient of the Michigan Agri-Business Association (MABA) 2011 Green Agri-Business Designation. The MABA honor was in recognition of GLH’s deployment and implementation of cutting-edge green programs, including aggressive recycling programs to reduce waste and reuse materials; investing in renewable bio-based fuels and energy-efficient vehicles and equipment; promoting site-specific agronomy technology and variable rate fertilizer application; recycling and reusing water; developing sustainable, nontoxic products; and deploying energy-efficient electric and heating/cooling and other equipment.

The MABA announcement not only garnered statewide praise from GLH customers but also culminated with a public relations coup for our company after the Detroit Free Press published a story about GLH’s use of new technologies that drew favorable comments from prospective new clients.

Savvy marketing by Michigan agri-food businesses exemplifies how we can benefit growers, inform consumers and bolster our state’s blossoming agri-tourism industry.

Apple shoppers who use an Apple iPhone now have a new way to find the locally grown products they are looking for at Michigan orchards, cider mills, farmers’ markets and on-farm markets with the help of a new software application (app) for smartphones. Michigan is among the first states to develop such an innovative app for agriculture, which was a joint effort of the Michigan Apple Committee, Michigan Farm Marketing & Agri-tourism Association, Michigan Farmers Market Association and the Michigan Cider Makers’ Guild. The app currently covers about 300 direct sales locations.

Michiganfamilyfarms.com is a new website promoting Michigan’s family-owned farms and serves as a one-stop shop for those seeking to buy products or find a farmer. The idea, developed by a Grand Rapids advertising firm and small farmers in northern Michigan, is to tap the growing market of consumers that seek to be better informed about their food choices.

Several Michigan agri-food companies and commodities are moving forward with plans to integrate their brand advertising with the state’s national award-winning and globally recognized Pure Michigan campaign, including Pioneer Sugar, Hudsonville Ice Cream and other dairy producers, as well as St. Julian and many other Michigan wineries.

These marketing triumphs demonstrate how Michigan’s agri-business industry is dynamic and holds tremendous potential. We can propel Michigan’s momentum further by continuing to tap into our innovative spirit, abundant resources and unbridled work ethic.

Doug Little is general manager of Great Lakes Hybrids in Ovid. He can be reached at Doug.Little@greatlakeshybrids.com.



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