POPLARVILLE – Farmers, ranchers and others making a living in agriculture picked up information on marketing their products and operations during a two-day workshop hosted by Pearl River Community College.
The marketing workshop was co-sponsored by the Mississippi State University Extension Service, the Stennis Institute for Government, Southern Risk Management Education Center and the Center for Louisiana Studies.
Classroom sessions focused on using strategic marketing and targeted technology, such as websites and social media, to grow a business.
“Stakehholders in the agritourism industry told us that one of their biggest barriers was how to market their areas with changing technology,” said Rachel Carter of the MSU Extension Center for Government and Community Development.
Organizers chose PRCC as the workshop site because several area businesses, including Country Girl’s Creamery, already successfully market their operations.
“Poplarville and this region are very rich in agribusiness,” Carter said.
The workshop provided practical, useable information, said Betsy Rowell, executive director of the Stone County Economic Development Partnership.
“Wiggins is similar to Poplarville in many ways,” she said. “This is a way to learn more about how we can promote agritourism in our area.
Workshop participants spent the second day hearing first-hand about three area businesses – Country Girl’s Creamery, Red Gate Bison Ranch and Shroomdom mushrom farm.
“Tourism kind of happened on us,” said Butch Smith, co-owner of Country Girl’s Creamery. “We didn’t start out to do tours.”
Since opening six years ago to sell milk from approximately 100 Jersey cows, the operation has expanded its products, added tours and two annual festivals, opened an on-site store and found additional retail markets.
“We can do about 100 kids in about an hour and 15 minutes,” Smith said of the tours. “You have to be able to convey some understanding to various age groups. When we have people on tours, we do sell a lot of products.”
Paid advertising is limited to a fee for the website (www.countrygirlscreamery.com). The company also markets through Facebook.
The group also toured Red Gate Bison Ranch, which is in the formative stage of business.
Established two years ago by Andre and Beth Toups and Michele Roach, the operation ran into delays when Andre underwent cancer treatment for several months. Beth Toups stressed the importance of a detailed business plan, especially when coping with the unexpected.
“We’re not quite at the two-year mark in the plan,” Beth Toups said. “If you don’t have a plan when life gets in the way, you won’t know where to pick up.”
The ranch currently supports about 35 head of bison but only six are intended for slaughter in 18 to 24 months. Three animals have provided meat to date. Processing and packaging is done in Louisiana.
The long-range plan calls for retail sales in area groceries as well as delivery along the Interstate 59, I-10 and I-12 corridors.
The ranch’s website (www.redgatebison.com) is under construction but information about the ranch can be found on Facebook.