On August 7 and 8, Project Coordinator Violet Stone convened the inaugural gathering of the new Baskets to Pallets educator cohort. In this post, Violet shares a retrospective on who the new cohort is and the work they plan to do over the next two years.
Last week, I was happy to find myself out of my office chair and seated instead in the light-filled Loft space at the Carriage House Café with 15 educators and farmers from all over the state. Most of the members of our new Baskets to Pallets cohort hadn’t met before, so we were excited to spend the morning getting to know each other’s passions, interests and niches within the food system. The group then turned focus toward its mission — to facilitate access to new market channels for farmers interested in entering “intermediate” venues such as food hubs, grocery stores, restaurants and cooperatives. The cohort will support farmers and producers who are experiencing cooling trends in direct markets such as farmers markets, community supported agriculture (CSA) operations and farm-stands through providing coaching and training on how to successfully enter intermediate channels.
We launched into our work together by looking at big market trends such as the rapid acceleration of online grocery sales and consumer’s growing preferences for local, fresh food. Big trends affect sales for farmers on the ground, and we want to stay abreast of how the food scene is changing and how we can advise farmers to take advantage of new opportunities. Then, we reflected more personally on the marketing challenges and opportunities we were each observing in the regions where we work. Yes, the data tells us that local food is big and in growing demand, but local reports confirm it’s challenging to get small products to big markets and we have plenty of work ahead in getting farmers ready for wholesale and connecting them to scale-appropriate markets.
We rounded out our gathering by talking with buyers from throughout the Northeast. Conversations with staff at Headwater Food Hub, Red Tomato and Honest Weight Food Cooperative shed some perspectives on what buyers do and don’t need to have successful business relationships with farmers. Strong communication skills came up across the board, but not all buyers required GAPS/food safety certifications or had hard and fast requirements regarding grading/sorting/packaging. In summary, every buyer is unique and most of the success lies in finding the right producer/buyer match and building a relationship. As educators serving in the Baskets to Pallets cohort, we hope to help farmers navigate potential buyers and support steps toward wholesale success. That might mean supporting a producer in achieving better uniformity and consistency, food safety standards, grading/packaging, labeling, or whatever steps are needed to find success in intermediate markets.
So, what’s next for the cohort? We’ll be creating new educational content throughout the Fall in preparation for two regional Baskets to Pallets farmer trainings to take place during the winter months.
Do you have any feedback or ideas for our group? We’d love to hear from you. Reach out to Project Coordinator Violet Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the project website.
Announcing the Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort
The Baskets to Pallets project is pleased to announce members of the new Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort. Over the next 2.5 years, members will have the opportunity to work closely to share knowledge and expertise, design and teach lesson plans, meet buyers, receive free coaching and ‘big picture’ perspectives on local food marketing trends from specialists, and trial strategies with local farmers seeking to enter intermediary markets.
Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort
|Christian Malsatzki||Agriculture Program Leader||Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County|
|Daniel Eggert||Organic Brand Manger||Harris Seeds Organic|
|Elizabeth Gabriel||Director||Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming|
|Jason Detzel||Livestock Educator||Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County|
|Kimberly Vallejo||Director of Outreach||NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets|
|Laura Biasillo||Agricultural Economic Development Specialist||Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County|
|Maria ‘Flip’ Filippi||Local Foods Program Leader & Harvest Kitchen Manager||Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County|
|Mariane Kiraly||Sr. Resource Educator||CCE Delaware County|
|Miriam Boateng||Taste NY at Todd Hill||CCE Dutchess County|
|Omari Washington||Interim Executive Director/Program Coordinator||Hudson Valley Seed|
|Paul Loomis||Organic Markets Coordinator||NOFA-NY|
|Sheila Daminski||Grand Island Farms, Inc Secretary and Board of Directors, Grand Island Farmers Market Manager||Grand Island Farms, Inc|
|Stephanie Mehlenbacher||Horticulture Educator||CCE Steuben|
|Sumaq Sysaq||Garden Manager and Instructor||City Parks Foundation|
|Tanya L Moyer||Owner||Mulligan Creek Acres|
Sponsorship for the Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort
This project is sponsored by the NYS Northeast SARE Professional Development Program and supported by the Cornell Small Farms Program.
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
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
Wholesale Markets…in the News Recently….
April 30th, 2018 Opportunities Grow for Home Processors from Morning Ag Clips
March 10th, 2017. Basket to Pallets offers producers wholesale options and training from Countryfolks
November 28th, 2016. Are You a Farmer Seeking New Markets? Start Selling to Food Hubs, Groceries, Restaurants and Cooperatives
December 21st, 2016 Results of Local Food Marketing Survey from Morning Ag Clips
June 30th, 2016 Are Farmers Markets Losing their Appeal? from Growing Produce
March 7th, 2016 Educators: Register now for ‘Baskets to Pallets’ Statewide Training
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
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
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 have developed the Baskets to Pallets project. To receive opportunities and information, sign up for the Wholesale Market Watch listserve above.
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