15 agriculture service providers who deepen their knowledge and expertise to support small and mid- sized farmers seeking wholesale markets form a Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort. The service providers teach workshops to 80 farmers and trial marketing strategies with 30 farmers.
This is a great time for local food. Read any of the “What’s Hot” or “Top Trends” reports for another affirmation that consumers want products that are fresh or minimally processed, locally sourced food from companies that are small, transparent and socially responsible.
But – as many of us already know – getting products from our region’s small and mid-sized farms into the marketplace isn’t so simple. Local food may be big, but so are the challenges in getting it from the farm to intermediary channels such as groceries, food hubs, institutions and cooperatives. Distribution challenges, uniformity and consistency issues, food safety assurances, quantities, seasonal availability and pricing are all top concerns cited by intermediary buyers when working with local farmers.
Farmers in New York need support to get market-ready for the growing number of businesses shelving and dishing up local food. Over this 2-year project, 10 agricultural service providers formally known as the Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort will have the opportunity to work closely to share knowledge and expertise, design and teach lesson plans, meet buyers, receive free coaching and ‘big picture’ perspectives on local food marketing trends from specialists, and trial strategies with local farmers seeking to enter direct-wholesale and intermediated markets.
Over the course of the project, members of the Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort will have the opportunity to work closely to share knowledge and expertise, design and teach lesson plans, meet buyers, receive free coaching and ‘big picture’ perspectives on local food marketing trends from specialists, and trial strategies with local farmers seeking to enter direct-wholesale and intermediated markets such as schools, food hubs, cooperatives and groceries.
Milestones for year 1
Year 1: Pooling knowledge, Networking with Buyers, Upgrading Lesson Plans
1. 6 Northern NY Educators (previously trained to teach the curriculum during Phase I of the project) form an Instructor Team and meet with the Project Manager via conference call to:
a. launch the planning process to site a 2-day Baskets to Pallets Training in the Eastern North Country region. This region is currently launching a new food hub and requested the Training to educate potential ag producers.
b. select venue, food, and lodging and tailor curriculum for the Training
c. design and coordinate the schedule of educational activities and presentations based on the curriculum designed in Phase I of the project.
(October 2017 - December 2017)
Educators and the project leader met, planned and created the announcement below to advertise the Baskets to Pallets two day training held on January 29-30, 2018.
Baskets to Pallets Two Day Training
Tug Hill Vineyards, Lowville, NY
January 29 & January 30, 10:00am – 4:00pm
The ‘Baskets to Pallets’ course is designed for farmers of all enterprises and will cover building relationships with buyers, customer management and record keeping, pricing, grading and packaging, uniformity and consistency, and food safety, among many other topics! This fun course includes plenty of hands-on activities and opportunities for peer learning and small group discussion. The course includes one break-out session for livestock and produce farmers. Additionally, the training includes an end-of-day session to start crop-planning for selling to the NNY Food Hub, based out of Jefferson county CCE, during the 2018 growing season.
DAY 1: Monday, January 29th
|9:00am – 10:00am||Arrival. Enjoy breakfast refreshments|
|10:00am – 10:15am||Overview of the Training | Introductions||Violet Stone, Cathy Moore and Melissa Spence|
|10:15am – 10:30am||Consumer Trends and the Demand for Local||Violet Stone|
|10:30am – 11:00am||Market Channel Assessment||Lindsey Pashow|
|11:00am – 11:30am||Building Relationships with Buyers||Violet Stone|
|11:30am – 12:00pm||Perfecting the Pitch and Cold Calling||Violet Stone|
|Noon – 1:00pm||Lunch & Socializing|
|1:00pm – 1:30pm||Inform Your Buyers, Build Your Brand||Lindsey Pashow|
|1:30pm – 2:30pm||Buyer Q&A||Buyer Panel TBA|
|2:30pm – 3:30pm||The Ingredients of Good Marketing | Sell Sheets||Violet Stone|
|3:30pm – 4:00pm||Crop Planning for the Food Hub Meeting: for farmers interested
in selling to the Food Hub
DAY 2: Tuesday, January 30th
|9:00am – 10:00am||Arrival. Enjoy breakfast refreshments|
|10:00am – 10:15am||Reflecting on Day 1 and Overview of Day 2||Violet Stone|
|10: 15am – 10:45am||Grading||Liz Higgins|
|10:45am – Noon||Uniformity, Consistency and Scheduling
BREAK OUT SESSION for Produce and Livestock
|Crystal Stewart and Betsy Hodge|
|Noon – 1:00pm||Lunch & Socializing|
|1:00 – 2:00pm||Farmer Stories||Farmer Panel TBA|
|2:00pm – 2:30pm||Labeling||Liz Higgins|
|2:30pm – 3:00pm||Packaging||Liz Higgins|
|3:00pm – 3:15pm||Hands On Pallet Stacking||Violet Stone|
|3:15pm – 3:45pm||Keeping Production Records & Food Safety Basics||Crystal Stewart|
|3:45pm – 4:00pm||Evaluation||Violet Stone|
2. The team of 6 instructors teach the 2-day Training to 40 Eastern North Country region farmers and producers and meet with the Project Manager to discuss evaluation results and changes needed for future Trainings. (January - February 2018)
Learn about the attendees by viewing the pre-Training survey describing participants current market channels, markets of interest and educational goals for attending the Training.
Post evaluation showed that 21 attendees reported they were somewhat or very LIKELY to pursue new wholesale markets over the next year. 23 attendees reported that after finishing the Training, they felt somewhat or very READY to pursue new wholesale markets. See other evaluation results.
Additionally, two out-of-state educators attended with plans of reproducing materials in their respective states. Christine Quane from Eastern Market Food Hub in Detroit Michigan attended the Training and is currently converting the Training to an online course to be offered to farmers in conjunction with in-person technical assistance. Erin Windham from the CT Department of Agriculture plans to offer a version of the Training tailored to Connecticut farmers in Fall, 2018.
3. 15 agricultural service providers who respond to a recruitment announcement and apply to participate in the Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort are accepted as cohort participants. (May 2018)
The recruitment announcement to join the Cohort drew 28 applications from educators, non-profits, agency and farmer-educators in rural and urban regions all over New York. 14 applicants were notified of acceptance on May 31st. See the new membership list below or learn more about the members here.
Announcing the Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort
The Baskets to Pallets project is pleased to announce members of the new Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort. Over the next 2.5 years, members will have the opportunity to work closely to share knowledge and expertise, design and teach lesson plans, meet buyers, receive free coaching and ‘big picture’ perspectives on local food marketing trends from specialists, and trial strategies with local farmers seeking to enter intermediary markets.
Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort
|Christian Malsatzki||Agriculture Program Leader||Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County|
|Daniel Eggert||Organic Brand Manger||Harris Seeds Organic|
|Elizabeth Gabriel||Director||Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming|
|Jason Detzel||Livestock Educator||Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County|
|Kimberly Vallejo||Director of Outreach||NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets|
|Laura Biasillo||Agricultural Economic Development Specialist||Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County|
|Maria ‘Flip’ Filippi||Local Foods Program Leader & Harvest Kitchen Manager||Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County|
|Mariane Kiraly||Sr. Resource Educator||CCE Delaware County|
|Miriam Boateng||Taste NY at Todd Hill||CCE Dutchess County|
|Omari Washington||Interim Executive Director/Program Coordinator||Hudson Valley Seed|
|Paul Loomis||Organic Markets Coordinator||NOFA-NY|
|Sheila Daminski||Grand Island Farms, Inc Secretary and Board of Directors, Grand Island Farmers Market Manager||Grand Island Farms, Inc|
|Stephanie Mehlenbacher||Horticulture Educator||CCE Steuben|
|Sumaq Sysaq||Garden Manager and Instructor||City Parks Foundation|
|Tanya L Moyer||Owner||Mulligan Creek Acres|
4. 15 agricultural service providers who have formally enrolled in the project as the ‘Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort ’ participate in a 2-day retreat. The goals of the Retreat are to 1) share individual perspectives on the current barriers and opportunities to serve intermediary markets 2) better understand each other’s areas of expertise, strengths and audiences served 3) critically redesign existing content to deliver more targeted, practical information or infuse the curriculum with bold, creative activities 4) participate in a teaching workshop that will challenge educators to be creative and take risks in designing lesson plans and teaching styles 5) Meet via online conference with 4 significant regional buyers who emerged in the initial phase of the Baskets to Pallets project as enthusiastic about partnering with educators to increase local purchasing from small and mid-sized farms. These buyers include Sweetgreen, Honest Weight Food Cooperative, Headwater Food Hub and Foragers. The online conferences will offer the Cohort an opportunity to converse about specific challenges these buyers encounter sourcing local and the role educators can play to facilitate increasing farmer sales to these markets.
This ‘Opening Gathering’ took place on August 7-8. View our Agenda. Most of the members of our new Baskets to Pallets Cohort hadn’t met before, so we spent the morning getting to know each other’s passions, interests and niches within the food system. The group then turned focus toward its mission — to facilitate access to new market channels for farmers interested in entering “intermediate” venues such as food hubs, grocery stores, restaurants and cooperatives. We launched into our work together by looking at big market trends such as the rapid acceleration of online grocery sales and consumer’s growing preferences for local, fresh food. Big trends affect sales for farmers on the ground, and we want to stay abreast of how the food scene is changing and how we can advise farmers to take advantage of new opportunities. Then, we reflected more personally on the marketing challenges and opportunities we were each observing in the regions where we work. Yes, the data tells us that local food is big and in growing demand, but local reports confirm it’s challenging to get small products to big markets and we have plenty of work ahead in getting farmers ready for wholesale and connecting them to scale-appropriate markets.
We rounded out our gathering by talking with buyers from throughout the Northeast. Conversations with staff at Headwater Food Hub, Red Tomato and Honest Weight Food Cooperative shed some perspectives on what buyers do and don’t need to have successful business relationships with farmers. Strong communication skills came up across the board, but not all buyers required GAPS/food safety certifications or had hard and fast requirements regarding grading/sorting/packaging. In summary, every buyer is unique and most of the success lies in finding the right producer/buyer match and building a relationship. As educators serving in the Baskets to Pallets cohort, we hope to help farmers navigate potential buyers and support steps toward wholesale success. That might mean supporting a producer in achieving better uniformity and consistency, food safety standards, grading/packaging, labeling, or whatever steps are needed to find success in intermediate markets.
5. Each member of the Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort meets with the Project Manager via individual phone call to choose a topic for designing new educational materials this Fall. Members have a choice of revising and updating existing curriculum or developing new content to diversify current offerings. (September 2018)
This milestone was actually completed in November, 2018. The period following the Opening Gathering was consumed by paperwork related to educator reimbursements and expenses for the Gathering. I created a shared google group for easy email communication at the address “firstname.lastname@example.org”. We will use this address to begin sharing resources, trainings and ideas related to connecting farmers to new markets.
Milestones for year 2
1. 7 of the 15 members of the Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort meet with the Project Manager via conference calls to select venue, food, and lodging for a 2-day workshop in a region of New York where there is high farmer demand (TBA). The Educator Cohort subgroup plans the training schedule, activities, and handouts for the workshop. (November – December 2018)
The two regional trainings were sited in Rochester (WNY) and the Hudson Valley region (ENY) during the month of March, 2019. However, before press was released we learned that the NYC based non-profit FARMroots had plans to bring Kitchen Table Consultants to the Hudson Valley region to offer a 2 day wholesale market training targeting Greenmarket growers (this term refers to farmers who sell at the network of 50+ farmers markets based in New York City). To avoid confusion and any potential duplication, we postponed the Hudson Valley Training until January 2020.
5 members of our Cohort participated as instructors. These farmers and educators brought new content and expertise into the Training, enabling us to offer a second track of workshops.
See our Rochester Training Press, Instructor Team Biographies and Schedule below.
Irondequoit Conference Center, Rochester, NY
Are you in search of new markets? Have you considered intermediary channels like food hubs, grocery stores, schools and cooperatives? The demand for local food continues to grow…Is your farm business ready for the opportunities?
Ensure your success by joining us for ‘Baskets to Pallets’, a comprehensive two-day introduction to selling wholesale.
This lively course designed for farmers of all enterprises is taught by a talented and diverse instructor team of educators, farmers and buyers. The Baskets to Pallets Training now features 2 course tracks so you can choose the most useful topics for your farm business. Presentations are accompanied by activities and discussion to give you time to react to the course material and relate it to your own business.
Download the entire Course Schedule here.
Instructor Team: Read about the trainers and presenters here.
Cost: $35.00 per person for the entire Training. Includes breakfast refreshments and a delicious locally sourced lunch each day. Bring a second representative from the farm for FREE!! NYS Military Veterans are eligible for up to $200 reimbursement for this event to cover registration & travel expenses. Contact Dean Koyanagi at (607) 255-9911 for details. Space is limited to 40 participants and early registration is encouraged.
2. 7 of the 15 members of the Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort teach a 2-day Baskets to Pallets workshop to 40 farmers using the newly designed plans and receive farmer feedback about the content and instruction. The 40 farmers who participate learn about market channel assessment, building relationships with buyers, collaborative marketing, record keeping, profitability, uniformity, consistency and scheduling, grading, sorting, labeling and food safety for selling through intermediated markets. (January 2019)
We had a total of 40 farmers and an additional 9 educators register for the Training. See our registration spreadsheet. When asked “How useful was the workshop to you?” attendees gave the Training an overall rating of 4.5 on a scale of 5. 7 out of 15 said they feel ready to pursue wholesale markets. 6 out of 15 said they were very likely to pursue new wholesale markets over the next year.
Participants also provided ratings of usefulness for the individual workshop topics listed in the table below.
Training Topics at March 2019 Baskets to Pallets Workshop
|Consumer Trends and the Demand for Local||Choosing and Evaluating Market Channels||Building Relationships with Buyers||Perfecting the Pitch and Cold Calling||Getting Started with Schools|
|Farmer Voice||Inform Your Buyers, Build Your Brand||The Ingredients of Good Marketing/Sell Sheets||Cooperative and Collaborative Marketing||Local Oppurtunities & NYS Programs|
|Pricing and Profits: Understanding Your Cost of Production (Produce)||Uniformity, Consistency and Scheduling (Produce)||Hands-On Grading||Pricing and Profits: Understanding Your Cost of Production (Livestock)||Uniformity, Consistency and Scheduling (Livestock)|
|Buyer Panel Q&A||Basics to Food Safety and Regulatory Compliance: Pt. 1||Basics to Food Safety and Regulatory Compliance: Pt. 2||Selecting Seed Cultivars for Different Market Success||working with your processor: cut sheets, packaging and presentation (livestock)|
See comprehensive evaluation results. A reflection on the event is below.
On March 14 and 15, the Baskets to Pallets project hosted a regional training in Rochester, NY. In this retrospect, Violet Stone shares how the training prioritized a holistic approach to learning about wholesale markets such as food hubs, groceries, schools and cooperatives.
As project coordinator of the Baskets to Pallets project, much of the work I do is at a desk, coordinating the development of new resources or designing workshops. So, I’m always excited to be in a room resounding with conversation and energy as farmers and food producers meet and learn from one another. This was the happy scene at our Baskets to Pallets training on March 14 and 15 in Rochester, NY.
The Baskets to Pallets training debuted in the Catskills in 2017 and circled up to the Tug Hill Plateau in 2018. I’m passionate about creating a healthy, inviting space conducive to learning, so each time we offer this training I incorporate more comforts I consider essential for success. Our gathering in Rochester took place at the Irondequoit Conference Center, a light-filled room with access to fresh air. We enjoyed plenty of healthy snacks and meals sourced primarily through Headwater Food Hub. Even at the end of winter, we were still able to enjoy a seasonal menu with local meats, cheeses, seeds, mushrooms and fresh microgreens.
Beyond ensuring attendees are comfortable and well-fed, this training incorporates lots of time for discussion and activities. We avoid turning the lights low and flashing a long sequence of slides to lull you into nap-land. Our goal is to present short bursts of useful information and then offer space for you to consider, digest and reflect on how the information presented resonates or applies to your farm or food business. We also respect the incredible wealth of knowledge and experience in the room. This training typically draws 50 farmers of all enterprises from a 100-mile radius. We had dairy and grain farmers sitting at the table with cut flower growers and urban market gardeners. Some had been farming for over 20 years and some were still writing business plans. Ensuring time in each lesson plan for exchange of ideas, successes and failures is an essential part of maintaining energy and engagement.
I always feel as though I’m leaving a new neighborhood at the conclusion of this training. We get to know each other and many go home with a few new friends or professional contacts. I always hope attendees feel that they have increased their knowledge and skills and developed new business goals, but more importantly, I hope they feel taken care of. It’s not easy for a farmer or food producer to leave the business for two days for a long-distance trip. Creating a holistic approach to learning by respecting a person’s intellectual, emotional, social and physical needs continues to be the highest priority for me as this training evolves. Many thanks to the team of instructors and buyers for sharing their expertise and perspectives, and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County for co-hosting this training. To learn more about the training, visit http://smallfarms.cornell.edu/projects/wholesale/.
3. The Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort subgroup debriefs via conference call to critically assess the first training and decide on changes and improvements needed to prepare for the second training. (January 2019)
With the second Training postponed, we used this time to design a second track for con-concurrent workshops, recruit local instructors to teach core curriculum, rehearse lesson plans and presentations, plan a local foods feast with the conference center chef, assemble the handout packets, distribute press and manage registrations and correspondence with participants.
4. The remaining 8 of the 15 members of the Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort meet with the Project Manager via conference calls to select venue, food, and lodging for a second 2- day workshop in a different region of New York where there is high farmer demand (TBA). The Educator Cohort subgroup plans the training schedule, activities, and handouts for the workshop. (January 2019 – March 2019)
This milestone has been pushed into Year 3 of the project.
5. The remaining 8 members of the Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort teach a 2-day Baskets to Pallets workshop to 40 farmers using the newly designed lesson plans and receive farmer feedback about the content and instruction. The 40 farmers who participate learn about market channel assessment, building relationships with buyers, collaborative marketing, record keeping, profitability, uniformity, consistency and scheduling, grading, sorting, labeling and food safety for selling through intermediated markets. (March 2019)
This milestone has been pushed into Year 3 of the project.
6. Farmers who completed the Training are invited to apply for one-on-one technical assistance to be provided by members of the Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort. (April 2019)
7. Members (15) of the Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort review applications and each Educator chooses 2 farmers in their region to offer custom support depending on the barriers and challenges the farm is experiencing (June 2019)
8. Members (15) of the Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort participate in a webinar meeting where needs-assessment materials are introduced and discussed in preparation for introductory farm visits. (July 2019)
9. Each member of the Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort schedules introductory farm visits with the 2 farmers in their communities who will receive one-on-one assistance. The purpose of the introductory visit is for the educator to see the farm and conduct a needs assessments. (August –September 2019)
Milestone Activities and Participation Summary
Educational activities and events conducted by the project team:
|Activity||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|
|Webinars, talks and presentations||2||2|
|Year 1:Baskets to Pallets regional Farmer Training; Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort Opening Gathering |
Year 2: Baskets to Pallets regional Farmer Training
Beneficiaries who particpated in the project’s educational activities and events:
|Audience||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total Individuals|
|Service providers (other or unspecified)||31||14||0||0|
|Farmers / ranchers||34||40||0||0|
In Year 1, when farmers who participated in the Baskets to Pallets training conducted by members of the educator cohort in January 2018 were asked "How LIKELY are you to pursue new wholesale markets over the next year?", 21 farmers responded that they were somewhat or very likely. When asked "Now that you’ve finished the Training, do you feel READY to pursue new wholesale markets?", 23 farmers responded that they were somewhat or very ready.
In Year 2, 15 of the 40 farmers who participated in the Baskets to Pallets training conducted by members of the educator cohort in March 2019 rated the usefulness of their learning overall at the workshop as 4.5 on a scale of 5 via an end-of-workshop survey. Individual topics received ratings of 3.7 to 5, and these topics are listed in the table posted in Year 2 Milestone 2. Getting started with schools and basics to food safety and regulatory received the lowest ratings of 3.8 and 3.7, respectively. Topics receiving the highest rating of 5 were pricing and profits – understanding your cost of production (livestock); uniformity, consistency and scheduling (livestock); and selecting seed cultivars for different market success.
7 out of 15 farmers responding to the post-training survey said they feel ready to pursue wholesale markets, and 6 out of 15 said they were very likely to pursue new wholesale markets over the next year.
Performance Target Outcomes
Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers
15 agriculture service providers who deepen their knowledge and expertise to support small and mid- sized farmers seeking intermediary markets form a Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort. The service providers teach workshops to 80 farmers and trial marketing strategies with 30 farmers.
Additional Project Outcomes
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|
Christine Quane, from the Eastern Market Food Hub in Detroit, Michigan, attended the Baskets to Pallets Training and is in the process of using the curriculum materials to create an online course for food hub producers in the greater Detroit area.
Erin Windham from the CT Department of Agriculture also attended and is adapting the curriculum materials to offer a one day course focused on farm to school on January 22, 2019 at the Sheraton Hartford South in Rocky Hill, CT. Some of the new members of the Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort will be travelling to Connecticut to teach this course.
Annie Klodd, an Extension Educator specializing in Fruit and Vegetable Production with the University of Minnesota Extension is interested in replicating the program in Minnesota.
Emily Edmonds, NC Growing Together Project Extension & Outreach Program Manager for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems at NC State University also reached out interested in replicating the program in Minnesota.
Tori Wong, Northeast Sustainability Coordinator based in Monterey, California, requested information about the Baskets to Pallets Training to convey to small to mid-size farms in her region.
Dylan Anderson-Berens from Tufts University New Entry Sustainable Farming Project requested permission to post the Baskets to Pallets Teaching Manual on the program’s website.
To date, 397 educators and farmers across the country have requested access to the curriculum materials.
Information about NESARE grants, resources and the current NYS PDP project was disseminated at the following events. In addition, individual NESARE grant opportunities were advertised in the Small Farms Update, a bimonthly enewsletter reaching 14,000 farmers and ag service providers in NY and beyond.
|Workshop||Date||Host||Location||Title||Farmers||Ag Service Providers|
|Baskets to Pallets at NOFA NY||1/21/2018||NOFA NY||Saratoga Springs, NY||Start Selling to Food Hubs, Groceries and Restaurants||35||5|
|Baskets to Pallets Training||1/29/18 – 1/30/18||NESARE PDP Project||Lowville, NY||Baskets to Pallets Training||34||16|
|Accessing Capital Roundtable||4/26/2018||CCE Broome County||Binghamton, NY||NESARE grants||30||2|
|Opening Gathering: Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort||8/7/2018-8/8/2018||NESARE PDP Project||Ithaca, NY||Opening Gathering||2||13|
Recieved information about SARE grant programs and information resouces:
|Audience||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|