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Wholesale Marketing

Baskets to Pallets: Preparing Small and Mid-Size Farmers to Enter Food Hubs, Cooperatives, Restaurants and Groceries

Are you an agricultural educator or service provider in New York State interested in supporting farmers seeking to enter food hubs, groceries, restaurants or cooperatives?

The Cornell Small Farms Program and Northeast SARE are pleased to announce a new statewide professional development opportunity. ‘Baskets to Pallets: Preparing Small and Mid-sized Farmers to Enter Food Hubs, Groceries, Restaurants and Cooperatives’, will be offered on April 18th-19th, at the Cornell Plantations Visitor Center in Ithaca, NY.  Learn more.


2014 carrotsAbout the Project

Over the past 8 years, farmers markets have grown by 38% in the state of New York, giving NY the second highest number of markets in the country.  While this growth has provided an abundance of easy-to-access markets for small and beginning farmers, established farmers have started reporting slower sales and customer loss due to increased competition. These farmers complain of ‘burn-out’ from investing significant time and energy in direct-marketing strategies that are yielding diminishing returns. Meanwhile, distributers such as food hubs, grocery stores and restaurants are now recruiting product from small to mid-sized farms to meet growing consumer demand for local and sustainably-grown food.  Although technically ‘wholesale’ venues, these  businesses are often eager to establish attentive relationships with their suppliers,  offer attractive prices and terms, and maintain a product’s branding and integrity.

New York’s small farmers expressed strong interest in exploring these ‘new models’ of wholesale in a highly detailed marketing trends survey conducted by the Cornell Small Farms Program in February, 2014.  Nearly half (39% )of the 445 NY survey takers reported currently selling at farmers markets, farm stands or CSA’s, but 25% indicated plans to explore either a food hub or a restaurant over the next 2 years.  An additional 7% indicated interest in a grocery store or cooperative.  However, respondents identified many questions and perceived risk factors in making a transition to wholesale that need to be addressed.  The following farmer quote represents a typical question: “I need to increase my sales to people interested in high quality locally grown products, but cannot afford the time to sit at a farmer’s market. Where are the food hubs, and how do I go about providing products?”

To address this gap  in Wholesale Market Training, the Cornell Small Farms Program and Northeast SARE will offer a 3 year Train-the-Trainer program for educators and farmers. The first year of this project (2015) will bring a task group of 12 educators together to assess current educational initiatives and generate a teaching curriculum. In Year 2 (2016), 36 educators will attend a 2 day workshop to learn, critique, and implement this curriculum.   In Year 3 (2017), these same educators will work in regional teams of 3 to present the final curriculum to farmers accompanied by either a farmer-buyer networking meeting or field trip to a grocery, restaurant or food hub.


Wholesale Market Watch – Join the Listserve

This list-serve provides information and resources to connect small and mid-sized farmers to larger markets such as food hubs, grocery stores, restaurants, online marketplaces and cooperatives. Farmers, educators and prospective buyers are all welcome: Sign up here


kent-family

Dan Kent of Kent Family Growers shared strategies for how to sell to grocery stores.

Small Farms, New Markets: Webinar Series Illuminates how Farmers and Buyers Connect

Are you looking to get your farm products into bigger markets?  Local food is in high demand, but with so many possible avenues — grocery stores, food hubs, restaurants, cooperatives — to name a few, it’s not always easy to know which new market will be the best match for your farm business. Watch the recorded presentations of 4 farmers who successfully transitioned from direct-marketing to selling some product into larger venues.  Many of the presentations also feature a buyer or two who offer perspectives on what the buyer needs to make a wholesale relationship successful.… Read More


‘Baskets to Pallets’ Curriculum Writing Committee

This committee of 12 educators is currently drafting the “Baskets to Pallets Curriculum”, a series of lesson plans consisting of 5 Modules and 18 Units.  The Curriculum will debut at a training for Educators in April, 2016. Learn more.

Marketing Module: Laura Biasillo, Broome County CCE; Cheryl Thayer, Harvest NY; Jim Manning, Oneida County CCE
Business Management Module: Steve Hadcock, Albany County CCE; Bob Weybright, ENY Commercial Hort Program; Challey Comer​, NYS Agriculture and Markets
Production ModuleRich Taber, Chenango County CCE, Crystal Stewart, Extension Vegetable Specialist; Megan Burley, Farm Business Management Educator, Erie County
Food Safety:  Gretchen Wall and Betsy Bihn, Cornell Food Science Dept.
Soft Skills: Bobbie Severson, Cooperative enterprise program at Cornell, Violet Stone,  Cornell Small Farms Program/NESARE


‘Baskets to Pallets’ Advisory Committee

Violet Stone, Project Manager, Cornell Small Farms Program/NESARE,
Glenda Neff, American Farmland Trust/Farm to Institution NYS
Rich Taber, Chenango County CCE
Laura Biasillo, Broome County CCE
Marie Anselm,  Madison County CCE
Bob Weybright, ENY Commercial Hort Program
Thomas Bjorkman, Eastern Broccoli Project
Bobbie Severson, Cooperative enterprise program at Cornell
Brent Buchanan, St. Lawrence CCE
Betsy Hodge, St. Lawrence CCE
Matt Weiss, Cornell Small Farms Program
Jennifer Fimbel, CCE Duchess County
Sarah Brannen & Caitlin Salemi, Local Economies Project
Anu Rangarajan, Small Farms Program
Cheryl Thayer, Harvest NY
Michelle Kline, Tioga County CCE
Marty Broccoli, Oneida County CCE
Marne Coit, Agriculture Food and Law Consultant


Wholesale Markets…in the News Recently….

March 7th, 2016  Educators: Register now for ‘Baskets to Pallets’ Statewide Training
January 21st, 2016 Food Hubs Grow Among Demolition from Morning Ag Clips
September 30th, 2015. Survey shows farmers, consumers want food hub in North Country from North Country Now
August 10th, 2015 New York Food Hub Survey Results from the Northern NY Ag Development Program
July 5th, 2015 Business matchmakers pull local food sector together from the Wallace Center
May 8th, 2015 What Farm Cooperatives Can Do for the Food System – and Farmers from Grist
May 6th, 2015 Using Food Hubs to Create Sustainable Farm to School Programs from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets
April 24th, 2015 Business matchmakers pull local food sector together from the Wallace Center
April 22nd, 2015 RI Farm to Institution Survey Report Released
March 30th, 2015 Small Farms, New Markets: Webinar Series Features Farmers and their Wholesale Buyers from the Cornell Small Farms Program
March 10th, 2015 Can small farms sell to big institutions? from North Country Public Radio


About Northeast SARE

The NY SARE State program on Wholesale Market Training for small – mid-sized farmers  is funded through Northeast SARE.  SARE offers competitive grants to projects that explore and address key issues affecting the sustainability and future economic viability of agriculture.  The NY SARE coordinators are available to offer information and presentations on SARE funding opportunities.   Learn more about Northeast SARE by visiting www.nesare.org


NY SARE State Coordinator

VioletThe NY SARE State Program is led by Violet Stone (vws7@cornell.edu).  Learn more about Violet on the Cornell Small Farms Program staff page.