Formalizing Partnerships to Scale-up Value-added Local Food in Rural Ohio

Final Report for FNC16-1056

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2016: $7,500.00
Projected End Date: 01/30/2018
Grant Recipient: Glass Rooster Cannery LLC
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Jeanine Seabrook
Glass Rooster Cannery
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Project Information

Summary:

Glass Rooster Cannery used the SARE grant to purchase a 40 gallon steam jacket kettle and canning supplies. We contacted local farmers, using our connections with OEFFA, to share our program and goals.  Many farmers responded, but in the end we worked with eight primary sources.  The goal was to save 1200 lbs. of produce from the compost pile.  By the end of the first season, we used 12,000 lbs. of produce to can approximately 8,000 jars of product. Farmers received 25% of the finished product back, dual labeled, to sell at market.  

Introduction:

Our project objective was to reduce food waste by working with local farmers to use their seconds and between market produce to create a value-added shelf product.  We proposed to do this by up-scaling our production with a 40 gallon steam jacket kettle  and supplies, which would allow us to make large batches, reduce cost of production, and provide farmers with additional saleable material for the community.  The outcome of our project is a resounding success.  Feedback from farmers and consumers alike was very positive.

We also proposed to create a local farm market to connect community members with their local farmers. Though this part of the project was attempted, we abandoned it after four market dates because of lack of interest. There are other community farm markets within 10 miles of our farm that meet this need.

Project Objectives:

The overall goal of this project is to reduce waste and create local community-producer linkages to promote sustainable agriculture. Evaluation is critical to gauging the success of our proposed project. We expect that our project will yield positive environmental, economic, and social benefits in Sunbury.

  • Environmental:  GRC will make use of available resources to reduce food waste among producers in rural Central Ohio. Specifically, GRC will produce 1000 additional jars of value-added product using unsaleable produce from partner producers. GRC will share proceeds with partner producers.  This will keep 1200 lbs. of waste out of the compost pile. The farm market will connect local consumers and farmers twice per month, saving produce waste for at least 15 farmers. Objective met: In the first year, we used 12,000 lbs. of farmer produce to create 8,000 jars of product, with 2,000 jars returned to farmers for their own profit. The need for this program is tremendous, and we were able to work with 8 farmers.
  • Economic: Each jar will provide $1-3 profit for GRC and partnering producers; we will be successful if at least 60% of value-added product is sold at market through the season.  In addition, at least 15 farmers will have one more additional income opportunity. Objective met: Eight farmers had additional income and opportunity to use the product in many ways. One farmer donated their end product to a school in a food desert; others sold additional items at market to promote their farm. In many cases, 100% of the product sold at market.  At the Cannery, we sold and distributed at least 60% of additional product.  This goal was achieved even after lowering our price points to account for faster production of goods.
  • Social: GRC aims to strengthen and increase connections between local producers and consumers, with new relationships built through the season.  We will be successful if producers report additional positive feedback from their customers. We will survey producers at the end of the farm market season, at which time they will tell us about their customer feedback, waste reduction, and any change in sales. We anticipate that these partnerships will affect a 15% increase in overall sales for our partner producers. Objective met: We did not measure overall increase in sales, but the feedback from farmers and consumers was overwhelmingly positive.  One piece of negative feedback was that we were unable to do more.  We continued to work with new farmers until the very end of the growing season, and turned away at least 8 additional farms who wanted to participate. Our goal for the next year is to increase the number of farmers and the amount of product we are able to process. 

 

  • We will outreach to local consumers via the GRC website, social media, brochures and other outreach materials. We will evaluate this activity by documenting the number of website hits, the number of new Facebook followers, and the number of new attendees signed up for GRC preservation courses. Objective met: our website hits increased by 20% in 2016.  Facebook followers increased by 300, and public and private class attendance increased by 25%.  
  • We will also use the same means to outreach to local producers. We will gauge our success based on the number of new producers committed to farm market participation and the number of new producers committed to partnering for value added product creation. (Target=15 farmers) Objective met: Though we had contact with many farmers, we had to limit ourselves to working with half the amount targeted because of the amount of produce each had to offer.  
  • We will purchase supplies and equipment for canning season, update licenses for expected products, and begin harvesting crops at GRC. We will be successful in these activities if they are all accomplished in the timeframe proposed above. Objective met: We purchased enough supplies for what we assumed would be necessary for year one.  We then repurchased supplies because of the great response to the program.
  • We will offer our kitchen as a resource and train others in food preservation. We will document the number of producers who attend our courses. Objective met: We had a 25% increase in participation in our preservation classes.
  • We will co-create value-added products from unsaleable produce. The high volume we will be able to process will be made possible through the steam jacket kettle purchased with S.A.R.E. grant funds. We will document the number of jars of value-added products we create, the number of jars we sell (Target=1000 jars). We will also record the type of products we create and sell, noting best sellers and less popular selections. Objective met: Although we have not sold all of the product from year one, this is to be expected. We have more than surpassed the goal of 1000 jars. Our most popular product line is pickles, with marinara sauce closely following.

 

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand

Research

Materials and methods:
  • January – May 2016

    • Create signage to promote GRC, home preservation trainings, and farm market.
    • Update outreach materials to reflect GRCs enriched capabilities via S.A.R.E. grant
    • Outreach to local producers and consumers via signage, website, social media, and brochures
    • Promote and explain farm market concept to producers and consumers
    • Obtain commitments from local producers to co-create value-added products with GRC
    • Purchase supplies and equipment for canning season
    • Update licenses for expected products.
    • Continuously gauge community and producer needs regarding desired and feasible product offering
    • Track number of new producers engaged
    • Track number of new social media followers and website hits

     

    June – October 2016

    • Harvest crops at GRC
    • Offer kitchen as resource to producers to create a value-added product to be shared for sale by the producer and GRC
    • Train producers in preservation methods
    • Use newly-purchased steam jacket kettle to increase volume of value-added product created
    • Commence twice-monthly farm market at GRC
    • Produce share with participants on Tuesdays to create to-go meals ready for sale at Wednesday markets
    • Track number of ongoing producer participants at twice-monthly farm markets
    • Track number of community members in attendance at farm markets
    • Track number of new producer partnerships created
    • Track number of new types of value-added products co-created by producers and GRC
    • Track sales of GRC shared-label products at farm markets and local stores

     

    October – December 2016

    • Apply for S.A.R.E. 2017 grant to build on knowledge gained through 2015 grant
    • Continue outreach, social media and website updates, and general advertising for GRC products and events
    • Continue partnerships with producers and creation of value-added products
    • Prepare final S.A.R.E report
Research results and discussion:

GRC successfully created relationships with farmers and consumers through this project.  Food waste and methane gases were reduced significantly for our participants.  Community relationships have been strengthened through our project, and will continue to grow.  

 

Impact of Results/Outcomes

  • 12,000 lbs. of potential food waste was put to use
  • Additional income was provided for 8 farmers
  • Community relationships were built and strengthened
  • Dozens of people increased their knowledge of food preservation
  • Education between GRC and our farmers will help plan for future needs of the consumer
  • Consumers were provided with additional information about their food through dual labeling
  • Farmers who had not previously branded themselves took the next marketing step for their business
Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

GRC brochures, signs, banners

Article: Ohio Magazine, Summer 2016  https://www.ohiomagazine.com/home-garden/article/home-style

Article to come: Salt Magazine, Summer 2017

 

Project Outcomes

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

  • Farmers will have continuing additional income
  • Consumers have more information about their food
  • Consumers have more opportunity to purchase local products
  • Food desert areas may be provided for locally
  • This market area may grow

Future Recommendations

Education for farmers:

  • When to harvest their between market produce for peak performance as a jarred product
  • Types of produce that are most suitable for canning production

Education for GRC:

  • Need for a diverse recipe file to pull from according to the produce available
  • Additional training on most efficient methods of preserving foods
  • Possible diversity in methods of preserving foods

Education for Consumers:

  • Explanation of why every product cannot be sourced locally every year (crop failure, etc.)
  • Willingness to test new products, purchase locally and in season
  • Continued education on home preservation and cooking

 

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.