Farm-to-Pantry Widget

Final Report for CNE10-081

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2010: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Kate Quinn-Jacobs
Authentrics, Inc.
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Project Information

Summary:

The focus of the grant effort was to build a generic, open sourced Farm-to-Pantry widget that can be embedded into any website in support of an online farmer's market targeted at promoting purchases from bulk buyers. This software can be downloaded for public use at: http://www.authentrics.com/download/ An example of the generic Farm-to-Pantry widget currently deployed to work in concert with a specific system (Harvestation in this case) is available on IthaCan, a web-based community of home food preservers. http://ithacan.ning.com/ Other organizations may use the generic Farm-to-Pantry software to develop their own proprietary systems.

Project Objectives:

Results were measured both quantitatively and qualitatively: first, by Authentrics Inc., through an automated quantitative project report tracking system designed for Harvestation; and second via end of season surveys containing both quantitative and qualitative questions of farmers and buyers (see attached summaries below); and third, through user feedback forms available on the Harvestation site. Additionally, exit interviews were done of farmers who collaborated in the project dev't. See survey results posted below. The automated tracking system collected the following: 1. the number and kind (farmer or buyer) of participants 2. the number of interactions via social networking features 3. the number of searches 4. the number of registered farmers and consumers 5. the number of outreach contacts made The Farm-to-Pantry feedback form will allow users to give us useful information about the experience of using the widget. The surveys conducted at the end of the 2010 harvest season were informative and gave us feedback from both the buyers' and farmers' perspectives. The majority of buyers and farmers reported finding the system "very easy" or "easy" to use. Open ended comments on experience with making purchases revealed that customer satisfaction was largely dependent on the responsiveness of the farmer once the order was placed. Working out the logistics for pickup were cited by both buyers and farmers as an obstacle. Farmers who made sales generally said the experience went well. Suggestions from buyer's for improvements to the system included expanding the geographic area of the service, educating farmers about Harvestation, and reorganizing product categories. Farmers' suggestions for improvements included inventory tracking and developing a way to post new harvest notifications. We also surveyed both buyers and farmers to see if there was any interest in paying for the online market service. Buyers rejected the idea of paying a subscription fee, but were more open to a transaction fee; farmers were open to a small fee, if it were based on sales.

Introduction:

In 2010, Authentrics, Inc. designed, developed, tested and launched an online farmer's market, Harvestation, directed to serve the needs of bulk buyers. http://www.harvestation.com/ The widget version of Harvestation is based on the generic Food-to-Pantry widget, which was the focus of the SARE sustainable community grant effort. The widget can be embedded into any website. Examples of this capability are available on IthaCan, a web-based community of home food preservers (http://ithacan.ning.com/) and Ludgate Farm & Market, a community grocery and farmstand (http://www.ludgatefarms.com/site/page/view/harvestation).

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Persephone Doliner
  • Alison Fromme
  • Tim Haws
  • Peter McDonald
  • Robin Ostfeld
  • David Quinn-Jacobs
  • Rose Ryan

Research

Materials and methods:

The Harvestation widget is a web-enabled scheduling application through which farmers and home food processors meet and match up. Via resource scheduling, a technology used in business project management, producers and consumers are able to locate each other, reducing the time and money spent on both sides. The site includes a preorder function whereby consumers can agree in advance to buy from a farmer. The preorder function allows vegetable farmers to adjust seed orders, planting schedules, and harvest times to accommodate this submarket and help meat farmers plan butchering schedules and optimize freezer space. For farmers, Harvestation provides direct access to a bulk-buying consumer pool. Farmers will be able to post what products they will have and when. They can also review a summary consumer wish list designed to help target and focus farming efforts. For example, a pork farmer whose piglets will be ready for market in the fall can access the Harvestation consumer wish list the previous spring to contact consumers looking for sides of pork. For consumers, a search engine assists them to locate products of interest. For example, if a home processor seeks 300 pounds of tomatoes so she can make a year’s worth of tomato sauce for her family, she can go to the web site, specify a few characteristics (e.g., “Roma” and “organic”), and receive a list of farmers who are growing tomatoes, their anticipated harvest dates, pick-up locations, prices, and ability to supply the quantity she desires. Once the preorder is in place, the buyer will be assured of obtaining the produce she needs at a known price. As the season progresses, she can touch base with the farmer about anticipated harvest dates through IthaCan’s website. If the tomato farmer has a PayPal account, electronic payment will simplify the transfer of funds for her as well as for the farmer. Organized groups of home food preservers can also use Harvestation. Events such as large-scale cider pressing and pressure canning can be planned weeks (possibly months) in advance through Harvestation. Preplanning has the capacity to increase attendance at scheduled events and allow home food preservers to reserve borrowed/rented equipment and kitchen space. In the case of IthaCan, the network in which we piloted the widget, the involvement of the local community was ensured by participation in discussion groups and other social networking activities. We added new features in parallel with the Harvestation widget, such as a local farmer resource list, and a “chat with the programmer” online feature, to increase visibility of the project on IthaCan. http://ithacan.ning.com/group/harvestation_discussion Farm-to-Pantry is a “widget” because it is embeddable in other web sites. For example, if the local Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) wanted to broaden access or just show report statistics, it could embed a widget on its own site. The database and server processes would still operate on the IthaCan site; the widget at CCE would provide another window into the same data. The Outreach Coordinator and Project Manager for the project recruited farmers and enlisted home food processors for the effort through a targeted marketing campaign. Farmers listed in the Tompkins County CCE’s publication “Guide to Foods Produced in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes” were contacted directly. Home food processors interested in bulk buying were reached through promotional postings on the IthaCan website and through support activities such as tabling at local fairs, bulletin board posters, and food events and IthaCan workshops on bulk buying.

Research results and discussion:

Harvestation Statistics: No. Customers: 199 No. Farmers: 58 No. Listings: 226 No. Public Page Views: 19,024 No. Total Listing Shows: 371,109 No. Baskets in Process: 40 No. Orders Emailed: 76* No. Searches: 3,014 * Many sales occur with the aid of Harvestation, but aren't tallied through the Harvestation system itself. For example, a customer will use Harvestation to contact a farmer about one item and then buy several additional items without posting the sale through the website; or, a farmer will contact buyers directly by reviewing Harvestation Wishlists, but not process the sale through Harvestation. Although this does impede tracking sales, from the developers viewpoint, it underscores Harvestation's success in promoting local food networks, which is a key objective of the system.

Participation Summary

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Throughout the course of the project, the project manager and outreach coordinator engaged in outreach and media opportunities to increase knowledge of the Harvestation effort within our community and to recruit farmers and consumers. See specific in the attached document: Harvestation Outreach & Media Roster. Also attached is a copy of an article printed in Tompkins Weekly authored by K. Quinn-Jacobs on Harvestation as part of the Signs of Sustainability series. Methods used were:

    • Newspaper and newsletter articles
    • Radio interviews
    • Facebook page
    • Twitter account and posts
    • Online news groups and website articles
    • Magazine article
    • Tabling at fairs
    • Presentations at community forums
    • IthaCan discussion group dedicated to Harvestation
    • Quarter sheet handouts (see attached doc below)
    • Posters for bulletin boards (see attached doc below)
  • Outreach & Media Appearances Roster

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Buyers and farmers continue to register for Harvestation for this upcoming 2011 harvest season. Registration is open to all and remains free of charge, giving farmers a local option for show casing their products as well as a vehicle for connecting with customers. In 2011, the Farm-to-Pantry widget was embedded on a local community grocery's website: http://www.ludgatefarms.com/site/page/view/harvestation; Ludgate Farm & Market is partnering with Harvestation to facilitate farm product drop offs with customer pick ups. Promotional material for this partnership, Harvestation Pickups, is posted below.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Potential Contributions

An open source generic version of the Farm-to-Pantry widget is available for download: http://www.authentrics.com/download. The generic software download can be leveraged by other organizations to build their own online market packages. For example, custom names, data sets, photos and logos developed by an organization can be applied to the software shell to develop a unique system that meets individual organizational needs. Note: Harvestation is a proprietary system of Authentrics, Inc. and serves here as an example of what can be developed with the underlying generic software.

Future Recommendations

Create a 3 year outreach plan to give the local community time to become familiar with your project. Consider strategic partnerships with local businesses or organizations able to serve as brick-and-mortar outposts for farm product dropoffs/pickups.

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.