This is a great time for local food. All of the “What’s Hot” or “Top Trends” offer affirmation that consumers want products that are fresh or minimally processed, locally sourced food from companies that are small, transparent and socially responsible.
But 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 3-year project, 15 agricultural service providers known as the Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort had 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.
This project started with an opening retreat for Cohort members. The Cohort started its 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. Then, we reflected more personally on the marketing challenges and opportunities we each observed in the regions where we work. We rounded out our gathering by talking with buyers from throughout the Northeast. These conversations shed some perspectives on what buyers do and don’t need to have successful business relationships with farmers. After our initial gathering we spent time adapting or designing curriculum to teach at 4 subsequent regional Baskets to Pallets Trainings in New York State and an additional 4 out-of-state trainings. Additionally, in year 2 of the project, Cohort members offered in-person one-on-one consultations to farmers across the state who needed support with aspects of wholesale marketing.
At this end of this project, 32 Agricultural service providers reported changes in knowledge, skills and/or attitudes as a result of their participation, 75 farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation and 32 Ag service providers intended to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned through this project in their educational activities and services for farmers.
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.
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)
The Training drew 50 attendees, including 34 farmers and 16 agricultural service providers. See map of participant locations.
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 “email@example.com”. We will use this address to begin sharing resources, trainings and ideas related to connecting farmers to new markets.
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.
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/.
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.
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)
As narrated above, our second training was pushed into Year 3. Therefore, this milestone was completed in Fall, 2019 and served as an initial planning session for the Eastern NY training to take place winter, 2020. Over the summer, the project manager developed a new collaboration with Rachel and Steffen Schneider of the Institute for Mindful Agriculture through a related NESARE funded project. The IMA is situated at Hawthorne Valley Farm, a biodynamic farm with an onsite-farm store and significant wholesale business, as well as a Waldorf School which would serve as a perfect training location. Given the synchronicity, Rachel and Steffen joined the key project planning team for our final training.
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 Training took place February 19th, 2020. See description below in Year 3 of the project.
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)
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)
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)
Our approach was discussed via email conversation. I intentionally offered consultants a fairly simple template as a paper trail for tracking farmers’s needs and any follow up actions, because I didn’t see a need for us to all adhere to a detailed formal intake or consultation process. We’re were all different and I was comfortable with each of us pursuing the style that reflects us. That said, I encouraged educators/consultants who were planning to use more formal intake ‘questionnaires’ or ‘forms’, to share them out to the group.
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)
New York is a large state and we realized that with farmers and educators all randomly located, it wasn’t practical in all cases for the consultation to take place in person. Educators/consultants could choose to meet with their assigned farmers via phone, video call, or in person if reasonable. Since these milestones were pushed forward in the project, educators were given until the end of the Year 2 reporting period, September 30th, to complete their assignments. We had a phone debrief on October 9th in which we reflected on how the consultations went and answered questions such as “How did these farm conversations go? What was your approach? How were you received? What did you learn? Would you do this again?” I wrote a blog post on my own experience offering the consultations, which can be read here:
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 the Hudson Valley, NY. The Educator Cohort subgroup plans the training schedule, activities, handouts, farmers (farmer stories panel) and Buyers (buyers panel) for the workshop.
The organizing team (Rachel and Steffen Scheider of Institute for Mind Ag and myself) met to carefully plan a one day holistic training that offered strategies and skill-building for successfully entering wholesale markets with special consideration toward participants’ overall comfort and well-being. Attention was devoted to creating a warm, light-filled space for learning, feasting, fellowship, and a walk/tour of the facilities at Hawthorne Valley farm. Faith Gilbert, Ian Martin, Zachary Tattersall-Hill and Chris Cashen joined the organizing team to co-design a panel exploring the challenges faced by farmers, processors and retailers when working within a wholesale marketing approach that is dominated by a transactional mindset.
7 of the 15 members of the Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort teach a final 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. Registration fees and funds for training veterans help cover costs for this training.
The Training took place at Hawthorne Valley Farm on February 19th, 2020. This training took the shape of a one day marketing intensive, focusing on consumer trends and the demand for local, choosing and evaluating market channels, building relationships with buyers and cooperative and collaborative farming. We ended the day with a Panel Conversation: Re-imagining our Food System as A Conscious Collaboration. For more information, see the B2P Training Agenda Attendee Version and Handout Compilation.
The project coordinator works with the Cohort to identify organizations across the Northeast who are leading similar efforts to prepare small and mid-sized farmers to enter intermediated markets. Groups already identified include FARMroots (NY), Rhode Island Food Policy Council (RI), Farming for Wholesale (Maine). The Project Manager invites these organizations to join the Cohort for an in-person Visioning Session focused on how to carry the work forward into the future. The project is leveraging funds from a Cornell special needs grant to cover costs for this event. (February - April 2020)
The arrival of COVID dramatically changed the relevance of the project, as demand for direct-marketed products sky-rocketed. The farmers previously involved in the project reported unprecendented demand through their farm stores, online sales, CSA shares, etc. As direct-marketing is a much more lucrative channel than wholesale for most of the small and mid-sized farmers this project served, many diverted their enery toward rapidly adapting business models to accomodate new COVID safety protocals and keeping up with direct-market demand. Meanwhile, wholesale buyers experienced supply shortages and some farmers reported wholesale buyers suddenly much more interested in their products. One farmer wrote “I think my problems with wholesale are going to be not so much to try to serve them, but to keep them from asking for produce from me.”
The NYS NESARE program as well as other organizations previously focused on wholesale-ready programs shifted attention to supporting farmers with information about safety protocals and emergency funding opportunities in the early stages of the COVID crisis. Any remaining milestones planned for the project lost relevance as both service providers and farmers directed all energies toward adapting to the rapidly shifting pandemic.
The 15 cohort members and additional attendees at the Visioning Session share educational approaches developed thus far and identify oncoming threats to local food distribution (such as consumer’s rapid adoption of online food shopping). The group identifies strategies for converting the best and most relevant existing materials into an interactive online course to be hosted by the Cornell Small Farms Program. The group drafts a syllabus and identifies a potential pool of instructors. (April 2020)
With direct-marketing opportunities sky-rocketing, it was decided a course on whole-sale readiness was not timely or relevant. Furthermore, it was impossible to predict the kinds of marketing opportunities going forward, since no one could envision what a post-covid world would look or be like. As mentioned above, energy at this time was redirected toward supporting farmers with information about safety protocals and emergency funding opportunities
Project Manager drafts the online course in ‘Teachable’ software. Potential instructors are asked to review and improve the course. (May – July 2020)
As mentioned above, energy at this time was redirected toward supporting farmers with information about safety protocals and emergency funding opportunities.
The new online course opens for registration for the Fall semester. (August 2020)
Over the summer, I reached out to each of the Baskets to Pallets Cohort members who were still actively serving in the project (over the three years, we lost a few members due to job or career changes) to thank them and invite any feedback on the experience. Due to the COVID related challenges many were experiencing, responses were short but appreciative. One participant wrote “Baskets to Pallets has been a valuable experience for me and you have been a great teacher and collaborator. Yes, Covid has made for strange times but I have been working from home and can now go to farms as needed. Our meat sales have gone through the roof as with most beef farmers in our area but slaughterhouse capacity is still the limiting factor. The sunflower oil sales also have been brisk. The Catskills are booming with land sales and lots of new people. Anyway, thank you so much for all you have done to help farmers and educators work on wholesale markets. I’ve learned a lot that I could pass along. I’m sure we’ll cross paths again soon!”
The new NESARE PDP project, Reconnecting with Purpose, a Retreat Program for Ag Service Providers and Changemakers launched in August with press and registation. Many of our Baskets to Pallets Cohort members applied to continue on with the new program but due to so much interest we weren’t able to accommodate them in the first cohort of this new project.
Milestone Activities and Participation Summary
Educational activities and events conducted by the project team:
|Activity||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|
|Published press articles, newsletters||2||2|
|Webinars, talks and presentations||2||3||5|
|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||20||65|
|Farmers / ranchers||34||40||76||150|
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.
After our third and final training, I chose to try a different evaluation approach. Participants seemed tired at the end of the training, so I sent an email the following day with some follow up resources and this request: "Important: we didn't distribute an evaluation for this training, so while it's still in your recent memory (okay, albeit fading fast!) please reply to this note with feedback. Please offer any of the following. Whatever is on your mind to share. Thank you!
I didn’t like….
For next time, I want to know more about…
My next steps will be….
I could use this support for follow up…
Carla wrote "Mariane and I really enjoyed the training! I learned about sell sheets. I made one for our family business and have put it to good use already (see attached). It has been so helpful in working with new sales outlets. Thank you!!!"
Lynda wrote "I want to thank you for your excellent presentation on wholesale marketing and for following up with the resources. I'm presenting to our Farm Business Incubator Farmers on matching production and marketing for wholesale markets and would like to share your sell sheet examples. One of the Incubator farmers, Kyle Nisonger, participated in your workshop at Hawthorne Valley and we had a useful breakout discussion around your sell sheet examples."
Full versions of evaluation materials are provided in the milestones section of this report.
Performance Target Outcomes
Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers
|Activity||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|
|Webinars, talks and presentations||8||8||5||21|
These information is provided extensively in other sections of the report.
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.
Nessa Richman, coordinator of the Rhode Island Food Policy Council, hosted a Baskets to Pallets Training in April, 2019 focused on marketing for her producers. A member of our Baskets to Pallets Cohort, Laura Biasillo, taught the full day session.
Nessa Richman, coordinator of the Rhode Island Food Policy Council, invited the project back again for another Rhode Island Training in February 2020. This time, Matt LeRoux, an educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, taught the full day session.
Yvette Muenier, Maine Department of Ag and Markets, hosted a 2 day Baskets to Pallets Training in January 2020 at the Maine Ag Trades Show. This training featured our full curriculum. A member of our Baskets to Pallets Cohort, Laura Biasillo, taught the full day session.
Violet participated in the advisory committee to plan a statewide meeting of food hub managers, to increase collaboration and networking among food hubs in NY with the overall goal to increase sales opportunities for farmers and consumers.
“Baskets to Pallets has been a valuable experience for me and you have been a great teacher and collaborator. Yes, Covid has made for strange times but I have been working from home and can now go to farms as needed. Our meat sales have gone through the roof as with most beef farmers in our area but slaughterhouse capacity is still the limiting factor. The sunflower oil sales also have been brisk. The Catskills are booming with land sales and lots of new people. Anyway, thank you so much for all you have done to help farmers and educators work on wholesale markets. I’ve learned a lot that I could pass along. I’m sure we’ll cross paths again soon!”
-Baskets to Pallets Cohort Member, Extension Educator from Eastern NY
I’ve described the evolution of my thoughts on the project in two articles. Please see:
“Ploughing a Different Ground: Helping Farmers Unearth Wisdom through the Act of Listening” at this link: https://smallfarms.cornell.edu/2019/11/ploughing-a-different-ground and “Baskets to Pallets Training Aims for Holistic Approach” at this link: https://smallfarms.cornell.edu/2019/03/baskets-to-pallets-training-aims-for-holistic-approach/
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|
|Baskets to Pallets Training||3/14/19-3/15/19||NESARE PDP Project||Rochester, NY||Preparing Small and Mid-scale Farmers to Enter Wholesale Markets||35||10|
|Baskets to Pallets Training||1/22/19||CT Department of Ag||Rocky Hill, CT||Preparing Small and Mid-scale Farmers to Enter Wholesale Markets||20||2|
|Baskets to Pallets Training||4/11/19||Rhode Island Food Policy Council||East Farm, Rhode Island||Baskets to Pallets Marketing Intensive||22||4|
|Baskets to Pallets Training||1/14/2020||Maine Department of Agriculture||August, ME||Baskets to Pallets Marketing Intensive||20||10|
|Baskets to Pallets Training||2/19/2020||NESARE, Cornell Small Farms Program, Institute for Mindful Ag, Baskets to Pallets Project||Ghent, NY||Baskets to Pallets Marketing Intensive||36||8|
|Baskets to Pallets Training||2/25/2020||Rhode Island Food Policy Council, Baskets to Pallets Project||Providence, RI||Baskets to Pallets Marketing Intensive||20||2|
Recieved information about SARE grant programs and information resouces:
|Audience||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|