Granby Sampler

Final Report for CNE10-079

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2010: $14,942.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Northeast
State: Connecticut
Project Leader:
Michelle Niedermeyer
Granby Agriculture Commission
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Project Information

Summary:

The problem the Granby Agricultural Commission sought to address through the Granby Sampler was that local residents were not aware of the variety of products available from local farms and farmers needed a method to reach the consumers. Over 2 years under the NE SARE grant, the Granby Sampler provided 24 distributions of local farm products to 69 subscribers. It introduced the subscribers to the variety of products grown/produced on farms in or very near Granby and created a new reliable market for the farmers. We purchased $47,401.00 in goods from 30 local farms for distribution. We also made sure the subscribers knew which farms provided the contents of each distribution and encouraged the subscribers to shop locally—they did! The first two years were a huge success and we will continue the Granby Sampler indefinitely in the future.

Project Objectives:

The objectives listed in the grant narrative included increasing farm revenue, maximizing the use of current farm production, creating a better connection between farmers and consumers, introducing new farm products and new farmers to the Granby community, and improving the quality of life for farmers and the community through sustainable agriculture.

• Increasing farm revenue – in our narrative we listed new products offered by farmers, revenue generated by the Granby Sampler and decreasing the time farmers spent marketing, selling and delivering products as our methods. For our pilot project year we were too late [March] to influence the selection of products offered by farmers but farmers promised us several new products for the second year. The success of the first year gave the farmers confidence that we do have a market and we increased from 25 to 44 subscribers. We purchased $17,700 in goods from 30 farms in our first year and just under $30,000. for the second year. With little additional effort on their part, farmers were able to increase their presence in the local community. The attempt at having crops planted on request failed due to lack of time, moderate effort and Mother Nature [a hurricane and a snowstorm] combined to sabotage our goals.

• Maximizing use of current farm production – We added another reliable market for the farmers and made use of local farm production. We attempted adding to the crop variety with no success. Production levels did increase, particularly for eggs and cheese, pork, beef and chickens. Farmers did add somewhat to their product lines. However, our increase in subscribers to 44 cut out a number of small farmers and we reduced the number for year 3 back to 30—for this program 30 subscribers allows us to spread the benefit across a larger number of farms.

• Better connection between farmers and consumers – we wanted to gauge the percent of their food budget subscribers spent at local farms and encourage the subscribers to shop at local farms featured in the Granby Sampler. We sought the mutual satisfaction of farmers and consumers. Each subscriber paid $720, what percentage of their food budget that encompassed depended on whether they were a retired couple or a family with four children. For most of our subscribers it was at least $500 more than they had ever spent at local farms before [many had purchased only corn and tomatoes at local stands for example]. As one subscriber quipped, “Whole Foods lost a lot of my business this year.” The nearest Whole Foods is 17 miles from Granby. And all of our subscribers ventured to one or more of the farms featured in the Sampler distributions. This continues as an ongoing benefit. We hold a farmer/subscriber potluck and the positive connection continues to grow judged by the conversations and comments heard at the gathering.

• Introduction of new farm products and new farmers to the Granby community – our subscribers had little knowledge of the variety of products grown and made on Granby farms and so “new products offered by farmers” was an easily attained goal. We introduced them to sources for meat, dairy, honey, soap, preserves, baked goods and more and they responded with delight, pleasure and the desire to acquire more—which they continue to do by pulling information about specific farms off of the granbyag,org website and contacting the farmers “for more.”

• Improving the quality of life for farmers and the community through sustainable agriculture – with the Granby Sampler we created a connection between the farmers and the subscribers to the satisfaction of each group. The subscribers shopped more locally and now appreciate and seek local products. We invited all of the farmers and subscribers to an annual pot luck dinner in mid-November and everyone expressed pleasure in their new found acquaintance. Granby as a town is dedicated to preserving open space and farmland—over one third of the town land mass is under one form of preservation or another. The Granby Sampler introduces subscribers to the best, freshest local produce and farm products available. Our survey results reveal both the farmers and subscribers appreciate the value of the Granby Sampler.

Introduction:

Granby, Connecticut area consumers desired more locally-produced farm-based products and easier access to these items. At the same time, many of the area’s small farms had difficulty developing markets for their specialty products. The challenge was to close the gap between area consumers and producers with marketing and distribution methods that are convenient and time effective for both parties.

The disconnect between area farmers and consumers negatively impacted farmers, consumers, and the community at large. Producers missed potential opportunities to increase revenue, which strained the economic viability of the farm and puts the land at greater risk for development. Granby residents understood the link between viable farms and a vibrant community; what the community needed was a marketing and distribution channel that will strengthen the local farm economy.

The Granby Sampler provided consumers with a bi-monthly assortment of the food and farm products produced within the community. Farmers benefited through increased sales and revenue. Consumers received locally produced food and goods of value equal to the subscription cost. The institutional change engendered by this project increased demand for local foods through the development of a new marketing channel. The project helped build a strong, local food economy.

The Granby Sampler remains unique in that it invites all farms in the community to participate and offers a spectrum of farm produced goods beyond fruit and vegetables. It continues to focus on a very local food system. The two-year start-up project directly benefited 30 farm owners and reached the entire community.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Marianne Curling
  • Ann Wilhelm

Research

Materials and methods:

As intended, the Granby Sampler project was managed by the Town of Granby, Agricultural Commission. This role was pivotal to the “comfort” level of farmers and subscribers. Through the Agricultural Commission all financial transactions were, and continue to be, conducted by the town. Key roles were defined as below:

The single position of Granby Sampler Coordinator was created from the three initial positions of the Project Manager (PM) the Farmer/consumer coordinator (FCC) and the Distribution leader (DL). The Granby Sampler Coordinator was responsible for the overall success of the program. This person recruited local collaborating farms, oversaw the marketing and subscription of the consumers, developed the overall plan for distributions, supervised the collection and distribution process, developed success criteria and measurement techniques, consolidated and analyzed the results and developed the methodology, tool kit and training to be offered to other towns or organizations. She was responsible for day to day coordination with collaborating farmers, marketing and consumer relations into one position. She confirmed sampler box content for each distribution, collected subscription fees from consumers, organized payment to farmers and created the newsletter accompanying each distribution. She was responsible for each bi-monthly distribution: picked up goods from farmers, put together distributions boxes and distributed to consumers. She met with the Agricultural Commission advisers to ensure the success of the program.

The Granby Sampler project had 2 phases – 2010 was the pilot program, limited to 25 consumer subscribers; with full implementation in 2011.

The grant narrative listed the following milestones to be met:
-finalize farmer participation by 4/30/10 [complete June 15]
-finalize detail product distribution schedule by 5/31/10 [complete June 5]
-define success criteria, measurement techniques and collect baseline data by 5/31/10 [complete July 15, without baseline data]
-develops marketing materials for Granby Sampler by 4/15/10 [complete May 20]
-finalizes consumer participation by 5/31/10 [complete July 12—last place filled]
-set up fund in Town of Granby to manage monies collected and distributed by 3/31/10 [complete July 8]
-execute bi-monthly delivery program in according to following schedule:
•Monday – confirms products for sampler box with participating farmers
•Tuesday – make any adjustments to sampler box due to availability of products.
•Friday – picks up products from participating farmers, stores at pick up location
•Saturday – puts together sampler boxes, perishables added to box upon pick up.
•Saturday – Pick up by consumers from 10am to 1pm

Milestones for year 2 included:
-PM collects data and analyzes results of pilot by 12/31/10 Done by date.
-PM makes mid course corrections to Granby Sampler program by 3/31/11 Done by date
-PM prepares methodology and toolkit by 3/31/11 Prepared draft methodology and toolkit to be refined following the year just ended.
-PM, FCC, DL work together on full implementation (same steps as above with adjustments made based on pilot experience) by 12/31/11. We are going forward for the coming year with the Granby Sampler. We believe that with financial support from both subscribers and farmers that it will be self-sustaining.

The initial plan was to have pickups occur on Saturdays between 10:00 and 1:00. We broadened the schedule to be as flexible as possible and the first and second distributions [July 2010] took place over Thursday and Friday evenings and Saturday morning [July 8, 9 and 10/July 22, 23 and 24]. With the Granby Sampler underway we used the first two distributions as tests of what processes worked best—we were able to get schedules in place and checks out to the farmers. Cash boosted our credibility with the farmers and the goods in the distributions more than reassured our subscribers. In early August we established a Thursday evening/Saturday morning pickup schedule that continued into the 12th distribution in December. We continued to allow for subscriber pick up needs with a few dedicated deliveries for vacation schedules.

Initially we picked up everything from the farmers and took it the distribution site [selected because of its central location, it had no storage available]. By the last distribution everything except eggs [5 sources] and dairy was delivered. For our second year we had planned to further streamline the process and have one group of 25 pick up on Thursday evening and the other group of 25 pick up on Saturday morning.

In year 2, we worked to address the issues raised in during the pilot year for the Granby Sampler. These included trying to accommodate farms with small capacity so that they could maximize their involvement [for example, a raspberry grower with a limited number of plants might not be able to come up with 50 pints of raspberries over a three day period–Thursday pick up followed by Saturday pick up–but would be able to come up with 25 pints of raspberries on Saturday and another 25 pints the following Thursday. We tried this for the first 5 pickups [June-mid Sept. 2011]. The new problem was that when some farmers got to Sunday, they looked ahead to a whole new week and prior commitments did not carry over. For the Granby Sampler, it became twice the work to plan a distribution—and occasionally what was available on Saturday was long gone the following Thursday. So we returned to the Thursday followed by Saturday pick up schedule. Not good for the raspberry farmer but better for the program overall.

The other problem we ran into with a larger number of subscribers was the capacity of smaller farmers to provide the desired number of goods. We could have filled the projected number of slots for the year [50] by having 32 on Thursday and 18 on Saturday. However, 32 were too many for a few of the farms we wanted to participate so we limited the Thursday number to 26. We also tried including hobby farmers by having several combine their products—it seemed like green beans would work. The very small backyard grower couldn’t estimate until picked how many pounds of beans would be available making it difficult for the coordinator to arrange with other farmers the remainder of the order to fill 44 boxes. We now include small farmers if they provide the full subscription: 30 jars of jam, 30 bags of garlic, etc.

We continued to hold coordination meetings the weekend between distributions to look ahead and plan the product selection for the next two. We contacted farmers on Monday and finalized the goods on Tuesday. We prepared the handouts on Wednesday and Thursday and held the distribution for the 26 Thursday subscribers from 4:30 to 6:30. The majority of items were delivered by the farmers to the distribution location. The exception was eggs. With 44 subscribers over the two days, Granby Sampler Coordinator located 44 dozen eggs—some weeks the chickens were more cooperative than others. Saturday distributions were from 10:00-noon.

The subscriber and farmer survey results for the 2011 season pointed to both successes and weaknesses in the Granby Sampler [both uploaded]. We had responses from 31 of 44 subscribers and 13 of 28 farmers. Communication is the key to the success of this program and it occasionally lacked for both the consumers and the farmers. This was rectified in 2012 by establishing each distribution list [meats were established well in advance] on Sunday and Monday followed by an email sent to all farmers and subscribers on Monday evening. Everyone knew everything there was to know. We found ourselves unable to track precisely how much impact the program had on direct sales at farm stands/stores—our information is anecdotal. Surveying consumer preferences for goods is somewhat futile—more eggs, less eggs, more kale, less kale and the desire to create custom boxes comes through clearly in the comments. We learned in 2010 not to include turkeys—at $3.50 per pound a ten pound variation was more than could be sustained economically [We budgeted for 15 pound turkeys—but they kept growing.] Communication for the 2011season didn’t make this clear to the subscribers and “no turkeys” colored one subscriber’s feeling about the entire year. Lesson learned. The overall results of the survey told us that the program has value to the subscribers and the farmers and that we should continue. We made our way forward.

For our third year, we opted to take 30 subscribers on Thursday only. The chickens are feeling less pressured and the program is running smoothly. The two years of NE SARE funding allowed the Granby Sampler to refine its scope and goals. The best overview of the program is to look at how we began and proceeded with Year 3 to create a fully sustainable program no longer requiring outside funding. A basic press release is sent to all local news organizations—the town monthly paper, the weekly paper, and the Granby Patch online news. Information is also available on the Granby Agricultural commission website.

The basic release [uploaded copy] provides prospective subscribers with enough information to send us an email to learn that the subscription price for 12 distributions is $800.00–$725.00 for product and a $75.00 administrative fee [$6.25 per distribution]. We send a return email giving more information and including a spreadsheet [uploaded] what was included in the prior year’s distributions. A sample email is below:

Hello Michelle,

Below is the information you requested about the Granby Sampler. I don’t think that you will be overwhelmed with the amount of food–except maybe a dozen ears of corn at a time.–But it is really easy to freeze the leftovers to enjoy in the winter months!

The Granby Sampler will introduce you to the range of products available from farmers right here in Granby and provide the farmers with an additional market. Granby Sampler boxes are distributed 12 times, every other week, from June 14 through November 15. Each box includes meat, eggs, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and specialty products like breads, honey, jams and flowers. An information sheet listing the contents and the farms that produced each item accompanies each box. As an example, I have attached the distribution handout for the 2011 end of September distribution. We include a recipe or two with each distribution and this year will add more information about ways to use and store produce.

Subscribers are asked to pay for their annual subscription up-front. I have attached the complete list from last year and this year will be a similar selection of products. The June 14, 2012 distribution will feature prokchops. The Granby Sampler guarantees the total value of a subscription. The annual cost to subscribers is $800.00 which guarantees at least $725.00 in products over the 12 distributions [the total also includes a $75.00 administrative fee–$6.25 per distribution]. I have a variety of payment plans available. You can make 4 payments of $200. or divide the amount into as many as 6 payments which I make due by the 20th of the month. We can work out what works best for you.

To subscribe let me know by return email and mail a check for at least $100.00 [or the first payment of the plan we develop] made out to the Town of Granby to my attention:

Marianne Curling
Granby Sampler Coordinator
151 Silkey Road
North Granby, CT 06060

Once I have your check, your place will be secure for the coming year and we can work out a payment plan for you. We are planning on having 30 subscribers for pickup on Thursdays from 4:30-6:30. Pick-up is in a location near the center of Granby. Dates are below:

[Every other Thursday for 12 weeks…]

With the Granby Agricultural Commission, our sponsor, we are supporting sustainable agriculture in Granby. All of the products will be from here, or as nearby as we can acquire, but we can’t certify that the products are organic [complicated process]. The milk is always pasteurized. The meat is hormone free. All produce will be picked for each day of a distribution. In our first two years we added $45,000 to the local farm economy. Our goals for subscribers are to introduce them to local sources for farm products and encourage them to purchase more on their own.

The aim of the Granby Agricultural Commission is to connect local farms with consumers, provide resources for commercial and hobby farms and to promote businesses that use local produce. With the Granby Sampler, farmers will benefit through increased sales and revenue. Subscribers will receive locally produced food and goods of value equal to the subscription cost.

Participate and help us build and sustain our Granby farm community.

Thank you for your interest. I look forward to hearing from you.

Marianne Curling
Granby Sampler Coordinator

The farmers sell to the Granby Sampler at wholesale rates or a minimal 5% administrative fee [wholesale rates make the Sampler money, while the administrative fee barely covers the costs]. The goal is to pay the coordinator $10.00 per subscriber per distribution and the distribution helper $10.00 per hour for three hours of work [sometimes less is required]. So for each distribution the staffing expense for 30 subscribers does not exceed $330.00. The 30 subscribers have paid $187.50 in advance [30 x $6.25] and the farmer contribution needs to meet or exceed $142.50. Any overage is kept to start the next year [“profit” for Year 3 was just under $900.00—enough to fund subscriber and farmer surveys, then pay the coordinator to acquire 30 subscribers for 2013, coordinate all of the payments and organize the farmers]. I have included a spreadsheet detailing the finances for 3 weeks of 2012 [uploaded] this format allows us to track every aspect of running the Granby Sampler. Also new for the third year, we allowed the subscribers to order “extra” from the farmers in advance—it solved the “more eggs” request and we will enhance this feature as we move into our fourth year.

The Granby Sampler Coordinator spends about 40 hours to recruit local collaborating farms, oversee the marketing and subscription of the consumers, and develop the overall plan for distributions. For each distribution approximately 15 hours is required to supervise the collection and distribution process. She confirms sampler box content for each distribution, organizes payment to farmers, maintains the financial records for the program and creates the newsletter accompanying each distribution [series for 2011 uploaded]. Luckily, a number of people share their recipes—giving us tried and true favorites to include in the distribution summary. We continue to hold a closing potluck dinner for all subscribers and farmers.

We have not marketed the Tool Kit to our satisfaction. The NE SARE project was for two years and it really took a third year without financial support to be able to make sure the program would run in an ongoing sustainable manner. The Tool Kit was completed for the report and will be sent to regional farm organizations in the hope that others will create similar community wide projects. It will also be available on the Granby Agricultural Commissions website currently being redesigned. Please share it!

When this program was conceived in late 2009, there was only one farmer’s market within a ten mile radius of Granby—there are now three; a number of farm stands have opened as well making local choices more available to our consumers and filling the need for people who want to pick and choose their own items. The Granby Sampler continues to fill the need to introduce people to what is available locally and give them a shopping comfort level. We remove the intimidation factor some feel when looking for produce and goods not vetted by a grocery store.

Research results and discussion:

We overcame skepticism on the part of farmers and subscribers alike. Each group was willing to take a leap of faith that the Granby Sampler would deliver on all that was promised. Each group was pleased and enthusiastic about the result. The Agricultural Commission benefited from its sponsorship of the program. It increased its visibility in the community and its credibility with the Board of Selectmen. The resounding success of the first year underscored how programs that promote sustainable agriculture in the town of Granby bolster the town agricultural economy and increase the quality of life for the residents.

The town of Granby benefited from the increased viability of its agricultural community. Farmer entrepreneurship is on the rise. Several new farm stores opened last year and two CSAs. Two farmers markets now operate within five miles of Granby center. While the subscribers reveled in the convenience of picking up each distribution, they were also being trained as locavores and share their new found knowledge. Our subscribers let friends, relatives and neighbors know where to acquire the goods included in the distributions. Each distribution lists the items, a unit price and the source farm’s location. The Agricultural Commission’s website [granbyag.org] gives farm hours and locations.

Farmers and subscribers alike are enthusiastic supporters of the program. We had some attrition each year as subscribers who were involved resigned to make way for new subscribers. Former subscribers are our greatest advertisement for both the Granby Sampler and shopping at the local farms. Interest generated by the enthusiastic descriptions of the Granby Sampler from current subscribers assures our short term success.

The tool kit that we have developed will allow this model to be replicated in other communities increasing the impact of the Granby Sampler.

Over the two years we surveyed the total number of subscribers [69] and farmers [58]. Other than one subscriber being aghast that turkeys were not included the second year, the responses were nice and supportive from the 55% that responded. The survey responses confirmed what we had already learned from experience.

Participation Summary

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

With the Tool Kit attached to “potential contributions” we will help other communities replicate the Granby Sampler program.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

As described extensively in section 3. Objectives/Performance Targets, we accomplished our goals to increase farm revenue and to create a better connection between farmers and consumers. We raised the profile of our farming community and its value to our quality of life in Granby. We enhanced the credibility of the Agricultural Commission both within the town government structure and the community, lending weight to our programming such as the upcoming Open Farm Day [Sept. 2012]. The long term impact that Agricultural Commission credibility will have on the community cannot be easily measured but will be profound.

We fulfilled the project outlined in the grant and have developed a sustainable agricultural program for our town. With the Tool Kit we have means to share that success with others.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Potential Contributions

The Tool Kit makes it possible to replicate the successes of the program in other communities. The team that oversees the Granby Sampler will be available to help other communities get started.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.