Good Turn Farm, LLC is a husband and wife owned and operated small farm in Stockholm, WI. We currently grow certified organic vegetables, mushrooms, and cut flowers on approximately 2 of our 10 acres. Kevin & Annelie Livingston-Anderson have over 20 years of combined farming & horticulture experience including 8 years of graduate level schooling in the biological and agricultural sciences. We currently sell our crops through a wholesale farmers cooperative, direct to local restaurants and businesses, and direct to local individuals through special orders and local farmers markets.
D&S Gardens is owned and operated by Doug Jorgenson and Sara George, partners in farming and in life. We own 11.5 acres and farm 3 of those acres. We grow fresh fruits and vegetables sell them at farmers markets, restaurants and hospitals locally. Though we are not certified organic, we practice organic methods on our farm. Sara is very passionate about local foods and has managed the Wabasha Farmers Market for the past 5 year, she is on the board for Lake Pepin Local Foods, is the Vice President of the MN Farmers Market Association, the creator of Wabasha Food Access Network and she also works with Renewing the Countryside on various local food projects.
Twin Bluff Farms, LLC is a husband and wife owned and operated small farm business in Stockholm, WI. We currently grow vegetables, annual and perennial fruit crops on approximately 5 of our 21 acres. Steve & Kim Will have over 20 years of farming experience. We currently sell our crops through farmers markets, as fresh food, as processed canned goods and to local vineyards.
Lake Pepin Local Food Group is a group of producers and consumers located near Lake Pepin, with a concentration of participants located in Pierce & Pepin Counties of Wisconsin. Over 180 individuals and 12 farms have joined our group and many have participated in person at several community meetings since 2015 focused on strengthening our local food economy. Our mission as a group is to bring together local food producers and consumers, working to build a sustainable, vibrant and resilient community with economic opportunity and good quality of life for all.
Our existing Lake Pepin Local Food Group utilized the USDA Local Foodsystems Toolkit to help guide our discussions on how we can move forward cooperatively to increase local sales of produce from participating farms to restaurants, institutions and individuals. Without economic expertise in our group, we hired a consultant, Ken Meter, to provide guidance in our decision making process. We are creating a thorough review of online sales platforms to share with other farmers and choosing one platform to use cooperatively as a group in our area. As part of this cooperative marketing we plan to offer training workshops for the participating farmers in our area on topics such as food safety and pack standards. During the growing season of 2018 we will implement the online sales platform that we choose and work to cooperatively market products from the Lake Pepin Local Food Group.
The Lake Pepin Local Food Group wants to increase the volume of local produce sales in our area using the sustainable agriculture practice of direct marketing. We used the new USDA local foodsystems toolkit (“Economics of Local Foodsystems: A Toolkit to Guide Community Discussions, Assessments, and Choices”) to help guide our group in making the best decisions for moving forward1.
At this point, we believe that utilizing an online platform to streamline direct to consumer sales and cooperative deliveries is the best way for us to increase the volume of produce sold locally. However, there is an overabundance of online sales platforms to choose from. After working through the Local Food Systems Toolkit and consulting with an experienced local foods economist, we are going to choose an online sales platform as well as two local farmers markets to increase cooperative local marketing. As part of that process we are researching the currently available sales platforms, summarizing the different models, and deciding which is the best fit for our unique local food system.
We will implement the online sales platform and two markets in the summer of 2018. We are working to make sure connections with consumers are strong through marketing materials, individual meetings, and continued support during the implementation of the sales platform.
Fall 2017 –
- Work through the USDA Local Food System Toolkit with the Lake Pepin Local Food Group. In doing so, we are helping to assess the ease of use and usefulness of the toolkit for small, rural groups like ours. We would be helping to promote the use of this thoughtfully developed resource for the creation of functional local food systems.
- Gather input from local restaurants and institutions and reviewing previously collected data from Wabasha restaurants and institutions collected by the Wabasha Farmers Market manager. This is to help inform our decision in choosing a cooperative marketing model. We want to make sure we are providing a service that is needed.
Winter 2017/2018 –
- Analysis of collected data from consumers & producers in the area.
- Chose a direct marketing method based on collected data.
- Create review of current online sales platforms
- Reach out to local producers with informational materials about the chosen direct marketing method (sales platform) and get farms to join the project; follow up with trainings (on the sales platform, food safety, pack standards, etc.) for interested farms.
- Hold meetings with local restaurants, institutions, and individual consumers to show them how the direct marketing method works for them; follow up with training sessions for interested parties.
- Develop marketing materials to allow participating restaurants & institutions to share with their consumers that they are purchasing local produce.
- Plan delivery logistics for member farmers.
- Hold price planning meetings for producers.
- Coordinate a local drop location for individual buyers
Spring & Summer 2018 –
- Implement the chosen direct marketing method for local producers.
- Make cooperative deliveries to buyers where farms deliver on a rotational basis to cut down on delivery costs
- Continue reaching out to new consumers in a predetermined local area.
- Develop & distribute a survey to collect feedback from consumers & producers on how the system worked for them
- Collect data from farmers of total sales resulting from new direct marketing method.
In September of 2017, after the height of the growing season, our steering committee started to meet on a bi-weekly basis to work through the USDA Local Food System Toolkit. Our goal was to utilize the tookit in our decision making process for moving forward with some kind of cooperative marketing model. After several weeks of reading through chapters and discussing as a group it became pretty apparent that we didn’t have the economic research experience necessary to make use of existing secondary data for our community or to effectively design primary data collection methods. We then reached out to our networks and found Ken Meter, MPA and President of Crossroads Resource Center. Ken has a lot of experience working with rural communities on local food system projects. We met with Ken and his advice was that for where our community is at in the process it doesn’t make sense for us to go through a full economic impact assessment but instead to put our energy toward a few action items that we had already identified. Ken is in the process of gathering some economics stats for our community and will be incorporating them in a community discussion at the end of February.
Lake Pepin Local Food Group Steering Committee working through the USDA’s “The Economics of Local Food Systems”
One of our outcomes for this grant was to create a comparison chart for online sales platforms whether or not we decided to use one. Sara and Annelie as the two primary personnel on this project, reviewed over 20 online sales platforms and are in the process of creating a succinct, one-page comparison chart for the top contenders based on our research geared specifically for farmers looking to cooperatively market together through the platform (aggregation). Link to pdf of our in-progress comparison chart: Online-Platform-Comparison-Chart-
We also conducted interviews with 12 local restaurants and institutions using a survey that we created in collaboration with Ken Meter. We are still in the process of analyzing that data and will be discussing it during our community meeting at the end of February.
Annelie of Good Turn Farm and Sara of D&S Gardens with Chef-Owner Chris LePoudre of the Homemade Cafe in Pepin, Wisconsin.
Based on our group discussions and some of the preliminary data from our interviews, we are planning to move forward with the use of an online sales platform for the 2018 growing season. Our hope is that the platform we choose will make it more streamlined for local restaurants, institutions, and individuals to purchase produce from multiple local farms with one transaction and then be able to receive one delivery or go to one location for pick up. We have yet to make a final decision on which platform we’ll be using but hope to do so before our meeting in February. Then we will conduct trainings with our farmers and buyers for the platform and other cooperative marketing subjects (food safety, pack standards) and see how it works for the 2018 growing season. It is hard to gauge at this point how many farmers and restaurants will actually utilize the platform which will of course have an impact on the overall success. Once a platform is chosen, we will also have to figure out a lot of logistics around the aggregation of the produce and how deliveries are conducted. We are also planning to develop marketing materials to allow participating restaurants & institutions to share with their consumers that they are purchasing local produce.
Marketing local organic produce is reported as a major challenge by 40% and a challenge by 80% of small scale sustainable farmers2. By collaborating with other local farmers, time spent educating the buyers, selling the produce, and delivering the produce can be shared among the participating farms. This increases quality of life for local farmers by profitably marketing with less time investment. By making organic, small-scale farming a more viable occupation in rural communities, we can increase the total amount of organic farming which will benefit the environment and enrich our community.
By increasing direct marketing of locally grown, sustainable produce in this area, we will increase demand for sustainable farming acreage. The increased acreage in sustainable/organic farming has environmental benefits in reduced erosion, increased pollinator habitat, and decreased pesticide usage. These are all measurable outcomes that we can measure through farmer surveys to show if their local sales have increased, if they have increased organic production due to increased demand, and if they have seen any reduction in delivery mileage in response to cooperative local deliveries.
The economic benefits of this project include an increase in the amount of food dollars circulating in our local community rather than out into larger, neighboring communities. Changes in local sales amounts from local farmers will be documented by gathering local sales figures from farmers before the project and again after the project. Total increased profit will be determined by the difference between increased gross sales due to new marketing method minus the increased cost of labor for marketing and distribution of the products. We will also use follow up surveys to consumers to see if there is a change in consumer shopping habits as a result of our work.
Participation in the group and decision making process will increase strength and resilience of farmers in the area due to increased communication among farmers & local consumers. By creating a strong cooperative marketing system, this community will attract more young farmers to the area and decrease the amount of farm consolidation happening. These benefits can be measured with before and after surveys during the project to determine the social benefits recognized by famers and consumers as a result of this project.
Educational & Outreach Activities
- (Not completed yet)As part of our direct marketing research, we will perform a rigorous review of online sales platforms available for small farmers. This review will be formatted in a concise comparison table format and shared widely with other farmers. We will submit to publications including Growing for Market (15,000 audience), MOSES Organic Broadcaster (12,000 audience), Market Gardeners Success Group (5,000 members), Gardening For Market Facebook Group (1,800 members).
- (Not completed yet) The USDA Toolkit is a newly available tool for communities to use in developing and strengthening local food systems. We will provide a written review of the most useful experiences using this tool and share that written review with the publications listed above. By sharing our case study through several different channels, we will increase awareness in the farming community and encourage other groups to utilize this tool from the USDA in their own decision making process.
- (Currently planning) Farmer Workshops on food safety and pack standards will be open to all local farmers and will share the details of our group project. These workshops will be scheduled for late winter/early spring of 2018 and based on previous workshops in this area could bring in upwards of 50 participants.
- Social media – we have a Facebook group, Lake Pepin Local Food Group, with 189 members from the area. We post updates about the work we are doing in the group on a monthly/quarterly basis. Some people in this group are also farming but not yet actively participating in the Lake Pepin Local Food Group. With more information gained from this Facebook group, they may decide to take a more active role or apply what we learn to their own operation.
- We have shared updates through our facebook group page and group email list on our progress with the toolkit, online sales platform review, and interviews with buyers.
- Press articles
- We had a reporter from the local newspaper come to our community meeting last spring after we received the grant and they ran a story in the paper. “LAKE PEPIN LOCAL FOOD GROUP AIMS TO CONNECT LOCAL PRODUCERS, CONSUMERS” Courier Wedge, Feb 28th, 2017. Courier-Wedge-Article-on-LPLFG Courier-Wedge-Article-on-LPLFG-pg-2
- Other – the 12 meetings with local restaurants and institutions has brought a lot more recognition to our group in the area. Many of the potential buyers had not heard of our group and were excited to learn about the grant and the proposed cooperative marketing.
Because of the timing of our grant, most of our work just started a few months ago in the fall of 2017. Some of our major objectives we’ve worked on in that time include working through the Local Food Systems Toolkit from the USDA, finding and consulting with a local food system focused economist, reviewing online sales platforms, and interviewing potential wholesale buyers in our area.
While we will have more feedback after the 2018 growing season, during which we plan to implement our chosen cooperative marketing method, we have some initial feedback.
Because we didn’t have a clear idea of what our next steps should be as a group, when we applied for this grant we knew there was “The Economics of Local Food Systems: A toolkit to guide community discussions, assessments, and choices” publication from the USDA and we hoped that it would help guide our decision making process. There was some insight gained from working through the toolkit as a group but in the end consulting directly with an economist, Ken Meter, who has a lot of experience working with groups like ours proved to be more useful. We as a group did not have any economic training and we basically hit a wall with the prospect of analyzing secondary data for our community in a meaningful way. After consulting with Ken, we actually decided that doing a full economic impact assessment wasn’t necessary at this point in time because we are working more directly on relationships with buyers rather than proposing a large investment in infrastructure for example.
While “The Economics of Local Food Systems: A toolkit to guide community discussions, assessments and choices” is a well thought out publication it is probably a little too economics focused for most farmers and individual consumers to utilize on their own. We would recommend any community groups like ours to seek out a facilitator and/or economist to help guide the process.