Baskets to Pallets: Preparing Small and Mid-scale Farmers to Enter Food Hubs, Groceries, Restaurants and Cooperatives

Final report for NENY14-001

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2014: $44,444.00
Funds awarded in 2015: $44,443.00
Funds awarded in 2016: $50,000.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2017
Grant Recipient: Cornell University
Region: Northeast
State: New York
State Coordinator:
Violet Stone
Cornell Small Farms Program
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Project Information

Summary:

Over the past 8 years, farmers markets have grown by 38% in the state of New York, the second highest number in the country.  While this growth has provided an abundance of easy-to-access markets for small and beginning farmers, established farmers have started reporting slower sales and customer loss due to intense competition.  These farmers complain of ‘burn-out’ from investing significant time and energy in direct-marketing strategies that are yielding diminishing returns. Meanwhile, distributors such as food hubs, grocery stores and restaurants are now recruiting product from small to mid-sized farms to meet growing consumer demand for local and sustainably-grown food.  Although technically ‘wholesalers’, these  businesses are often eager to establish attentive relationships with their suppliers,  offer attractive prices and terms, and maintain a product’s branding and integrity.  Yet, there are many differences between selling products through a direct channel versus an intermediated one.  Farmers need support to understand issues specific to intermediated markets such as product demand, storage, transportation, packaging, certifications, liability, etc.  Before pursuing an intermediated market, farmers need to carefully assess the benefits and challenges of these channels.

In response to this need for educational support and decision aids when considering an intermediated channel, the Baskets to Pallets project brought together 12 educators who wrote 16 lesson plans intended to prepare small and mid-size farmers to enter larger, scale-appropriate markets - specifically food hubs, groceries, restaurants and cooperatives. The resulting Teaching Manual is organized into 5 modules that address soft skills, marketing, business management, production and food safety. The project produced 2 video series to accompany the curriculum.  A farmer-buyer interview series featuring Wegmans Markets and Headwater Food Hub complements the marketing module with voices from real buyers and the farmers that service them.  Two videos examining uniformity and consistency in beef animals live and on the rail help reinforce principals in the production module.  

The 12 educators who authored the Teaching Manual introduced the lesson plans to 36 ag educators from across New York in April, 2016 during a 2 day Training. The Baskets to Pallets Project then collaborated with 3 of the educator trainees to host a Farmer Training in Cooperstown, NY in 2017 to a room of 40 farmers. The Training was taught by several of the curriculum authors and a few new instructors who adapted the materials to suit their knowledge and teaching styles.  Following the Training, 13 farmers said they were likely to pursue new markets. 12 said they felt ready to pursue new markets. The Project collaborated with 2 additional educator trainees to host a Farmer Buyer Mixer open to any farmer who had completed wholesale market training. 44 farms, 14 educational organizations, and 16 buyers attended the networking event. 14 farmers said they will follow up with buyers who were interested in sourcing their products.  Finally, 2 additional educator trainees opted to adapt the curriculum to offer workshops and field days to their local communities reaching a total of 50 additional farmers.  

The Baskets to Pallets Manual and a collection of teaching resources including PowerPoint presentations and videos were also posted online at http://smallfarms.cornell.edu/b2p/. A global audience of 334 educators have accessed the materials at this writing. In response to a follow-up survey, 2 of these 334 online users reporting adapting sections and teaching a total of 60 farmers.

Overall, a total of 90 farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation in the Baskets to Pallets project.  48 ag service providers actively benefited with new knowledge and information. 

Performance Target:

36 agriculture service providers who gain competency in wholesale market readiness curriculum will work in teams of 3 to teach 12 workshops to 120 small and mid-size farmers interested in pursuing wholesale markets.

40 farmers will enter a new wholesale market within 1 year of a Wholesale Market Training.  20 of these farmers will report higher level of satisfaction in 3 of the following 5 areas:

  • PROFIT earned through this new channel LABOR required to sell through this new channel
  • VOLUME of PRODUCT required to send through this new channel
  • LIFESTYLE PREFERENCES that selling through this new channel provides
  • RISK specific to selling through this new channel
  • ASSOCIATED COSTS required to sell through this new channel

 

Introduction:

New York’s small farmers expressed strong interest in exploring scale-appropriate models of wholesale in a highly detailed marketing trends survey conducted by the Cornell Small Farms Program in February, 2014.  Nearly half (39% )of the 445 NY survey takers reported currently selling at farmers markets, farm stands or CSA’s, but 25% indicated plans to explore either a food hub or a restaurant over the next 2 years.  An additional 7% indicated interest in a grocery store or cooperative.  However, respondents identified many questions and perceived risk factors in making a transition to wholesale that need to be addressed.  The following farmer quote represents a typical question: “I need to increase my sales to people interested in high quality locally grown products, but cannot afford the time to sit at a farmer's market. Where are the food hubs, and how do I go about providing products?” 

In a survey geared toward agricultural service providers  titled “Educators: Are you Ready to Help Farmers Sell Wholesale?” conducted by the NY SARE office in May, 2014, 46 educators in NY indicated strong interest in a professional development training to acquire the tools and resources to help farmers decide if, when and how to sell to a wholesale market.  In addition, 19 signed up for a task group to design curriculum for Wholesale Market Training and 14 signed up to serve on an advisory panel for this project topic.

From 2014-2017, the NY SARE PDP program addressed this gap in Wholesale Market Training for educators and farmers by facilitating a 3-phase Train-the-Trainer program.  The first year of this project brought together a task group of 12 educators together to assess current educational initiatives and generate a teaching curriculum. In YR 2, 36 educators attended a 2 day workshop to learn, critique, and implement this curriculum.   In YR 3, these same educators collaborated with the Baskets to Pallets project to either co-host, teach or adapt materials for local trainings.

Advisors/Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • James Monahan
  • Bobbie Severson
  • Matthew LeRoux
  • Laura Biasillo
  • Stephen Hadcock
  • Crystal Stewart
  • Megan Burley
  • Gretchen Wall
  • Elizabeth Higgins
  • David Cox
  • Mariane Kiraly
  • Glenda Neff

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

The Baskets to Pallets project brought together 12 educators who wrote 16 lesson plans intended to prepare small and mid-size farmers to enter larger, scale-appropriate markets, specifically food hubs, groceries, restaurants and cooperatives. 

The 12 educators who authored the Teaching Manual introduced the lesson plans to 36 ag educators from across New York in April, 2016 during a 2 day Training. 

 The Baskets to Pallets Project then collaborated with 3 of the educator trainees to host a Farmer Training in Cooperstown, NY in 2017 to a room of 40 farmers. The Training was taught by several of the curriculum authors and a few new instructors who adapted the materials to suit their knowledge and teaching styles. 

The Project collaborated with 2 additional educator trainees to host a Farmer Buyer Mixer open to any farmer who had completed wholesale market training.

Finally, 2 additional educator trainees opted to adapt the curriculum to offer workshops and field days to their local communities reaching a total of 50 additional farmers.  

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Year 1 Milestone Accomplishments

Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2015
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

YEAR 1 (October 1, 2014 – September 30, 2015)

  1. February 2015. Educators who responded to the survey titled “Educators: Are you Ready to Help Farmers Sell Wholesale?” with interest in this SARE PDP training receive a personal email with a detailed overview of the project and formal invitation to enroll in the program. Educators are invited to sign up for any or all of the following opportunities:
  • Join a task group of 12 educators to design curriculum for Wholesale Market Training workshops geared toward small – mid-sized farmers.
  • Join a group of 36 educator trainees to attend a 2 day workshop to learn, critique, and subsequently implement this Wholesale Market Training curriculum in regional full day workshops to farmers.
  • Join an advisory panel to oversee the entire 3 year professional development project

Complete. Invitations to join the project went to survey respondents in February, 2015.  Ultimately, 20 educators joined the Advisory Committee and an additional 12 joined the Curriculum Writing Committee.  45 educators signed up to become trainees in the 2 day workshop to learn, critique, and subsequently implement this Wholesale Market Training curriculum in regional full day workshops to farmers.

 

  1. March 2015. NY SARE Project Coordinator meets with project Advisory Panel via conference call to begin gather feedback on executing YEAR 1 of the project work plan.

 

Complete. The newly formed Advisory Board met on March 23rd, 2015. 

  1. New Milestone! April 2015. NY SARE project coordinator establishes New Wholesale Market Watch Listserv.

Complete. In April, I launched the 'Wholesale Market Watch' listserv which I use to announce project opportunities and trainings.  The listserv also provides information and resources to facilitate connecting small and mid-sized farmers to larger markets such as food hubs, grocery stores, restaurants, online marketplaces and cooperatives. The listserv has 369 people subscribed - a mix of farmers, agricultural educators, and regional food-buyers. 

  1. March AND September 2015 To attract publicity to the project, 6000 educators and farmers on the Cornell Small Farms Program mailing list receive press about an introductory series of 3 ‘Sparking a Wholesale Revolution’ webinars. An opening slide describes the SARE PDP project briefly and invites viewers to sign up for a project list-serve that will announce subsequent opportunities.

Complete. The webinar series, called “Small Farms, New Markets” unfolded in segments, with two Spring presenters and two Fall presenters (to avoid scheduling webinars during planting and harvest season).  The series featured farmers that successfully transitioned from direct-marketing to one or more wholesale markets.  Each webinar also included one of the farmer’s ‘wholesale’ buyers who described how they established productive relationships with smaller farms, and outlined their business models and buying requirements.  The goal was to provide inspiring examples of small and mid-sized farmers in NY that have successfully moved from Direct Marketing to one or more Wholesale venues, and to convey how the transition took place from a production and business management perspective.  The series was also meant to draw publicity to the NESARE project and encourage people to sign up for the new “Wholesale Market Watch” listserve.  The webinar presenters and attendance numbers are provided below. 

April 6th, 2015. “Turning Milk to Gold (Butter)” with Shannon Mason of Cowbella and Sonia Janiszewski & Richard Giles of Lucky Dog Food Hub
56 registered | 23 attended the live presentation

April 20th, 2015.  “Mushrooms to Dining Rooms” with Alan Kaufman of Shibumi Farm and Jennifer Goggin of FarmersWeb
70 registered | 32 attended the live presentation

October 12th, 2015. “Upstate Livestock Farm Reaches NYC Restaurants”  with Stephen Winkler of Lucky 7 Livestock Company and Seth Mosner of Mosner Family Brands
58 registered |  21 attended the live presentation

October 19th, 2015.  “Selling Produce to Groceries” with Dan Kent of Kent Family Growers
68 registered | 28 attended the live presentation

An additional 716 have watched the archived recordings since they were posted. 

Wholesale-Marketing-Webinar-Descriptions

  1. April 2015 NY SARE Project Coordinator reviews database of educators that have signed up to enroll in various components of the program and finalizes curriculum design task group, educator workshop participants and project advisory panel.

Complete. See a list of the Advisory Board and the Curriculum Writing Committee Members in the Key Individuals section.

  1. June 2015 Task group of 12 educators meet via introductory webinar to launch Wholesale Market Training curriculum design process. Educators are introduced to wikis and ‘group space’ which will be used to house working documents, ideas & materials. 

Complete. After further reflection, it was clear an in-person meeting to launch the writing process would be much more productive.  On June 2nd, 2016, the 12 members of the Curriculum Writing Committee had a great retreat/workshop at Pumpkin Hill Bistro in Aurora, NY. 

I worked with curriculum design consultant Patrice Prusko to create the agenda for the day. After introducing ourselves, we reviewed our target audience - farmers (of all enterprises) that have been primarily direct-marketing and are new to exploring the feasibility of wholesale markets.  Then, we created mind maps brainstorming key learning outcomes needed to successfully prepare small and mid-sized farmers in NY to enter larger markets such as food hubs, grocery stores and restaurants. 

Curriculum-Writing-Retreat-Agenda-and-Writing-Plan

  1. June 2015. Educator members of the task group conduct literature reviews on current educational initiatives and curriculum related to Wholesale Market Training to identify learning objectives and activities relevant to small and mid-sized farmers in New York.

Complete. After the retreat, I sent out a 6 month plan with instructions to the Committee for how to get started.  Over the next 8 weeks, the Curriculum Writing Committee divided into 5 subcommittees according to area of expertise and interest.  Each Subcommittee is spearheading the design and development for a module within the curriculum.  For uniformity and consistency, I created both a curriculum template and a powerpoint template as well as provided a folder with stock photos, if needed.  We started off using Google Docs as our collaborative workspace, but that quickly proved challenging for over half of the members.  We then switched to ‘Cornell Box’ but multiple versions of the same documents quickly created a chaotic environment.  I then assembled all of the Draft Units into one single “Master Draft” and encouraged members to download the app ‘Box Edit’ to be able to edit the single document when needed. After much coaxing and providing a detailed photo tutorial on how to download the app, most of our members are now successfully editing the Master Draft.  The Curriculum currently consists of 5 Modules and 18 Units. 

  1. August – December 2015. Task group meets via monthly conference calls and communicates via group space to finalize curriculum.

Complete. August and September, the group met via monthly webinar so each Module could share their lesson plans and teaching resources in development and receive feedback from the group.  However, it quickly became clear that each Module needed more individual attention and accountability for quality progress to take place. In September, I switched to a schedule of meeting with each Module via webinar every 2-3 weeks.  This was much more time-intensive for me to manage, but the groups made much greater progress ‘building out’ their learning activities and giving each other support and feedback. 

The collaborative writing process has generated challenges.  Each member is responsible for a Unit within a Module, and that Unit must complement the other Units in the Module from both a content and delivery perspective (i.e. diverse array of learning tools to maintain engagement and satisfy different styles of learning while meeting a similar group of learning objectives and formats).  The Module itself must ALSO complement the other Modules.  Individual meetings are great for accountability but it keeps the members siloed. 

As the Project Coordinator, if I see overlap or gaps in content in the individual Units, I’ve been encouraging individual members to talk to each other, which has helped somewhat.  But, it became clear that it would be necessary to create a space for the Curriculum to be presented live so both the content and delivery could be it could be peer-reviewed and externally reviewed.  I’ll be hosting a live “Mock Training” on February 19th, 2016 for the educators to deliver the entire Curriculum to a panel of external reviewers consisting of farmers, buyers and other educators.  This 'Mock Training' will be a chance for the educators that are designing the Curriculum to receive feedback from each other and those with experience in Wholesale Marketing about the effectiveness, relevance and accuracy of the content.  The Curriculum will then continue to be revised. 

Milestone #2 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Year 2 Milestone Accomplishments

Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2016
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
October 31, 2017
Accomplishments:

YEAR 2 (October 1, 2015 – September 30, 2016)

  1. November 2015. NY SARE Project Coordinator meets with project Advisory Panel via conference call to begin planning and organizing a one day two-day workshop for agricultural service providers to learn, critique, and implement this curriculum followed by an optional second day bus tour to food hubs, restaurants, and grocery stores to meet with wholesale entrepreneurs and tour facilities.

Complete. As the educator-authors on the ‘Baskets to Pallets’ Curriculum Writing Team developed their Units throughout the Fall, it became clear that the Training Manual would contain much more than 8 hours of instruction.  In fact, as it took shape, the Training Manual looked to cover about 16 hours of instruction.  Therefore, I made the decision to expand the Training from one to two days and drop the bus tour.

  1. New Milestone! December 2015 – March 2016. As we looked for ways to bring more examples and true-life experiences into the Curriculum, one of the educator-authors proposed a video series. I applied for and received external funding and hired a videographer to produce two interview sets.  The video sets, titled “A Conversation with Headwater Food Hub and Fisher Hill Farm” and “A Conversation with Wegmans Food Markets and Blackman Farms Homestead” each contain 4 clips and will be included throughout various Units in the Curriculum.    

BtoP-FARMER-VIDEO-CLIPS

  1. October 2015 – March 2016. NY SARE Project Coordinator selects workshop venue, food and lodging. The Project Coordinator works with the curriculum authors to prepare program design, handouts, speakers, and evaluation materials.  The Coordinator identifies food purchasers affiliated with regional food hubs, restaurants, and grocery stores interested in offering tours to educator trainees, plans driving route, and prepares entrepreneurs to address the learning objectives for the bus tour.

Complete. In addition to planning for the two-day Training, it became obvious that energy should be directed into organizing a ‘Mock’ Training for educator-authors to debut their draft Units and get preliminary feedback.  We also needed to see the Training performed live to understand how the Units fit together and identify gaps or areas of overlap.

I recruited a Mock Review group made up of food buyers, educators and a farmer, whose job was to critique each Unit (see Appendix 2a and 2b).  The Mock Review Group provided excellent suggestions (26 pages of typed feedback!).  Over the next 8 weeks, I worked one-on-one with educator-authors to incorporate the suggestions. 

The Review Group strongly encouraged choosing one produce and one livestock case study and weaving their stories and practices throughout the Curriculum.  After selecting the Case Study farms, I collected questions from the educators-authors and conducted 8 hours of interviews with the farm owners.  I then shared the written interview transcripts with the educator-authors who extracted information and quotes for their revised Units. 

Other tasks at this time included venue selection, press, registration, catering order, supplies, and assimilating the various Unit materials into one Manual. 

AGENDA-and-SAMPLE-FEEDBACK-FORM-B2P-Mock-Training

  1. March 2016. Educator trainees receive registration information for a one day workshop for agricultural service providers to learn, critique, and implement the newly finished Wholesale Market Training curriculum followed by an optional second day bus tour to food hubs, restaurants, and grocery stores to meet with wholesale entrepreneurs and tour facilities. 

Complete. Because the ‘critique’ had taken place with a smaller focus group during the Mock Training, the focus for the actual Training was to present the Training Manual and materials to educators to learn and implement.  However, feedback forms were also provided to collect suggestions for improving the 2nd Edition.

  1. April June 2016. A total of 36 educators (including 12 from the curriculum design task group) attend the workshop and 24 attend the optional bus tour. Educators are evaluated before and immediately after the workshop to assess understanding of learning outcomes.

Complete. 35 Educators enrolled in the Training, along with 12 educator-authors from the Curriculum team, for a total of 47 in attendance representing 31 counties in NY.   Learning outcomes were not relevant since the materials were intended toward a farmer audience.  Instead, the feedback form elicited suggestions for improving the relevance, effectiveness, and accessibility of the Training Manual.  

FEEDBACK-FORM-BtoP-Training

BtoP-Table-of-Contents

  1. New Milestone! May, 2016. The NY SARE Project Coordinator posts the first edition of the Training Manual and all of the associated worksheets, handouts and videos to a password protected webpage (so I can keep track of who has access for follow-up purposes). The 35 educators that completed the Training will be provided access to the resources to adapt for delivery to their local agricultural communities.

Complete.  The Training Manual as well as the powerpoint presentations, worksheets and videos can all be downloaded by request at http://smallfarms.cornell.edu/b2p/.  To date, 292 educators and farmers across the country have requested and received access to the materials.

  1. New Milestone! May, 2016. Educators granted access to the online Training materials will be polled to determine who is planning to host a workshop incorporating the materials in Fall 2016 or Winter 2017.

Complete.  At that time, Cornell Cooperative Extension educators Lynn Bliven in Western NY and Liz Higgins in Eastern NY expressed intentions to host the Training.  (Ultimately Lynn Bliven’s training was cancelled and Liz Higgins did not receive the grant that was meant to fund her training) 

  1. May 2016 – August 2016. The NY SARE Project Coordinator resumes one-on-one webinar meetings with 6 of the 12 member curriculum design task group to incorporate feedback from the educator trainees into the 2nd Edition of the Baskets to Pallets Teaching Manual.

Implementation Note. 6 of the Curriculum authors will continue to stay with the project and will revise their own Units over the summer; however, 6 will need to step off the Committee due to other commitments.  Therefore, I’ll be revising content in Units that have been ‘orphaned’. 

Complete.  Several of the continuing members revised their Units according to feedback. A new committee member, David Ross, from the wholesale software company Farmers Web, joined the committee to revise some of the ‘orphaned’ units.  He achieved one of the main goals of the revision, which was to remove overly academic or complicated content and put forward only the most relevant, practical and concise information.  However, as his new content emerged I developed concerns that it was focused too much on the perspectives of Farmers Web and didn’t include enough outside examples and illustrations.  Therefore, the revision process continues as I grapple with how best to use his content in the new edition. 

  1. New Milestone! September 2016. The second edition of the Training Manual is completed. 

 In progress.  Although the new content has been developed, I haven’t yet announced it to our national community of 292 users.  See above note.

Milestone #3 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Year 3 Milestone Accomplishments

Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2017
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
December 31, 2017
Accomplishments:
  1. October 2016. NY SARE Project Coordinator meets with project Advisory Panel (see Key Individuals section) via conference call to begin to gather feedback on executing YEAR 3 of the project work plan.

Planning Note. The Baskets to Pallets project foresees two ways that the Training Manual will reach farmer audiences.  1) Educators that completed the two day Baskets to Pallets Statewide Training in April, 2016 will offer workshops to local farmer audiences based on the materials in the Baskets to Pallets Teaching Manual at their discretion. These educators are free to tailor the content, style and length of their workshops to address the needs of the farmers in their region.  2) The NY SARE PDP program will host two Baskets to Pallets regional farmer trainings based on a majority of the content in the 2nd Edition of the Teaching Manual. Both of these mechanisms are reflected in the milestones below.

Between all of these efforts, we expect a total of 120 farmers to complete some form of training.

Complete, with a revision. I sent an invitation to all the Educators that completed the 2-day Baskets to Pallets Statewide Training  to become a host site/collaborator for a winter season farmer training.  3 educator trainees responded with interest.  They all happened to be in the Catskills region, so instead of hosting two Baskets to Pallets regional farmer trainings, I decided to put all of the grant resources into one big regional training.  The goal was to recruit a total of 40 farmers from a 100-mile radius.

October, 2016. 6 educator-authors on the Curriculum Committee work with the NY SARE Project Coordinator to design the program/format for the first Baskets to Pallets regional farmer training.  The 6 educator-authors serve as the Instructor team for the training.

CompleteOur Instructor/Planning Team included some original curriculum authors, and some new instructors.  One of the educator hosts taught a Unit as well. 

  1. November 2016. The NY SARE Project Coordinator, along with the 6 educator-authors on the Curriculum Committee, host the first Baskets to Pallets regional farmer training to a group of 20 farmers. 

Complete. The Training took place on January 31st and February 7th from 10:00am - 4:00pm.  40 farmers attended from a 100-mile radius.

  1. January 2017. 6 educator-authors on the Curriculum Committee work with the NY SARE Project Coordinator to design the program/format for the second Baskets to Pallets regional farmer training. The 6 educator-authors serve as the instructor team for the training.

Incomplete.  See above

  1. March 2017. The NY SARE Project Coordinator, along with the 6 educator-authors on the Curriculum Committee, host the second Baskets to Pallets regional farmer training to a group of 20 farmers.

Incomplete. See above 

  1. 23. October, 2016 – March 2017. The NY SARE Project Coordinator invites the 35 Educators that completed the two day Baskets to Pallets Statewide Training (in April, 2016) to submit descriptions and dates of the local farmer workshops they intend to host during Fall, 2016 and Winter 2017.

Implementation Note. While it is hoped that the Teaching Manual will equip these Educators with most of the resources they need to provide a quality educational experience, the Project Manager will support these individual local Trainings by providing statewide press, referrals for instructors with specific expertise, suggestions for content that achieves the host’s goals for the workshop, and uniform evaluation materials.  

 Complete: 2 educator-trainees, Lynn Bliven of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Allegany County and Cathy Moore of Cornell Cooperative Extension or Jefferson County expressed interest in hosting their own local farmer workshops.

  1. October, 2016 – March 2017. 10 of the 35 Educators that completed the two day Baskets to Pallets Statewide Training offer tailored workshops based on materials from the Teaching Manual to a total of 80 farmers in their communities.

 Complete: Lynn Bliven offered a series of classes and field days based on the Teaching materials, and Cathy Moore offered all 5 modules in the Manual.  A total of 45 farmers attended these educational events.

  1. February, 2017. The NESARE PDP Program works with 4 of the 35 Educators that completed the Baskets to Pallets Statewide Training to plan two one regional Baskets to Pallets Farmer-Buyer Mixer to take place in March 2017. The Mixer is a 4 hour event consisting of three parts.  First, buyers provide introductions and general information.  Next, buyers and farmers are paired in groups of 4 to share lunch at small tables.  Finally, farmers are given specific time to meet with buyers one-on-one.  

Implementation Note. The Farmer Buyer Mixers are only open to farmers that have completed some form of Baskets to Pallets training (either one of the Baskets to Pallets regional farmer trainings or a local training hosted by an educator). Mixers will be located wherever the most workshop activity has taken place over the winter.

Complete. Since the one big regional Training took place in the Catskills region, we decided to host one big Farmer Buyer Mixer in the Capital District, the nearest Metropolitan region to the rural Catskills. I collaborated with 2 different educator-trainees on this event - Glenda Neff of Farm to Institution NYS (FINYS) and Jennifer Koval of Cornell Cooperative Extension Saratoga County. The Mixer was open to farmers that completed a wholesale market training hosted by either Baskets to Pallets or Farm to Institution NYS. 

  1. March, 2017. A total of 40 farmers and 8 buyers make business connections while attending two a Baskets to Pallets Farmer-Buyer Mixer.

Complete.  The regional Farmer-Buyer Mixer took placed at Brown's Brewing Company on March 6th.  44 farms, 14 educational organizations, and 16 buyers attended the networking event.

  1. March 2017. The NY SARE Project Coordinator meets with the 6 educator-authors who collaborated on the Baskets to Pallets regional farmer trainings via webinar to assess strengths and weaknesses of the two regional Trainings and discuss future curriculum revision and workshop design. The 10 additional educators who offered tailored workshops based on materials from the Teaching Manual will submit reports summarizing their workshops, including Units taught, farmer registration sheets, evaluation feedback and farmer intentions.

Complete.  The evaluation conducted after the regional farmer training was very comprehensive and our Instructor/Host team met via webinar to discuss the feedback. The 2 additional educators who offered local Trainings provided verbal feedback about their educational events.  

  1. May 2017. NY SARE Project Coordinator interviews 5 of the 10 educators who hosted local workshops to assess the effectiveness of the overall educational approach, support from the NESARE office, and their learning as a result of teaching the curriculum to farmers.

Complete.  The 2 additional educators who offered local Trainings provided verbal feedback about their educational events.  

  1. June 2017. NY SARE Project Coordinator sends follow up survey to 40 farmers who attended the Baskets to Pallets Farmer-Buyer Mixers to assess the number of business connections that turned into new sales relationships.

IncompleteInitial evaluation immediately following the Mixer indicated that 14 of the farmers had made business connections with buyers interested in their products.  Since the Project Manager was on maternity/disability leave from June - September, 2017, the additional follow-up was not completed.  

  1. June – September 2017. NY SARE Project Coordinator compiles all evaluation materials and analyzes project results to summarize for final report to NESARE.

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

Educational activities conducted by the project team:

ActivityYear 1Year 2Year 3Total
Curricula, factsheets or educational tools 1 1
Webinars, talks and presentations 4 12 12 28
Workshop / field days 1 1
Other educational activities: Farmer Buyer Mixer 1 1

Beneficiaries who particpated in the project’s educational activities and events:

AudienceYear 1Year 2Year 3Total Individuals
Extension 32 34 9 34
NRCS 6 0 0 6
Nonprofit 8 2 1 11
Agency 4 0 0 1
Service providers (other or unspecified) 10 0 1 11
Farmers / ranchers 54 0 90 144

Participation Summary:

50 Number of agricultural educator or service providers reached through education and outreach activities

Learning Outcomes

48 Agricultural service providers reported changes in knowledge, skills and/or attitudes as a result of their participation.
90 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
48 Ag service providers intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned through this project in their educational activities and services for farmers
Key areas in which the service providers (and farmers if indicated above) reported a change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness::

12 - The 12 members of the Curriculum Writing Committee reported an increased understanding of the wholesale market topics they were assigned to write lesson plans. There is no better way to learn a topic then to invent a series of ways to teach it!
36 - The 36 Educator Trainees who attended the Baskets to Pallets Educators Training reported increased awareness of the decision aids and teaching tools farmers need to make informed decisions about market channels
3 - The 3 Educator Trainees who worked together with me to plan the first regional Baskets to Pallets Farmer Training - David Cox, Mariane Kiraly and Sonja Janiszewski - reported increased skills in setting learning goals, selecting content and instructors and program design to host a regional Training
5 - The 5 Instructors of the Baskets to Pallets Farmer Training reported improved teaching skills. In the case of Crystal Stewart and Rich Taber, they presented their own Units to farmers for the first time and received feedback. In the case of Mariane Kiraly, David Ross and Liz Higgins, they adapted existing curriculum materials according to their own teaching styles and experiences.
2 - The 2 Educator Trainees - Glenda Neff and Jen Koval - who collaborated on the Farmer Buyer Mixer learned how to find and talk with buyers and orchestrate a structured social environment in which farmers and buyers could accomplish the goals of understanding products and requirements from each other.
2 - The 2 Educator Trainees - Lynn Bliven and Cathy Moore - who hosted local Baskets to Pallets Farmer Trainings reported better understanding of the materials and how they resonated (or not) with their local farmer audiences.
40 - The 40 Farmers who attended the regional Baskets to Pallets Farmer Training increased knowledge in a lot of areas. They are specifically listed on the evaluation attached to the milestones. 13 of them said they were somewhat or very likely to pursue new markets. 12 said they were somewhat or very ready to pursue new markets.
14- 14 of the farmers who attended the Farmer Buyer Mixer reported feeling more comfortable talking about their farmers and products with buyers
50-The 50 collective farmers who attended Lynn Bliven and Cathy Moore's local Trainings reported increased knowledge of the importance of quality and marketing regardless of volume or channel of sales
334-Agricultural Educators and Farmers downloaded the Teaching Manual from throughout the United States. I received a poor response rate when I tried to verify if or how they used the Manual. Most respondents indicated they had not used the Manual. Two said they had adapted sections and taught a total of 60 farmers.

The data above was collected via phone interview, email correspondence, survey and evaluation. Copies of the evaluation tools can be found as attachments in the Verification section of this report.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers

Activities for farmers conducted by service providers:
ActivityYear 1Year 2Year 3Total
Curricula, factsheets and other educational tools 16 16
Webinars, talks and presentations 22 22
13 Total number of agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
150 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Total amount of production these farmers manage:
Unknown
Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

Results from surveys conducted to verify performance target results and farmer intentions reported earlier: 

B2P-Evaluation
Farmer-Survey-Results
End-of-Survey-Report-National-Users
End-of-Project-Survey-for-B2P-Educator-Trainees

Performance Target Outcomes - Farmers

Performance target outcome for farmers narrative:

Because the project manager was on parental and disability leave for 4 months of the final year of the project, it was decided not to pursue verification of the optional farmer performance target.  

Additional Project Outcomes

Number of grants applied for that built upon this project:
Year 1Year 2Year 3Total
1 1
1 New working collaboration
Additional Outcomes Narrative:
  1. New collaborations have begun with a handful of distributors specializing in upstate NY produce.  These distributors are contributing content to the Market Watch list serve or just staying in touch as opportunities to collaborate arise.  See names below.   

Buyer

Category

Contact Name

Sweetgreen

Buyer/distributor

Allison Blansfield

FarmersWeb

Online marketplace

David Ross

WhatsGood

Online marketplace

Matthew Tortora

Adirondack Grazers

Buyer/distributor

Steve Schubart

Johanna Kolodny

Ingrediend /Product Sourcing

Johanna Kolodny

Blue Apron

Buyer/Distributor

Challey Comer & Abigail Woughter

Angello's

Buyer/Distributor

Brian Goldblatt

2. We received a 'program work team special funds' grant to fund two additional educational videos to accompany the Production Module of the curriculum. The videos were completed in 2016 and accompany the Production Module of the Baskets to Pallets Teaching Manual. The videos and descriptions are below:

  • Determining the Market Readiness of Beef Cattle: Need help determining when your beef animal is ready for slaughter?  Join Cornell Beef Cattle Extension Specialist Mike Baker as he describes features of market readiness for both finished and unfinished beef and dairy crosses.
  • Carcass Evaluation: In this second video, we look at beef cattle as they hang on the rail at a packer. Mike Baker, Cornell Beef Cattle Extension Specialist, evaluates key areas of four grain finished carcasses for eating quality and quantity in terms of yield.

3. A collaboration between Sweetgreen, a large buyer based in Washington DC and New York City, and the Eastern NY Regional Horticulture Team sprung up as a result of a connection made at the Farmer Buyer Mixer.  Sweetgreen is hoping to source greens from the East Coast eventually (currently sourcing from the West Coast) and is now partnering with CCE educators to set up trials with several growers. 

4.  4 additional interviews were conducted with experienced farmers about best practices for wholesaling and quotes were incorporated into the revised version of the Baskets to Pallets Teaching Manual to make it more robust and true-to-life. 

Success stories:

Farmer Quotes from the regional Baskets to Pallets Farmer Training:

"I learned wholesale marketing need not be as intimidating as it seems. Good to remember that buyers are just people so just start a conversation"

"I learned that I may not be ready from a production standpoint for wholesale"

"My next steps will be to research potential area buyers, map out anticipated crops that might be available for wholesale and look at costs/prices needed, initiate contact before crops are in to have a few new potential accounts on-call"

"My next steps will be to pursue more uniformity and improve labeling and packaging for our products; these details were very helpful. Hopefully attend buyer mixer which I hope to learn from"

Buyer Quotes from the regional Farmer Buyer Mixer:

"Farmers need to present a price list before we can start a conversation" - Honest Weight Food Cooperative, Albany

"I think the challenges are always going to be volume and logistics - those two factors alone narrow the pool of potential partners" - Sweetgreen, New York City

Farmer Quotes from the regional Farmer Buyer Mixer:

"I learned that buyers are looking for new product ideas to add to their inventory. They are interested in working with local producers and are open to negotiating mutually beneficial prices."
"I learned that they're a lot of markets out there with potential."
"I learned that some buyers are flexible. There is more wiggle room at times than we expected."

Educator Quotes from the Baskets to Pallets Teaching Manual:

"Thank you very much for providing access to this document.  There are a group of us here in rural Extension offices throughout Washington state who are working to build infrastructure supporting micro-scale produce wholesale markets, starting with Food Pantries and Schools.  The material in your teaching manual will be very helpful in our efforts to introduce our farmers to wholesale." -Ag Program Coordinator, Washington State University Extension

 

SARE Outreach

Outreach about SARE:

Information about SARE grant programs and information resources was shared through the events and activities listed below.

Year 1 (2014-2015) SARE Outreach Activities

Event/Activity

Number of Contacts with:

Farmers

Ag. Professionals

Strategic Marketing Conference in Canandaigua, NY on November 11th, 2014

8

12

Agricultural Funding Opportunities Forum on November 21st in Binghamton, NY

10

0

NY Ag Society Meeting in Syracuse, NY on January 8th, 2015.  Coworkers presented the NESARE display as I was away at the NESARE meeting.

 

1

11

Becker Forum  Empire State Producers Expo in Liverpool, NY on January 19th, 2015  The topic was Wholesale Marketing so it was a great networking opportunity.

3

9

Curriculum Writing Committee Workshop/Retreat in Aurora, NY on June 2nd

0

12

Stengthening Farmland Viability in the Hudson Valley on September 22nd

0

32

Small Farms, New Markets Webinar Series

54

50

Wholesale Market Watch Listserve

180

154

Year 2 (2015-2016) SARE Outreach Activities

Event/Activity

Number of Contacts with:

Farmers

Ag. Professionals

Harvesting Opportunities in NY, Albany NY on November 4th, 2015: Sponsored by American Farmland Trust

3

10

Baskets to Pallets Mock Training on February 19th 2016 in Ithaca, NY

1

19

Baskets to Pallets Educator Training on April 18th and 19th 2016 in Ithaca, NY

0

36

Cornell Cooperative Extension Agriculture In-service on November 2nd, 2016 in Ithaca, NY. Presentation about the B2P project

0

18

Wholesale Market Watch Listserve

271

220

Baskets to Pallets Curriculum Users

60

232

 

Year 3 (2016-2017) SARE Outreach Activities

Event/Activity

Number of Contacts with:

Farmers

Ag. Professionals

NOFA NY, Saratoga Springs on January 1st 2017.  Hosted 3hr intensive workshop "Disenchanted with Direct-Marketing? Start Selling to Bigger Markets"

401

10

Baskets to Pallets 2 day Training on January 31st and February 7th, Cooperstown, NY

40

2

Farmer Buyer Mixer on March 6th in Troy, NY

40

35

CCE Systems Conference on April 5th, 2017.  Virtual Conference.  Presentation on the Baskets to Pallets project.  

 

25

Wholesale Market Watch Listserve

290

245

Baskets to Pallets Curriculum Users

90

256

 

Recieved information about SARE grant programs and information resouces:

Audience Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Total
Service providers 280 535 650 1465
Farmers 256 335 370 961

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.