Our farmer team consists of three farmers all running small-scale, diversified operations practicing sustainable agriculture.
Lisa Kivirist (20+ years): Inn Serendipity Farm and B&B: Vegetables, renewable energy, agritourism
Linda Derrickson (20+ years): Bluffwood Landing: Vegetables, sheep/fiber
Ashley Wegmueller (approx. 5 years): Bo & Olly Produce: Vegetables
Problem: The good news is that almost every state now has a bakery cottage food law, legislation that allows non-hazardous baked goods to be produced in a home kitchen for direct-to-consumer sale. However, while cottage food offers opportunity for farmers to diversify into value-added products; no resources exist to support farmers in producing baked goods that look professional and utilize ingredients grown on the farm. It’s easy to bring chocolate chip cookies to market, but that product doesn’t add value to what we farmers are growing.
Additionally, as farmers bring small batches to market, the packaging and product display tends to look more like a “bake sale” with baggies and plastic wrap rather than something one would expect from a real bakery.
Solution: This project creates a toolkit of resources for farmers to create baked goods in their home kitchen that utilize farm raised ingredients and are displayed in a professional manner, resulting in diversified sales leading to economic vitality. By using produce in baked goods, particularly blemished product, we keep more land in sustainable, ecologically sound production. Additionally, as cottage food products are sold directly to customers, such transactions enhance farmer quality of life by building healthy community connections.
This project supports farmers diversifying to include small-batch homemade baked goods sales using their farm-raised product through the following:
- Develop a Resource Toolkit
- 30 non-hazardous recipes using farm produce
- 4 Non-hazardous frosting recipes
- Packaging & display ideas
2. Create & host two trainings
- Farmer workshop (to be held September, 2019 in Madison, WI)
- Webinar format (for Midwest & national access)
3. Share findings via outreach
- Workshops at 2019 National Women in Sustainable Agriculture Conference, National Farmers Union Women’s Conference
- Outreach via partner groups farmer team is involved with, including MOSES, Renewing the Countryside, Farmers Union, Coops,
Our farmer team and friends have been researching and testing recipes with one of us also researching packaging. Key process/learnings to date:
• Recruit additional expertise
The bulk of our project to date has been testing value-added recipes to meet the non-hazardous FDA requirements for cottage food sales out of home kitchens. This has been an interesting, new learning journey for our farmer team because while we are all enthusiastic home bakers, none of us are food scientists nor professional pastry chefs. We quickly realized we needed additional expertise and were fortunate to find a pastry chef (Danielle Matson) in our community who enthusiastically jumped in. As Swiss Colony, a large food manufacturer, is located in our area, we worked with human resources to find someone with a food science background who would be willing to mentor us and to whom we can ask questions. We were very fortunate to connect with Hannah Kramer at Swiss Colony who supports this project and is tutoring us in everything from acidity levels to recipe tweaking.
• Recipe testing
We are in the process of developing and testing the recipes for the final Toolkit that will all meet the non-hazardous moisture levels and also incorporate farm-raised items. Each member of our baking team took a different category from crackers to cookies to breads. While some recipes are clearly non-hazardous from the start, like crackers, we are still working on recipes with pumpkin/squash puree and zucchini. Hannah Kramer our food scientist expert has been very helpful here to make suggestions on tweaking ingredients as needed, like using vegetable oil instead of butter and straining some water off the puree to “dry” it out a bit. That said, we still need a tasty product at the end. Importantly, we realize we also need to create recipes that don’t use other non-farm ingredients that are so expensive or labor-intensive that farmers can’t produce small batches and sell at a profit.
• Focus groups
We have held a formal focus group in October; Agenda-Oct3-Brainstorming. We gathered a range of people to brainstorm ideas, both farmers but also enthusiastic farmers market shoppers (i.e., what would they buy) and local creative professionals (i.e., the director of the Monroe Arts Center). This worked great to generate new ideas, such as a healthy granola-style “power” bar. We have two more planned, in particular to gather farmer feedback once we have the Toolkit draft.
Additionally, at various other meetings and events our team has brought samples and recipe variations for testing and input. This also gives us a “test run” on how perishable something might be. A cracker recipe was tasty, for example, but broke apart during a short car ride and won’t work.
We are excited to “go public” this spring and do some “crowd sourcing” for the project. By broadening things to involve and ask input and contributed recipes from other cottage food bakers beyond our farmer team, we will most likely gather some interesting new ideas. We are setting up a Google Form to collect information/contact info/recipes & ideas and then will publicize via online portals like the Wisconsin Cottage Food Facebook page and Wisconsin Home Bakers.
We are currently in the middle of finalizing the recipes and will have that done by April and then will start on the photos and Toolkit layout/text. We are currently looking at doing different “batter variations.” For example, a pumpkin batter recipe that we would have variations detailed to make it into bread loaves, cookies, cupcakes, etc.
We are also experimenting with different locally-raised flours. This has been a rewarding opportunity to connect with regional small grain producers and adapt recipes that use more locally-raised grains. For example, we are finding that spelt flour (raised here in Wisconsin) can be used in some cases as a substitute for a commercial, basic white flour. These insights will go into the Toolkit, most likely in a chart form.
For the packaging/design element, we did find that it helped to have more of the recipes finished and then find appropriate packaging as items have different packaging needs, like crackers need to be kept crispy and others like muffins moist. We will be testing some of these display/packaging pieces at farmers markets to see what is appealing for sales.
Educational & Outreach Activities
The bulk of our work to date has been consultations, meetings with our team and various others/experts to gain feedback, research ingredient combinations and develop recipes. The bulk of our outreach work will take place once the Toolkit is completed/released in September, 2019.
Three key education & outreach opportunities that have taken place and add into the numbers above:
• Sampling/feedback at Green County Women in Sustainable Ag Meetings
We are fortunate to have a vibrant, on-going women in sustainable ag network in our area that meets regularly for potlucks. Team members bring samples to these gatherings and get feedback, in particular at the last two 2018 potlucks. Estimate 12 farmers learned about the project/sampled/gave feedback at two events = 24.
• MOSES Conference workshop
Lisa Kivirist did a cottage food workshop on 2/22/2019 at the 2019 MOSES Conference during which she gave an overview of the project and goals. Response was strong with 55 attendees signing up to receive the Toolkit when published. Estimate 5 of these were agriculture professionals.
• Milwaukee Journal Sentinel feature article
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (the largest circulation newspaper in Wisconsin) ran a feature article on 2/21/18 on cottage food baking that specifically plugged this project and North Central SARE:
Home bakers in Wisconsin are happily selling their treats, now that it’s legal — you could too
Additional media is already planned including a follow-up piece in the MJS that will include our recipes!
Key lessons learned to date:
• Farmers need to think out of the box for income diversification
As we describe this project to farmers, we often hear “I never thought about baked goods being value-added” and then quickly “great idea!” We are finding there are lots of creative ways to add what you are raising into baked goods, but these are often things farmers don’t think about like adding herbs to bread. The fact that now the baked goods a farmer brings to market contain something from the farm enables a much stronger marketing appeal as truly “farmer produced” and should be something that brings a premium price. Additionally, we are also developing recipes/ideas for baked items a farmer can sell that enhance/increase vegetable sales. For example, a bag of plain crostini/bruchetta breads along with a recipe on using one’s tomatoes and basil for a tasty, easy topping. We will be testing that at farmers markets this summer.
• Team focus works to overcome barriers
This project epitomizes the strength in bringing together a farmer team as all of this recipe testing and display/packaging development are easy to “divide and conquer” to in the end create a stronger solution. None of us could have alone assembled all of these recipes but together it is achievable.
• Opportunity to start small
The good news about cottage food baking businesses for farmers is you can start small with practically no cost to get started and test if adding baked goods makes sense for you. By using your home kitchen and with already owning most of the tools/supplies needed for baking, it’s easy to try out an item on a small scale and see if it is right for your market.
• Broader impacts beyond farmer community
While this is a SARE farmer-driven project, this Toolkit will be used by home bakers with various non-farmer backgrounds. The majority of cottage food bakers nationally are women in urban and suburban areas running part-time businesses, often stay-at-home moms. With the growth of local and farm-to-table, these recipes will spark ideas among non-farmers to use more locally-produced items in their baked goods and then buy ingredients from their farmer, increasing sales in a different way.
Note: The 5 farmers “officially” gaining knowledge from this project are those that have specifically been involved with/contributing to date. This number will increase in our final report when we include workshop attendance, Toolkit distribution, etc.
We will include personal stories in our final report based on the outreach for the Toolkit. That said, we are so inspired by the positive feedback we’ve received already just talking to farmers about the idea for this project and look forward to it’s release. We will also add “Participants” in the next section upon the Toolkit’s release and our outreach workshops.