February 6, 2002 | By: Haven Miller
SCOTTSVILLE, KY

An innovative beef education and marketing program in south-central Kentucky is connecting cattle producers with the people who buy their products.

"When you step back and look at the beef cattle business, the consumer is what ultimately drives it," said Steve Osborne, Allen County Cooperative Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources.

Osborne and his colleague Janet Johnson, who is Allen County's Extension agent for family and consumer science, have teamed up on several unique projects that involve local cattlemen, retailers, community leaders, high school students, and the local radio station.

"We conducted a beef trivia call-in show for local radio listeners," Johnson said. "I was the host, and leaders from our local cattlemen's association read multiple choice trivia questions over the air. People who called in with the correct answer were given a new ‘Ready Beef' convenience-style product as a prize, and we got tremendous response."

Johnson and Osborne also conducted a special beef awareness program for high school juniors and seniors.

"Instead of taking the purely economic approach talking only about the beef industry's future, we chose to tell the students about issues affecting producers, consumers and homeowners in terms of food safety and environmental issues," said Johnson. "Then we actually prepared some beef products for the students, allowing them to sample some of the new products on the market."

In addition to the radio trivia program and school visits, the two agents also teamed up for a number of other projects: an awareness program hightlighting beef's nutritional benefits at the Relay for Life health event where local cattlemen prepared steaks for attendees; beef awareness programs at the annual Farm City Week; special programs involving the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club; and cattlemen participation in the annual Jacksonian Days festivities.

The seed of inspiration for most of these events was planted a few months earlier when Osborne and Johnson attended a special Beef Integrated Resource Management (IRM) conference at Biltmore Estates in North Carolina.

"In the past couple of years that annual conference has begun to include our FCS (family and consumer science) agents along with our agriculture agents and local beef producers, and that's really started tying it all together in terms of an integrated approach that puts the consumer in a vital place in terms of beef marketing strategies," Osborne said.

"Consumers are more empowered to speak with their food dollar now," Johnson said. "With issues out there like food safety and long-term health, consumers are becoming more selective and not just accepting whatever is put on their grocery shelf."

This team approach to Extension marketing and education is regarded as innovative because it combines the talents and energies of two county Extension roles that in the past have tended to work separately.

"This relationship makes a lot of sense and is extremely effective," said Jim Akers, beef IRM coordinator at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. "In terms of Allen County, Janet challenges the producers to think more about the consumers and their needs and wants, and Steve has helped the FCS clientele have a greater understanding of how much effort is going into meeting their needs and demands from the producer side. It's an integrated approach that can work in any county in the state."

Johnson and Osborne said they look forward to continuing their beef education programs through special events, radio and television. They believe it's time well spent because beef production has such a strong potential for the agricultural segment of their community.

Contact: 

Jim Akers, 859-278-0899