Baskets to Pallets Teaching Manual

Baskets to Pallets Training ManualAbout the Teaching Manual

The Baskets to Pallets Teaching Manual (1st Edition) contains a series of presentations, discussions, activities, videos and other teaching resources that an agricultural service provider can adapt to meet the needs of local farmer audiences.  The Manual incorporates two Case Study Farms, based on an actual produce and livestock farm currently operating in NY.  Over the course of the Training, various Units examine the two farms from different angles, enabling trainees to understand real-life management, production, and promotion strategies through the lens of ‘wholesale’ marketing.

Target Audience 

The lesson plans in this Teaching Manual are intended for small and mid-scale farmers in New York  who have been primarily direct marketing but who are seeking to explore wholesale markets – specifically groceries, food hubs, restaurants or cooperatives.

How to Use the Teaching Manual

The Manual contains 16 lesson plans (called Units) grouped into 5 Modules.  Each lesson plan (Unit) may be taught individually for a 30 – 60 minute workshop, or as a Module group for a 3-4 hour workshop.  The 16 lesson plans may also be taught in sequence for a two-day training.  The online resources below are  intended to be used in concert with the written teaching materials.  Please be sure you have downloaded the complete Baskets to Pallets Teaching Manual and read the Unit Overviews, Modes of Instruction, Learning Objectives, and Instructors Notes before viewing the powerpoints and videos below.

Table of Contents

The online resources below are intended to be used in concert with the written teaching materials.  Please be sure you have downloaded the complete Baskets to Pallets Teaching Manual and read the Unit Overviews, Modes of Instruction, Learning Objectives, and Instructors Notes before viewing the powerpoints and videos below.


Consumer Trends & the Demand for Local (15 min)

Powerpoint/Jeopardy game: This presentation uses a jeopardy game to quiz farmers on national buy-local consumer trends for food hubs, grocery stores and restaurants.  (Download Powerpoint)

Video Clip: Headwater Food Hub and Fisher Hill Farm: Engaging New Farmers.  Youtube Clip (0:59 min)

Video Clip: Wegmans Food Markets and Blackman Homestead: Advice for Growers New to Wholesale.  Youtube Clip (2:46 min)


1.1      Mission and Vision:  The Compass Charting Future Success (2 hrs)

Workbook: A set of 6 worksheets to be disseminated in advance of the lesson. The first task is a self-assessment of the farm’s capacity to move from direct marketing to wholesale marketing.  The remaining tasks to be completed provide an opportunity for farmers to identify values and goals that are important to constructing mission and vision statements. (See Teaching Manual)

Presentation via Powerpoint:  The presentation discusses the importance of developing business vision and mission statements for a farm business moving from direct to consumer sales to wholesale markets.  (Download Powerpoint)


2.1      Choosing & Evaluating Marketing Channels (30 min)

Presentation via Powerpoint:  Marketing channels have different levels of performance based on 6 factors. The presentation discusses channel performance and assessment. Informed decision making based on channel assessment methods leads to improved returns, less labor and/or great enjoyment of marketing work. (Download Powerpoint)  Please note, this Unit does not contain the resources for an instructor to teach without assistance from an experienced MCAT educator.  Contact Matt LeRoux ( at Tompkins County Cooperative Extension for assistance.  

2.2      Building Relationships with Buyers (1 hr)

Presentation via Powerpoint: The lecture incorporates advice from the produce case study, Stick and Stone Farm in Ithaca NY to foster a better understanding of the best practices associated with building and maintaining relationships with wholesale buyers. (Download Powerpoint)

Video Clip: Wegmans Food Markets and Blackman Homestead: Intro, Expectations, Marketing.  Youtube Clip (5:54 min)

Video Clip: Wegmans Food Markets and Blackman Homestead: Communication.  Youtube Clip (2:15 min)

Video Clip:  Headwater Food Hub and Fisher Hill Farm: Intro and Advantages of Wholesale. Youtube clip (3:37 min)

Role-play Activity:   Cold-calling is something that gives many people a certain amount of anxiety.  The best way to prepare for a cold call is to practice!  (See Teaching Manual)

2.3      Communication in the Wholesale Channel (30 min)

Presentation via Powerpoint: The presentation describes the difference between anonymous and source-identified marketing, best practices for communicating with a wholesale buyer, marketing tools such as social media and websites, and the difference between regulatory labels and labels to add value (Download Powerpoint)

2.4      Collaborative Marketing (1 hr)

Presentation via Powerpoint: This lecture will enable understanding of collaborative marketing in the greater scheme of marketing to a wholesale buyer. Through a case study example students will be able to relate concepts introduced in the presentation. (Download Powerpoint)

Activity #1 Collaborative Marketing Checklist:  During this activity the students will have the opportunity to explore logistical and personality related aspects to collaborative marketing in order to make a decision as to whether they would like to pursue it.  (See Teaching Manual)

Activity #2 Role Play Scenarios:  This activity will enable the students to understand the importance of the group dynamic in collaborative marketing, as well as common issues which may arise, including food safety, quality control, financing, etc…  (See Teaching Manual)


3.1      Assessing Business Strengths and Weaknesses

Presentation via Powerpoint:  This presentation will introduce key concepts shared during the Unit, to establish a foundation upon which to build meaning. (Download Powerpoint)

Self-Assessment:  Determining knowledge/skill level of key people in the farm business is important if the business is making a transition to wholesale marketing.  Do the key people already have knowledge/skills for a smooth transition? (See Teaching Manual)

Appendix downloads: Appendix A  |  Appendix B  |  Appendix C  | Appendix DAppendix EAppendix F

3.2      Assessing & Managing Human Capital

Presentation via Powerpoint:  This presentation will provide insight into the wide range of considerations when assessing human capital needs.  There are a number of included worksheets that are meant to be used as a means of helping individuals begin to think in terms of their own businesses. (Download Powerpoint)

Business Self-Assessment: This assessment is designed to begin asking all the necessary questions to clearly and objectively assess the realistic possibilities and opportunities when considering wholesale distribution. (See Teaching Manual)

Hands-on Activity #1: Review Self-assessmentThis activity is intended to validate the self-assessment completed prior to the session.  The primary objective is to encourage participants to begin looking realistically, objectively, and holistically at their business.  Ultimately the desire is for a business be learn their strengths and manage to them, as well as understand where they need to manage for deficiencies.  (See Teaching Manual)

Hands-on Activity #2: Organization Staffing WorksheetThis activity will begin the process of clearly identifying all staff of a business and what their function/responsibilities are. (See Teaching Manual)

Hands-on Activity #3: Business Needs Review: This activity will begin the process of looking at what management functions that are directly related to personnel and staffing should be in place.  The focus is to better understand where critical deficiencies may exist – develop a strategy to correct the problem. (See Teaching Manual)

Hands-on Activity #4: Outside/Contracted Staffing Needs:  This activity will provide a strategy to help participants identify ways to supplement their staff with other ways to complete all the identified skills without necessarily needing to hire additional staff. (See Teaching Manual)

Appendix downloads: Appendix 1  |  Appendix 2  |  Appendix 3a & 3b  | Appendix 4Appendix 5

3.3      Record Keeping for Wholesale Enterprises

Presentation via Powerpoint:  This presentation will enable understanding of necessary records, record keeping, and options in the greater scheme of marketing to a wholesale buyer. (Download Powerpoint)

3.4      Decision Making

Presentation via Powerpoint:  The PowerPoint presentation is used as a guide for the time for this module.  There is one point to pause to let the participants start to learn what their decision making skill is, but not enough time to complete. (Download Powerpoint)

Self Assessment:  Time is allotted in this module to explore and try one of the decision making methods outlined in the presentation.  (See Teaching Manual)

Appendix A  |  Appendix B  |  Appendix C  | Appendix DAppendix E


4.1a      Uniformity, Consistency and Scheduling: Produce (1 hr) 

Presentation via Powerpoint:  This presentation will help participants understand what production considerations deserve special attention when considering moving from retail to wholesale production.  Information provided is meant as a broad overview.  (Download Powerpoint)

Small Group Discussion/Case Study: Using the case study and information from the powerpoint, discuss in small groups what production changes Chaw and Lucy will have to make to change to wholesaling storage carrots. How does this change compare to the changes that would be necessary for a crop such as broccoli? (See Teaching Manual)

4.1b      Uniformity, Consistency and Scheduling: Livestock (1hr)

Presentation via Powerpoint: This short presentation will have illustrations of several different management practices to consider for the group members involved. Beef cattle and lambs are shown in the presentation, but any class of livestock can also be mentioned, such as meat goats, veal, hogs, and poultry. Breed selection, crossbreeding, reproductive management practices, feeding practices, and seasonal uniformity will be briefly highlighted.  (Download Powerpoint)

Small Group Discussion/Case Study: During this activity the group participants will be presented a case study of a farm couple who have successfully developed a management regime for the wholesale selling of lambs to different markets in the Northeast. The lamb project is one component of a multiple species product line on this farm which also includes beef, veal, hogs, pastured poultry, heritage turkeys, and egg production. As the case study is presented, there are several short breaks for discussion so participants can ponder some of the management scenarios presented into their own situations. The activity is designed to make farmers think about what they could be doing differently in order to gear up for wholesale marketing. (See Teaching Manual)

New! Video Series:  Do your students need help determining when their beef animal is ready for slaughter?  Join Cornell Beef Cattle Extension Specialist Mike Baker as he describes features of market readiness for both finished and unfinished beef and dairy crosses. In the second video, we look at beef cattle as they hang on the rail at a packer.  Mike Baker evaluates key areas of four grain finished carcasses for eating quality and quantity in terms of yield.

Video 1: Determining the Market Readiness of Beef Cattle  Youtube Clip (11:10)
Video 2: Determining the Market Readiness of Beef Cattle II: Carcass Evaluation Youtube Clip (13:34)

4.2      Labeling, Grading and Packaging (1.5 hrs)

Presentation via Powerpoint:  This presentation will enable understanding of uniformity within wholesale vegetable production as well as wholesale livestock production. If the audience has both wholesale livestock and vegetable growers present split the group in two.  The groups will use examples (pictures or actual product/labels) to learn uniformity when sorting, grading and labeling.  (Download Powerpoint)

Video Clip:  Headwater Food Hub and Fisher Hill Farm:  Expectations, Quality and Packaging.  Youtube Clip (2:28)

Activity #1: Label-Making:  During this activity the farmers will have the option to make a label for a wholesale vegetable box or a packaged meat product sold in bulk. (See Teaching Manual)

Activity #2: Stacking Pallets:  This activity will enable the farmers understand the importance of pallet stacking not only to maintain the quality of the product but also for ease of shipping as well as storing at the wholesale outlet. (See Teaching Manuall)

4.3      Record Keeping (30 min)

Presentation via Powerpoint: The presentation introduces the different kinds of recordkeeping necessary to implement profitable, sustainable, traceable wholesale production. It will introduce a limited assortment of record keeping tools meant to highlight differences in technique. It will also discuss the costs associated with not keeping various types of records.  (Download Powerpoint)

Small Group Discussion/Case Study:  Note that a basic enterprise budget, with potential record keeping categories, is included with the case study. Ask the group how this enterprise could be improved (one answer: the machinery costs are not broken out for this enterprise, nor are some of the labor categories). (See Teaching Manual)


5.1      Introduction to Produce Safety (35 min)

Presentation via Powerpoint: In the past 20 years, foodborne illnesses associated with fresh fruits and vegetables have been on the rise. The farming environment naturally presents a number of food safety risks, so to protect the fruits and vegetables that are grown and packed on the farm, every grower needs to know how to identify and reduce risks. (Download Powerpoint)

Video Clip: Wegmans Food Markets and Blackman Homestead: Food Safety.  Youtube Clip (3:49)

Video Clip:  Headwater Food Hub and Fisher Hill Farm:  Food Safety.  Youtube Clip (1:35)

5.2      Food Safety Risks on the Farm (1 hr)

Individual Assessment: Farm Food Safety Decision Tree Prioritization Table:  Each farmer will fill out the ‘Farm Food Safety Decision Tree – Checklist to Prioritize Practices’ prior to starting the presentation. In Unit 5.3, farmers will be asked to share some of their responses from this section and why/why not they feel a particular activity presents a food safety risk to their farm. Contact Gretchen Wall at to obtain copies of the ‘Farm Food Safety Decision Tree – Checklist to Prioritize Practices’

Presentation via Powerpoint: The purpose of implementing Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) is to reduce the risks of microbial contamination of fruits and vegetables.  Although not every risk on the farm can be controlled, farmers can implement practices to reduce food safety risks to the crops they grow.  (Download Powerpoint)

5.3      Meeting Your Market’s Produce Safety Requirements (1 hr)

Presentation via Powerpoint: The presentation reviews produce safety considerations for different market types (e.g., direct, small, CSAs, Farm-2-School), market requirements (e.g., food safety plans vs. third-party audits), key things needed to develop a farm food safety plan, as well as other food safety considerations for a variety of food products. (Download Powerpoint)

Small Group Exercise/Discussion: Farmers will break up into groups of no more than five to work through the questions presented in the case study. With 5 minutes left, the group will review some of the possible answers to the situations presented. (See Teaching Manual)