New ag center focuses on helping rural businesses

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Three K-State faculty members have created a center that will help rural businesses learn about new online market strategies.

Cheryl Boyer, associate professor of horticulture forestry and recreation, brought together Lauri Baker, assistant professor of communication and agricultural education, and Hikaru Peterson, professor of agricultural economics, to start the Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement. The center formulated from research that the team conducted in marketing strategies.

“The group is starting with nursery and garden centers to learn how they are using (marketing strategies) successfully, so they can help the rural businesses capitalize on what larger businesses have learned in different markets,” Boyer said.

Through this, the group said they want to help people in small rural communities grow their businesses and make them successful. Some of the goals for the center are to do hands-on training for all the new online marketing outlets.

“I do think one of the things we offer that is unique is that there are some programs out there that are designed to train people how to use social media, and even some to train people in agriculture and natural resources industry,” Baker said. “But many of them aren’t research-based information.”

This is a large reason why the group started to come together, so that they could start research in this area. As the center grows, the group said they want to work with undergraduate researchers and involve students in the program with the hope that maybe there will be possible courses and workshops for students to help with the center.

Undergraduate students have already worked for the group by conducting research and making posters of their research, but the team said they want those students to be able to do more in the future.

Peterson said she believes the center “will bring national recognition to Kansas State in the future” and will hopefully help businesses outside of Kansas; maybe even internationally. The group said they feel the center is important to K-State because it aligns with the land grant mission and will be serving people in the community close to the school.

All three of the faculty members are supported by the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station, which allotted them funding from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture as a part of the multi-state Hatch project “Sustainable Practices, Economic Contributions, Consumer Behavior and Labor Management in the U.S. Environmental Horticulture Industry.”

They received $55,000 per year for three years, which is the dollar amount for hiring a research associate. After the three years, the group said they hope to be self-funded.

Boyer, Baker and Peterson said they are excited to see the center come so far and are ready to see what the future holds.

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