Farm to Fridge: Assessing Need and Availability of Underutilized Refrigeration in Rural Grocery Stores for Use by Fruit and Vegetable Farmers

Final report for GNC18-267

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2018: $12,000.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2020
Grant Recipient: University of Minnesota
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Nicholas Jordan
University of Minnesota
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Project Information

Summary:

Postharvest refrigeration is known to provide benefits to produce farmers and consumers via improved food safety, longer sales windows, and reduced food waste. However, the actual use of cold storage varies greatly among Minnesota’s diverse 1,800+ produce farms. Through a survey of 70 Minnesota produce farmers, four in-depth beginning produce farmer interviews, and a survey of 138 rural grocery stores (located in communities with less than 2500 people), this research explored the potential for a “farm to fridge” model by assessing the refrigeration needs of produce farmers, as well as the opportunity for farmers to connect with existing refrigeration space in rural grocery stores.

This project, “Farm2Fridge,” worked in partnership with the University of Minnesota Extension "Farm to Rural Grocery to Wholesale: The Backhaul Project" (F2G2W) that piloted a new distribution model to create market access for farmers. The F2G2W team (composed of stakeholders from across the food supply chain- including farmers) identified a strong need for an assessment of available refrigeration in rural grocery stores; refrigeration would allow farmers to better participate in the F2G2W model.

The project addressed three main research questions:
1: What are the barriers small and mid-size Minnesota fruit and vegetable farmers face due to a lack of refrigeration? And, specifically, how do small/mid-size beginning farmer experiences with cold storage access impact perceived business success?
2: What is the current availability of excess, underutilized refrigeration in Minnesota rural grocery stores?
3: What resources, activities, and outreach are needed to connect interested farmers and grocers into a cold storage leasing relationship?

Results showed that 41% of farmers and 21% of grocers surveyed were interested in a potential cold storage leasing relationship. While a farm to fridge model might not be the best option for all farmers, responses indicated that it is worth exploring for beginning and small farms. Further, the relationship between grocers and farmers holds high potential: almost half of the rural grocery store respondents wanted more access to local produce. There are also deep barriers to farmer-grocer relationships. Nearly one-third of grocers had turned away farmers in the past because they were uncertain about the regulations for purchasing food directly from farmers. Results from this research were shared directly with farmers at two conferences, via social media, during five online webinars, and through in person conversations.

Ultimately, this research works to increase profitability of small and mid-size farmers while strengthening the social contract between local grocers and farmers in rural Minnesota communities. The findings are currently being incorporated into co-PI Olive's master's thesis and the project team applied for funding from two major sources (Bush Foundation and AFRI NIFA, both pending as of Summer 2020) to continue research and outreach work.

Project Objectives:

The project research questions address NCR-SARE broad based outcomes through three modified project-specific outcomes:
1) Identify economic and logistical barriers fruit and vegetable farmers face due to a lack of on farm refrigeration infrastructure;
2) Inform farmers about potential, existing rural grocery refrigeration locations, and educate about refrigeration and postharvest handling as a pathway to larger market access through extension outreach;
3) Understand the benefits of connecting farmers and rural grocers in a cold storage leasing relationship.
To address the three research questions and meet the proposed outcomes, co-PI Olive administered surveys to the target audiences, led in-depth farmer interviews, and, based upon data collected, will continue to conduct outreach through Extension activities.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Dr. Kathryn Draeger (Educator and Researcher)
  • Dr. Hye-Young Kim (Researcher)
  • Dr. Hikaru Hanawa Peterson (Researcher)
  • Dojin Park (Researcher)
  • Monica Jarvi (Researcher)
  • Alma Jorgenson (Researcher)

Research

Materials and methods:

This research used a mixed-method study approach (Creswell, Klassen, Plaano, & Smith, 2011) to gain a better understanding of the postharvest refrigeration/cold storage needs of Minnesota fruit and vegetable farmers. There were three main methodological components in this research process, which included 1) four in-depth produce farmer interviews, 2) a produce farmer survey on cold storage needs and usage, and 3) a rural grocery store survey that explored availability and interest in cold storage leasing relationships with farmers. Information gained was shared and will continue to be shared back with the targeted audience to and will aid future educational Extension outreach.

1. Produce Farmer Interviews (February 2019 - May 2019)

Four in-depth farmer interviews and additional individual conversations with farmers were held in Spring 2019. Initially, the Farm to Fridge project proposed to host three in-person focus groups with farmers to better understand research question one, “What are the economic and logistical barriers small and mid-size Minnesota fruit and vegetable farmers face due to a lack of refrigeration.” However, due to a number of factors, including research restrictions from the COVID pandemic, the focus groups were not held. The farmer interviews, however, provided sufficient data to be triangulated with other data collection methods (the produce farmer survey and the rural grocery store survey). 

This produce farmer interview portion of this research project used a qualitative phenomenological approach to gain a better understanding of beginning farmer experiences with one central phenomenon, refrigeration. The role of phenomenological research, according to Creswell and Poth (2018), is to “reduce individual experiences with a phenomenon to a description of the universal essence.” A rigorous phenomenological approach allows the research to describe four beginning farmer experiences with refrigeration. 

The participants included four beginning produce farmers located in Minnesota (see table). For the purpose of this study, the term “beginning” aligns with the USDA definition as someone who has operated a farm for less than 10 years. Participants who met the criteria of beginning farmer were solicited through an open call with the use of the University of Minnesota Small Farms Team network, recommendations from Extension Educators who work directly with beginning farmers, and through the UMN sustainable agriculture “Sustag” listserv (sustag[at]lists.umn.edu). 

“Name”

Age Category

Years Farming + Selling Produce

Size of Farm

Ethan

20-35

4

20 acres of land, >2 acres of production

John

20-35

4

20 acres of land, >2 acres of production

Linda

50-65

3

3 acres of production

Corey

35-50

2

40 acres of land, <1 acre of production

Participants were compensated for their time through a $25 stipend, provided by the NC-SARE Graduate Research Grant. An interview protocol was developed and reviewed by the project team, farmer advisor, and UMN DES 8103 course instructor Dr. Marilyn Bruin ahead of the interviews. The first question, “Can you tell me about your farm and your experience with farming” was intentionally broad and served to “open the floodgates,” a method described by Rubin and Rubin (2012, p. 123) with the goal to “obtain a broad overview that suggests what needs to be explored in depth later.” For the first interview, the second question was “What is your experience with refrigeration on your farm?” After completing the first interview, I made the decision to move what had been question #4, “What challenges or barriers do you face with your farm and farm business?” to be the second question. This gave an opportunity for the farmers to talk more broadly before centering on the topic of refrigeration. All other questions remained in the same order for all three interviews. Interviews were recorded using the application “VoiceRecorder” and field notes were taken by the PI to help describe the interview setting and capture initial data.

All interviews were transcribed verbatim and verified through a second listening to check the recording against the transcript, ensuring that no content was omitted. The first and second interviews were recorded and transcribed by the PI, word for word, using “Express Scribe,” which allowed for the recording to be slowed down to ensure accuracy and efficiency while transcribing. The third interview, also recorded, was transcribed using a free version of the online transcription service, “Temi.” The results of the online transcription were verified, word-for-word, against the interview recording twice. Personally identifying information, such as city names and names of the farmer participants, were excluded to ensure confidentiality.

The printed transcripts were used for thorough and complete data analysis. A modified version of the “Data Analysis Spiral” process outlined by Creswell & Poth (p.186, 2018) was followed, which included: 1) becoming immersed in the data through data organizing; 2) developing a coding system (see Appendix B) and assigning codes by analyzing the data for significant statements surrounding the central phenomenon of refrigeration; 3) revising the codes for the building of categories through the use of a data matrix program, “MindMup” (see Appendix E); 4) assessing interpretations and looking for deviant cases through re-reading the transcripts/codes/categories to build subcategories; 5) developing the categories into emerging themes; 6) reassessing the themes through a final review of the data; and 7) writing a final analysis with a discussion of findings and representing the themes in a concept map (see Figure 3). A hierarchy was assigned (Yin, 2016) with major emerging themes defined as those present across all three interviews, and minor themes as present in at least two of the interviews. The framework of sustainability was used to help identify patterns and relationships as they related to the three content areas of society/community, economics, and environment.

2. Produce Farmer Survey (December 2019 - January 2020)

The Produce Farmer Survey was created and analyzed using Qualtrics. Based upon feedback and input from the project team, the survey was shared with MN farmers via the internet and promoted through partner groups and online social media platforms (this included the Sustainable Farming Association newsletter, Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships regional email lists/Extension website, RSDP Extension’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, through UMN Extension Educator news channels, and in the UMN Small Farms Newsletter). The open survey was administered from December 2nd, 2019 through January 25th, 2020 and received 70 responses. The farmer survey aimed to gather information about current postharvest handling techniques, including use of refrigeration and need for access to cold storage, which helped identify farmer understandings of barriers. Survey questions included: 

    • Are you a produce farmer?
    • To what markets do you currently sell? (please select all that apply)
    • Do you use refrigeration or cold storage for the purpose of selling produce? (any type)
    • Please describe the type of cold storage/refrigeration used on farm (please select all that apply)
    • How old is your refrigeration/cold storage? 
    • Why does your farm NOT use cold storage/refrigeration for produce? (please select all that apply)
    • How does your farm decide how much cold storage/refrigeration is needed?
    • Where do you find information on building/buying cold storage/refrigeration? (please select all that apply)
    • Do you wish your farm had access to more cold storage?
    • How would increased access to cold storage/refrigeration impact your farm/the farm you work on? (please select all that apply)
    • Would access to OFF-FARM cold storage/refrigeration be useful to your farm? (e.g. renting unused cold storage space from the fairground, grocery store, school, etc in your community)
    • How likely are you to increase the amount of cold storage used?
    • How many years have you grown produce for sale?
    • What percentage of your household income comes from fruit/vegetable sales?
    • How many total acres do you grow produce on?
    • Do you plan to expand your farm operation in the next 5 years?
    • Your zip code
    • Do you have any comments or suggestions? 

3. Rural Grocery Survey (May 2019 - January 2020; Data Analysis May2020 - July 2020)

From May 2019 to October 2019, the project team worked with the University of Minnesota Extension - Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP), partners, and stakeholders to administer the 2019 Rural Grocer Survey, an updated and expanded version of the first 2015 Rural Grocer Survey.

The project team, working with the University of Minnesota Center for Survey Research, used methods based on “Mail and Telephone Surveys” by Don A. Dillman. The survey was mailed to 250 stores located in towns fewer than 2500 people (following the USDA definition of “rural”) in a 10x13 envelope (due to the survey content and length of 80 questions/20 pages it was printed into a stapled booklet form), with a cover letter printed on RSDP letterhead and a $2 bill included as a “thank you.” Reminder postcards were sent two more times, and follow up calls were made to rural grocers who had not yet responded. The survey received a 55% response rate, with 129 grocer responses (response rate = completed questionnaires/ (total sent - eliminated). 

As part of the Farm to Fridge SARE funded project, co-PI Olive included several specific questions on in-store cold storage/refrigeration. The questions included: “We have learned that refrigeration capacity and equipment are issues in many rural grocery stores. Please answer the questions below for each refrigeration system that you have in your store;” “If all regulatory issues were addressed, would you consider leasing some of your refrigeration space to local farmers or local food processors? (this question included space for comments);” “Have you turned away any farmer selling locally grown and/or processed foods because you were uncertain about the regulations for purchasing food directly from farmers?” The purpose of these questions were to explore grocer interest in the “Farm to Fridge” model. 

To connect more deeply with grocers, the 2019 Rural Grocer Survey included an outreach component, a separate bright yellow comment card that allowed grocers to write check marks next to items on which they wanted follow-up from the project team. The comment cards also provided space for the grocer respondents to fill out their contact information so that the project team could follow up on specific questions that were asked in the larger survey. Questions relevant to the Farm to Fridge project included: “I would like help connecting with local farmers to buy products (fruits and vegetables, meat and cheese, or other local food items) for my store;” “I am willing to have my store serving as a “cross-dock” meeting point between local farmers and my regular wholesale supplier;” and “I am interested in learning more about the possibility of a side business where produce/products from multiple local farm are combined at my store.” Answers to these questions were mapped geographically using google maps to show distribution and to serve as a tool for Extension staff to use when sharing Farm to Fridge results with farmers

Research results and discussion:

Minnesota produce farmers, and beginning farmers in particular, want and need increased access to cold storage: 67% of farmers surveyed (n=70) wished their farm had access to more cold storage. In-depth qualitative interviews with four beginning farmers further describe these needs. However, there are varying opinions of the usefulness of rented/leased off-farm cold storage as compared to individually purchased on-farm cold storage, as 41% of produce farmer respondents were interested in leasing off-farm cold storage. Further, rural grocery stores are unsure of the benefits of renting cold storage space to local farmers. While research results do not indicate strong interest in this unique type of cold storage leasing relationship, there is still an opportunity for farmers interested to explore and strengthen refrigeration leasing/renting relationships where possible, and higher potential for broader relationship building between grocers and farmers as part of sustainable local foods systems. 

Results from the “Farm to Fridge: Assessing Need and Availability of Underutilized Refrigeration in Rural Grocery Stores for Use by Fruit and Vegetable Farmers” graduate student led research project showed that 41% of farmers (n=70) and 21% of grocers (n= 124) surveyed were interested in a potential cold storage leasing relationship. This amounts to a similar total number of interested farmers and grocers: 27 grocery store owners were willing or maybe willing to lease part of their cold storage and 28 farmers thought that off-farm cold storage would be useful or maybe useful to their farm business. The following results and discussion sections detail findings in the following categories: 1) Rural grocery cold storage, 2) Farmer cold storage needs, 3) Using qualitative study to explore the impact of refrigeration for four beginning farmers, and  4) Promising potential of growing farmer-grocer relationships.  

 

Research Question 1 Results: What are the barriers small and mid-size Minnesota fruit and vegetable farmers face due to a lack of refrigeration? And, specifically, how do small/mid-size beginning farmer experiences with cold storage access impact perceived business success?

Refrigeration impacts small and mid-sized Minnesota fruit and vegetable farmers, 67% of farmers surveyed (n=70) wished their farm had access to more cold storage. The top major barrier to accessing cold storage is cost. Compared to rural grocers, a larger percentage of Minnesota produce farmer respondents were interested or maybe interested in leasing off-farm cold storage (41%, n=70). The 2019 Farmer Cold Storage Survey, conducted through this SARE Farm to Fridge project, focused on assessing the cold storage needs of produce farmers in Minnesota and exploring the interest of farmers in leasing cold storage off of the farm. Farmers interested in leasing cold storage off-farm commented that, on one hand, “off farm cold storage seems like a good idea - something we’d be interested in before installing our own. Our operation is very small and we’ve found ways around electrified cold storage that meets our needs.” On the other hand, several farmers were unsure about the logistics, stating, “I don't trust this option, it tends to be expensive and we have had problems with mold and other issues in a shared cooler space we used to use.” The comments and data show that off-farm cold storage is not the right option for every farmer, but instead might be most useful for smaller or beginning farmers. 

Off-farm cold storage may not be of strong interest to established, well-resourced farmers, however, further exploration is needed to understand the potential for off-farm refrigeration benefits for beginning farmers. Overall refrigeration access was studied through four in-depth, semi-structured interviews with beginning farmers of differing ages and life stages, and findings show that access to refrigeration impacts beginning farmers’ perceived business success. 

The impact of refrigeration on the beginning farmers’ perception of success was analyzed using the framework of sustainability, or the nexus of prosperous community, economics, and environment to achieve long-term stability. Findings show that refrigeration impacts beginning farmer lifestyle and interactions with community (social), profitability of the farm (economic), and farm practices and food waste (environment). Further, the interviews collected indicate a strong beginning farmer perception that refrigeration aids farm business success, and all four farmers wanted increased cold storage access. While these findings are context-dependent due to the nature of the qualitative study, they demonstrate the need for further research to understand the trade-offs beginning farmers make which prevents the addition of refrigeration on farm, and they support the need for future programming that can help support these farmers specifically on cold storage, such as grants assistance and programming specific to beginning farmers. (Note: A separate paper that contains detailed specifics of beginning farmer interviews and deeper analysis is uploaded as part of this SARE graduate student project report.)

 

Research Question 2 Results: What is the current availability of excess, underutilized refrigeration in Minnesota rural grocery stores?

In order to understand why only a minority of rural grocers are interested in leasing/renting out their cold storage space, it is important to describe the type of stores and the equipment available (rural, in this context, is defined by the USDA as a community of less than 2,500 people). Based upon 2019-2020 Rural Grocery Store Survey results (which are further detailed in a report co-authored by Ren Olive: http://z.umn.edu/RuralGroceryReport), the majority of stores (92%, n=129) are privately owned small businesses, nearly all (97%, n=123) sell produce and, on average, they have two cash registers, six aisles, and operate with a sales floor that ranges in size from 400 square feet (sq. ft) to 31,000 sq. ft. The buildings that house rural grocery stores are aging, with an average age of 54 years old (n=123). The majority of rural grocery stores in Minnesota have between one to three walk-in coolers that are also aging, with an average walk-in cooler age of 29 years old. This suggests that coolers in many rural grocery stores are not equipped with energy efficiency, LED lighting, and technology of more recent models. 

Photograph shows inside of a 1960s walk-in produce cooler.

Rural grocers use older walk-in storage coolers that do not have excess space beyond immediate store needs. This impacts the potential for the “Farm to Fridge” model: of the 97 grocers who were not interested in leasing cold storage space, 77 said that their disinterest is primarily due to lack of space in the coolers to store extra product - they simply did “not have room.” Only a few grocers were concerned about anything other than space; three grocers said they are worried about “security” and “policing someone else's products,” and only one grocer thought it “would just be too much of a hassle.”

This picture, taken at a rural grocery store in NE Minnesota, shows limited space and the older age of equipment. 

 

Research Question 3 Results: What resources, activities, and outreach are needed to connect interested farmers and grocers into a cold storage leasing relationship?

The relationship between rural grocers and produce farmers holds high potential: almost half of the rural grocery store respondents want more access to local produce, and only 10% of surveyed produce farmers stated that they currently sell to retail grocery stores. 

When asked about what types of locally produced products grocers would like to buy more of, the top responses included jams/jellies (18%), fruits (12%), and vegetables (11%). While rural grocers want increased access to local products, there are also barriers to farmer-grocer relationships. Nearly one-third of grocers reported turning away farmers in the past because they were uncertain about the regulations for purchasing food directly from farmers (with an additional 22% of grocers reporting they were not approached by farmers in the past and thus have not turned away farmers). The top three major barriers for grocers who who sell produce bought directly from farmers are 1) maintaining a sufficient supply of local produce to sell in store, 2) maintaining the shelf-life of local produce and 3) understanding the rules and regulations for selling local produce - all of which can be problem solved. It is promising that the top barrier is maintaining a supply of local produce to sell in store - this shows that this market is not saturated.  

Red dots show the locations of grocery stores interested in buying from farmers, scattered around the state of Minnesota

Based upon responses to the Farmer Cold Storage Needs Assessment survey, the majority of farmer respondents are not selling through grocery stores. When asked to select markets they sell to, farmer respondents primarily selected farmers markets (67%) and through on-farm sales/farm stands (48%); sales to grocery stores were only reported by 10% of farmer respondents. Direct outreach can address these research findings. To address these findings, graduate student Ren Olive is working with RSDP and other Extension staff to host regional online farmer-grocer cohorts, to build relationships and work through the Farm to Grocery Toolkit (z.umn.edu/farm2grocery). The dots on the map of Minnesota show interest by forty-seven rural grocers for one-on-one help connecting to farmers to buy local food. These stores will be the starting point for the farmer-grocer cohorts. Based upon these findings, the relationship between farmers and grocers has room to grow; the rural grocery store market holds potential for farmers and could be a way to increase sales.

Participation Summary
74 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 Online trainings
4 Published press articles, newsletters
7 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Other educational activities: Forthcoming master's thesis

Participation Summary:

55 Farmers
10 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

Curricula, factsheets or educational tools - F2G Toolkit

The “Farm to Fridge” research project aided the creation of a “Farm to Grocery Toolkit” that highlights best practices, tools, worksheets,

Lid of the "Farm to Grocery Toolkit"

and resources to help connect and strengthen the relationship between farmers and rural grocery store owners. The toolkit can be viewed at z.umn.edu/farm2grocery (this is “version 1” - the project team plans to update and add to the toolkit as they receive evaluation and direction from farmers on needed changes/additions). The project team who compiled/wrote/edited the toolkit used feedback gathered from farmers and grocers. The toolkit was published in April 2020, and as of October 2020, the Farm to Grocery Toolkit was downloaded 422 times.  

Online trainings - Local Foods College Webinar

Project co-PI and collaborator Dr. Kathy Draeger led a webinar training for the UMN Extension Local Foods College on April 22nd, 2020. The Local Foods College is an interactive distance learning opportunity geared towards gardeners and farmers interested in sustainable, community-based food systems -- and is free and open to all, typically offered bi-annually. The Farm to Grocery session was part of a “Rapid Response Local Foods College” special session series in response to COVID-19. The session provided interactive time between presenters and attendees in addition to a training on use of the Farm to Grocery Toolkit. The entire Local Foods College series can be found at the UMN Extension website.

 

Published press articles, newsletters - 5 (SFA, Small Farms Newsletter, Fruit and Veg Newsletter, RSDP, MISA)

Five separate press releases/newsletter contributions were published. Three press releases/newsletter publications focused on the Farmer Cold Storage Needs Assessment survey, and were sent during Winter 2019 through the UMN Extension Small Farms Newsletter and email list, the UMN Extension Fruit and Vegetable Newsletter, and the Sustainable Farming Association (SFA) Newsletter and email list (which reaches 3,000+ member farmers). The fourth and fifth press releases focused on the Farm to Grocery Toolkit, and were sent in Spring 2020 through the Minnesota Institute of Sustainable Agriculture news channels/email updates, and through UMN Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships statewide email lists and social media.  

Image of gif used to a
This was an animated .gif used to advertise the Farmer Cold Storage Needs Assessment survey to MN produce farmers.

Webinars, talks and presentations - 7 

The project team participated in two farming conference presentation sessions, including the February 2019 Sustainable Farming Conference Annual Conference and the January 2020 Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society Annual Conference. co-PI Olive presented preliminary findings to the Minnesota Grown/Marketing team at the MN Department of Agriculture. Outreach also occurred through four webinars: two interactive farmer-researcher/educator conversations through Sustainable Farming Association meetings, one presentation to the Spring 2020 MN Local Foods Advisory Committee meeting (the committee is comprised of MN Dept. of Agriculture/Health professionals, UMN Extension Educators, Sustainable and Conventional Farmers, agriculture practitioners, and food/farm business leaders), and one panel webinar presentation during the July 2020 Nutrition Incentives in Rural Communities Webinar. 

Other - 1 

co-PI Ren Olive plans to use the “Farm to Fridge” project to support their master’s thesis, which is currently in progress as of Fall 2020.

 

 

Project Outcomes

2 Grants received that built upon this project
3 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

This "Farm to Fridge" research project resulted in three core learning outcomes:

1) Small and mid-size fruit and vegetable farmers learned about the opportunity to access excess rural grocery refrigeration locations in Minnesota, with an interactive map and ongoing programming that will pair farmers and grocers together to expand relationships. 

2) Attitudes and outlook of Minnesota rural grocery store owners are being influenced through gaining a better understanding of the regulatory and logistical feasibility and value of a direct farm to fridge plan as part of their business model. The Farm to Grocery toolkit addresses this and has been shared with grocers across the state. A curriculum is being developed to further address this outcome (part of the Farm to Grocery project). 

3) Project promotion helped to deepen community awareness of the mutually beneficial relationship between relevant stakeholders. This was done through conference presentations, and will continue to be accomplished through an online upcoming farmer-grocer cohort workshop series. 

 

The “Farm to Fridge” project influenced the creation of a larger project supported by a MN Dept. of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant, “Farm to Grocery: Opening Farm to Rural Grocery Markets for MN Specialty Crops,” which included the creation and publishing of a Farm to Grocery toolkit (which can be downloaded free of charge at z.umn.edu/farm2grocery). Sections of the toolkit were specifically tailored in response to questions that arose from farmers during this SARE graduate student grant project. The goal of the “Farm to Grocery Toolkit” is to better equip farmers (and grocers) with knowledge and resources to help support and strengthen their buying relationships.

Knowledge Gained:

Engaging in this project brought greater awareness to my advisor and me about the opportunity for farmers to sell to rural grocery stores. Designing the survey and leading the in-depth qualitative interviews allowed me to really connect with this topic and with farmers. Further, the perception that small town grocery stores do not want access to sustainable local foods was greatly discredited (I hadn’t thought this, but I have heard it from the local food/sustainable agriculture community).

Information Products

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.