A new educational program for producers, a new podcast and online video series and the expan-sion of its popular MarketMaker program highlight 2010 outreach initiatives for Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“Many good things are happening in Ohio when it comes to local foods,” said Julie Fox,  a marketing and tourism development specialist for the university.

The educational program is designed to help teach producers how to sell their fresh fruits and vegetables and other Ohio-produced items to restaurants, grocery stores, institutions and other buyers, Fox said.

“More than 120 producers par-ticipated in our first round of education and many other states involved in the national Market-Maker network will be offering similar education this year,” she said.

As a result of that success, Fox said, Ohio State will offer new sessions this year — dubbed Retail Ready and Wholesale Ready — as well as resources to help producers sell through various retail and wholesale channels, Fox said.

In addition, she said, the univer-sity’s MarketMaker program will continue to expand this summer.

In 2008 Ohio State launched the program —  located at http://oh.marketmaker.uiuc.edu — in order to tap into increasing demand for Ohio-grown fresh fruits and vegetables and other commodi-ties.

The site was designed to connect local producers of vegetables and other agricultural commodities with buyers, Fox said. Buyers have ranged from the smallest mom-and-pop stores to retail and foodservice giants like Wal-Mart and Sysco.

Recent upgrades to the site will make it even easier for Market-Maker to do its job in 2010, Fox said.

“New producer profiles allow producers to include information about their businesses and products, as well as links to their social media and membership organizations,” said Fox, citing Ohio Proud and the Ohio Farm Bureau’s Our Ohio programs.

In mid-May Fox was working on completing a series of local food podcasts and videos featuring fresh fruit and vegetable growers and other Ohio producers.

When completed, the podcasts and videos will be available at http://bit.ly/OhioMC and through You Tube, RSS feeds and on iTunes, Fox said.

Also on tap for this summer are two tours of farmers markets sponsored by Ohio State. The “Ohio Direct Marketing Summer Tours,” as they are dubbed, will be held July 13 at the Delaware County Community Market in Delaware and July 14 at the Athens Farmers Market in Athens.