Most producers own farms ranging in size from five to 75 acres. The farms vary in production, but most consist of a few livestock – dairy, hogs, draft and light horses – intensive grazing and fruit and/or vegetable plots. The larger farms may have a few acres planted to hay, wheat and corn.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
Approximately forty produce growers want to market organic integrated pest management regulated produce by means of a produce auction. The produce is centrally located in LaGrange County and surrounding counties. The auction barn is located in LaGrange County. We want to encourage other farmers to develop this innovative marketing practice to increase farm income and contribute to sustainable rural agriculture.
Many livestock producers, especially smaller landowners and family farms, face financial difficulty with low prices and high land prices. The auction market will allow the conventional farmer an alternative way to utilize their land by growing fruits and vegetables on five to ten acre plots.
A manager/sales promoter has been hired to approach brokers, supermarket chain stores and farm markets. More growers have committed to the 2001 growing season. With a thirty percent increase in production projected, another level of buyers must be approached to offset this market increase.
While sales were exceptionally good for the first year, start up expenses were barely met in 2000. Extensive marketing of buyers will be a major goal for this year’s program.
The end of year 2003 has seen vast improvement at our produce auction. We have had more variety of produce and fruit coming in from surrounding areas. We have also made some changes in management and sales, with a full time experienced sales manager. We will end up with $600,000 this year to $125,000 last year. Growers are planting better in multiple plantings to keep a constant supply at the auction.
Outreach and advertising has been increased in areas where we feel our buyers are located. We also supplied shipping this year to our buyers which helped out a lot. Newspapers now come to the auction to get a story. We have had a few A.P. Press Releases. Our extension people from Purdue University helps us a lot in sending out cards as to when growers meetings are held, and a monthly report on migrating insects etc.