North Carolina State University’s Program for Value-Added & Alternative Agriculture became N.C. MarketReady on Oct. 20.

“We are excited about this new name,” said Blake Brown, the director of the program. “The new name, N.C. MarketReady, more accurately communicates the scope of our program’s work.”

The program was founded in 2006 by Brown, also a professor in the North Carolina State Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, with funding from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. Since then, the program team, based at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, has grown to five faculty and four staff members. It works closely with North Carolina State University’s Plants for Human Health Institute, also based at the North Carolina Research Campus, as well as with faculty from main campus and Cooperative Extension field faculty across the state.

“Inherent to the name N.C. MarketReady is the message that our educational programs help North Carolina producers effectively compete in the marketplace,” Brown added. “Market ready, or being ready for market, implies all facets of a business: research, business planning, production, management, food safety and marketing. Our team collaborates with faculty across the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) to develop multidisciplinary programs. Our partnerships with other departments and faculty in CALS are an essential ingredient to programs that help North Carolina farm families.”

The team’s focus areas are agricultural enterprise development, business skills education, fresh produce safety, horticultural skills education and strengthening markets. In addition to N.C. MarketReady being used as the team name, it will be the brand used on a comprehensive set of educational materials being developed. One of the first resources to be rolled out with the N.C. MarketReady brand will be the fresh produce safety curriculum this month. Reflected in this curriculum are contributions from numerous departments within North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University. It was developed to teach growers Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) to help them minimize fresh produce safety risks.

Brown cites the N.C. MarketReady team’s success in securing grants to carry out its mission. The team has received more than $2 million in grant funding and more than 72 percent of its operating budget this fiscal year will be from grants. Through support from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension, the Agricultural Advancement Consortium of the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center and USDA Rural Cooperative Development, the N.C. MarketReady team has developed numerous resources. Among them are http://www.ncmarketready.org , which includes the one-stop-shop growers’ information portals, fresh produce safety materials, business development files, The Produce Lady videos and value-added cost share applications and guidelines.

N.C. MarketReady is a program of North Carolina Cooperative Extension, an educational outreach of North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University. Extension has programs in all 100 counties and the Cherokee Reservation. Learn more at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu.