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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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|
|Baskets to Pallets regional Farmer Training; Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort Opening Gathering||2||2|
Beneficiaries who particpated in the project’s educational activities and events:
|Audience||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total Individuals|
|Farmers / ranchers||34||0||0||0|
When 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.
Performance Target Outcomes
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|