Grown in Marin
University of California
Grown in Marin

Editor - September 2010

Cowgirl Creamery Cheese curd molds
Added value. What is it? How do you do it? Do I need to? Do I want to? These are all questions folks are asking these days. Added value probably has more than one definition, but I like the one I heard from Desmond Jolly at a Small Farm Conference about five or six years ago. I asked Des the same question, and his reply surprised me more than a little. He said, “We, as farmers and ranchers, add the value to our farms and products. It’s all about who we are and how we do it.” This means everything you personally do sets your product apart.

The standard definition refers to adding economic value through the product chain. For instance - organic certification adds a higher premium over conventional milk; making artisan cheese adds more value to the organic milk; producing the organic milk and artisan cheese on-farm as “farmstead” adds yet another layer of value. Selling from the ranch adds value through direct marketing. (Read what’s up with the new Artisan Cheese Making Classes at Indian Valley College, reported by Ellie Rilla.) Now, it’s no small deal to do all this, and I know ranchers who are happy just where they are, producing fat calves and sheep to ship out without too much hassle. If it works, go with it.

Grass-fed and finished cattle add value to the meat. Organic certification adds another layer. “Locally produced” is an increasingly popular and in-demand added value. This issue’s feature is on Hicks Valley Ranch, owned and run by Bill Barboni. Bill, with a little help from his friends, has moved into a year-round added-value program with Oliver’s Market.
Another challenge to an added-value diversification is “how do you do it?”, which is why UCCE Marin and Sonoma produced eight fact sheets, from “Starting a Cheese Plant” to figuring out how to construct an agricultural lease. These simple resource pages can save farmers, ranchers and entrepreneurs hours of time by outlining what needs to be done, legally and efficiently.

Finally, most added-value start-ups learn the ropes by test marketing products at the farmers’ market. Leah Smith, from Agricultural Institute of Marin, reports on how they provide the space and environment for producers to learn and grow, just like our own Indian Valley Farm and Garden is doing at the Tuesday Novato Farmers Market. Read on! -- Steve Quirt, editor

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