Resources & Recipes to Support Farmers to Diversify Income through Value-Added Bakery Product Sales

Progress report for FNC21-1282

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2021: $16,859.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2023
Grant Recipient: Inn Serendipity Farm and B&B
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Lisa Kivirist
Inn Serendipity Farm and B&B
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Project Information

Description of operation:

The two farmer leads, Lisa Kivirist and Dela Ends, both run small organic vegetables farms with an added agritourism/Bed and Breakfast enterprise. Ends has been running Scotch Hill Farm for over 30 years and Kivirist has been running Inn Serendipity for over 20 year. Both have long histories of organic and sustainable practices and have been active in advancing cottage food legislation and running their own on-farm home bakery businesses.

Summary:

While the good news is most states now have a cottage food law allowing bakery products produced in home kitchens to be sold direct to consumer, the problem remains there are not enough resources targeting farmers to diversify their business mix through more tested non-hazardous recipes that use their farm-raised produce and  local grains in bakery products along with marketing tools to reach customers.

This project addresses these issues by supporting farmers to successfully add value-added bakery products through a variety of on-online tools including farmer-developed recipes that both use abundant produce and, importantly meet the non-hazardous water activity and are laboratory tested. This allows farmers to legally and safely bring items like pumpkin breads to market, which typical recipes do not meet the non-hazardous criteria. By using produce in baked goods, particularly blemished product that often goes unused, we keep more land in sustainable, ecologically sound production. 

This process requires the project leads to develop a deep understanding of the food science behind non-hazardous in order to both develop the recipes and communicate this information in accessible, easy-to-understand fact sheets that will be posted online. We are currently wrapping up this research phase and will be heading in to the recipe testing phase with a particular focus on using our farm's produce once the growing season rolls in.

We are also piloting innovative “pop up cottage food bakery markets” that enable farmers to collaboratively sell these baked goods directly to customers during the prime holiday season.  Such transactions enhance social responsibility and farmer quality of life by building healthy community connections as well as the economic viability of their business. Finding an ordering portal that is both accessible and cost-effective is proving to be more of a challenge than we initially realized and are in discussions with some ordering companies (Castiron) to see if we might be able to partner.

We are starting to plan the fall public launch and farmer outreach once the recipes and info sheets are created, with opportunity for educational outreach around these pop-up markets.

 

Project Objectives:

Our project creates farmer-developed resources to increase sales by adding value-added baked goods through the following:

1. Expand Resource Toolkit
A) 40 new non-hazardous recipes using farm-produce
B) Local grain resources
C) Information sheets on understanding non-hazardous

 

2. Test new marketing outlets
A) Pilot “pop up bakery markets” around holiday season
B) Develop software for direct ordering capabilities via an accessible/free portal TBD

Longevity:  This online ordering software will be available for use after project officially ends.

 

3. Share learnings & results
A) Create webinar (Midwest & national access)
B) Outreach via partner groups farmer team connected to: Midwest Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Education Services, Renewing the Countryside, Farmers Union, Artisan Grain Collaborative, etc

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Dela Ends - Producer
  • Dr. Pratik Banerjee (Educator and Researcher)
  • Jobea Murray (Educator)

Research

Materials and methods:

Logic Model for project uploaded .Logic Model Home Bakery SARE Kivirsit Ends

Participation Summary
2 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

8 Consultations

Learning Outcomes

2 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Lessons Learned:

In the research phase of this project (which we are currently in as of January 2022), we realized we needed expertise in both the food science side along with baking expertise in order to create value-added product recipes that would use farmer produce and both meet the non-hazardous criteria and taste good.

We were very fortunate to connect with Dr. Pratik Banerjee, Associate Professor of Food Safety at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Extension who has wonderfully served as an expert advisor for us to understand and navigate the food science side of non-hazardous recipes, particularly understanding water activity and pH testing.  Project leads Lisa Kivirist and Dela Ends have had two Zoom sessions with Dr. Banerjee where together we worked through our list of questions to help us develop safe recipes. Lisa Kivirist also had several initial exploratory calls with Dr. Banerjee. His guidance and insight was extremely helpful in us crafting a recipe testing plan. 

We learned both what can work (pH testing for fruit fillings if we add enough sugar) and won't work/stay away from (fruit chunks in items -- too watery and therefore hazardous).  These insights will both drive the recipe development as well as be included in the information sheets/webpages we are creating for this project.  Dr. Banerjee has helped us understand water activity to the point that we may not need to purchase the water activity tester originally budgeted in the grant and instead be able to jump to lab testing and use those funds for expanding educational resources.  We are in discussions with CTL Testing Laboratory, a commercial testing facility in Colfax, WI, on a potential partnership to help support this project with reduced testing fees (all recipes need a final lab-certified test).

Our general approach for recipe development which is the area Dela Ends is taking on is to develop several fruit fillings that showcase seasonal farm fruits and that can be used in a variety of products such as pies, bars and pastries.  Jobea Murray of Jobea Bakes both runs her own cottage food business and is a trained pastry chef specializing in pies and serving as a consultant in developing the recipes.

Dela will be leading the recipe development and testing to coincide with seasonal fruits  and tapping in to our local farmer network and Soil Sisters listserv (200+ women) for recipe ideas and testing, particularly when we can hopefully return to in-person events and our regular Soil Sisters potluck gatherings when COVID safe outdoor events can resume in spring, 2022. We will also tap into the Wisconsin Cottage Food Association (which Dela and Lisa co-founded) for ideas and feedback, now at over 800 members.

We are researching and in discussions with several companies (Castiron) and other services (LocalLine) on how to best establish the ordering system for the pilot pop-up markets. We're running into barriers as many of these companies that host software services for customers to order directly from producers (typically used for farmers markets) require a monthly fee for producers to join.  While this would make sense for a farmer as part of a regular market, that system would be cost-prohibitive for a pop-up market and we are looking at alternatives.  Our plan is to test the pop-up at the Soil Sisters event in August, 2022 and share insights/learning for fall and holiday markets.

Our plan is to have most of the 40 new recipes finalized/tested by August, 2022 and update the website. We plan to do a public launch of the project in early fall with the webinar, on-farm farmer-focused workshop, press release and fall market schedule.  The successful lawsuit that lifted the ban on the sale of home baked goods and made them legal to sell in Wisconsin (Ends and Kivirist served as plaintiffs) will celebrate it's five year anniversary in October, 2022, which will be a prime opportunity for media outreach. The NC SARE Farmer Rancher project that this one builds off of (FNC18-1130
Increasing Value-added Product Sales through Cottage Food Bakery Products Produced in Home Kitchens) came out right as COVID-19 hit in March, 2020, causing us to cancel the scheduled farmer workshop and unfortunately really negatively impacted the release as at the time farmers' priorities were not expanding businesses into local value-added.  The bright side to this now is this will give us a very strong opportunity for release of this project and generating publicity and farmer interest as there wasn't our planned awareness the first time.

Project Outcomes

4 New working collaborations
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.