We like the way the students in Columbia Basin College's agriculture program think.
They are linking locally produced foods to lessons in marketing and sales. And they're linking consumers to products created right here at home with the new Columbia Basin Savory Brands line of specialty foods.
It's a perfect marriage of learning and teaching. The students will learn valuable lessons while teaching the community about the great specialty foods made in the region. It's a whole new way to look at agriculture. And the profits the students make will go back into the school's rehabilitated ag program.
Knowing where your food comes from is an important component of a healthy and informed lifestyle. It also helps the Mid-Columbia economy.
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Consumers will be able to buy Columbia Basin Savory Brands foods at Yoke's Fresh Market in Pasco this month and other stores will come online in the future.
The college will buy the items from local producers at wholesale prices, guaranteeing producers their usual profit. The school will make any profit from a retail markup, giving consumers an opportunity to support two great local entities with one purchase.
The specialty food line will include flavored vinegars, wine mustard, salsa mix, candy and olive oil. More products could be brought into the portfolio as the program evolves.
The college is hoping to draw new students into the ag program by showing them agriculture is not just about fieldwork.
Students will be charged with marketing the products and learn lessons that can be applied directly in careers with the Mid-Columbia's large-scale ag producers, for example.
We think more companies should get on board to use the CBC students to market their food products, and more retailers should be carrying the items. We challenge Mid-Columbia businesses to get involved. This is important.
The folks at CBC are coming up with innovative ways to attract students who may not have thought about agriculture as a career path. And this is the kind of program that could just take off, turning into a revenue-generating operation for the continued growth of the ag program.
Times are tough for institutions of higher learning. CBC President Rich Cummins and his crew have done a masterful job at minimizing the effect of repeated budget cuts.
Here's a way we all can get behind the ag program -- which was cut under a previous administration and just recently revived -- by doing something we all love: eating good food.
We can envision food festivals featuring the Columbia Basin Savory Brand products as fundraisers and the students out in the marketplace at various events around town, showcasing the best of the lot of specialty foods made in town.
Agriculture is a huge economic driver in the Mid-Columbia, and we need to do our best to supply the industry with a steady stream of candidates qualified in a range of disciplines.
So, congratulations to CBC for being innovative and looking at the needs of the businesses in our community. And if you need any help testing potential products for your food line, we're available!