Increasing value-added opportunities through on-farm food service: Research, resources & field days

Final report for ONC18-043

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2018: $29,992.00
Projected End Date: 05/01/2019
Grant Recipient: Renewing the Countryside
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Brett Olson
Renewing the Countryside
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Project Information


In this project, Renewing the Countryside (RTC) will create, in partnership with a team of seven farm partners, a portfolio of tools for farmers interested in diversifying into on-farm food service.

This toolkit includes written profiles of successful farm businesses, two on-farm field days, and an on-farm market research assessment to better understand attendees.

As consumer demand grows for on-farm dining experiences, from pizza farms to farm-to-table dinners, farmers are increasingly interested in adding such a venture to their agriculture business mix, the diversity of which supports economic viability.

However, there is a lack of resources in helping these farmers successfully navigate the business planning, particularly in understanding the target market (who is attending these events and why?), understanding state regulations and accurately assessing if such diversification, which typically requires a commercial kitchen investment, makes strategic sense.

This project continues the work RTC and the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA) have collaboratively pioneered in on-farm food service training, working in partnership with farmers running successful on-farm food ventures across the Upper Midwest.

Over 400 participants, primarily new and beginning farmers in Minnesota and Wisconsin, will benefit in the resources created, focusing on direct learning from farm partners.

Project Objectives:
  • Expose 400+ farmers in Minnesota and Wisconsin to value-added on-farm food service diversification opportunities through educational resources including state-specific manuals, detailed profiles documenting successful sustainable farm strategies and compiled market research data to better understand event target attendees.
  • Enhance 80+ farmers’ understanding of on-farm food service enterprises best practices with experiential field days on successful, sustainable farms.
  • Conduct on-farm research to better understand attendees, resulting in a report enabling farmers to more accurately address business approaches.
  • Capture the knowledge of farm partners about their start-up stories and running such successful, value-added businesses alongside other sustainable farming enterprises.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Libby Smith (Researcher)
  • Elena Carroll (Researcher)
  • Susan Waughtal (Educator and Researcher)
  • Eva Barr (Educator and Researcher)
  • Audrey Arner (Educator and Researcher)
  • MaryAnn Bellazini (Educator and Researcher)
  • Diane Webster (Educator and Researcher)
  • Heather Secrist (Educator and Researcher)
  • Stephanie Schneider (Educator and Researcher)
  • Rachel Armstrong (Educator and Researcher)
  • Erin Hannun (Educator and Researcher)


Materials and methods:

Come and Get it! Survey-Aug1

The research component of this project improved significantly thanks to the connections and collaboration of our farm partners!  In our original grant, we planned to conduct on-farm research to get a sense of who is attending these on-farm food events to better help farmers looking into possibly starting such an operation.

Our original plan was to have the farm partners distribute paper surveys during summer, 2018 events. Fortunately, farm partner Stephanie Schneider of Together Farms connected us with Dr. Libby Smith of UW-Stout.  Dr. Smith first met Schneider through attending one of her on-farm food events and was drawn to the importance of farm diversification and support. This grew to a strong collaborative partnership between Renewing the Countryside and Smith’s Applied Research Center (ARC) to work with graduate student, Elena Carroll, who conducted on-site research at each of the seven farms during the summer of 2018. Carroll administered the survey (attached) as well as qualitative, anecdotal conservations and observations. 

The resulting research component of this project came out much stronger and useful thanks to this connection, which ended up being a “win win” for everyone, as Smith was looking for such research opportunities for her students.  RTC looks forward to partnering again with Smith and the ARC thanks to this connection initiated by this SARE project. 

Research results and discussion:

Sample-Borner Farm Project_Customer Snapshot_8.28.2018 C&GI-CustomerAssessment-2019-RevSample-Borner Farm Project_Customer Snapshot_8.28.2018

Attached please find the customer assessment research summary, which is officially part of the final publication and included with every download.  Thanks to NCR-SARE’s support, this is truly one-of-a-kind research on customers attending such on-farm events and can be accessed and used by other farmers and organizations across the country. 

In summary, our research component clearly showed strong satisfaction and support from attendees of on-farm food events:  100% of customers enjoyed their overall experience.  This opens up clear opportunity and direction for farmers researching the possibility of diversifying into on-farm food service on the consumer demand front. 

Additional insights include:

  • Word of mouth was the avenue by which most attendees heard of event.
  • Extremely family friendly, making such events very different than traditional restaurants and therefore appealing to families with young kids.
  • Opportunity for farms to expand to include lodging, animal interaction/photo opportunities, and expanded seating.


Researcher Elena Carroll also created a personalized data compilation for each of the seven farm partners and facilitated a one-on-one discussion with our farm partners.  A sample from Borner Farm Project is attached.  This gave additional insight and ideas specific to each farm and was well received and appreciated by our partners.

Participation Summary
13 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

75 Consultations
5 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 On-farm demonstrations
12 Published press articles, newsletters
2 Tours
15 Webinars / talks / presentations
9 Workshop field days
12 Other educational activities: Various meetings/conferences where we had a booth and other opportunities to do outreach and discuss this project. Primarily were one-on-one discussions/consultations with farmers.

Participation Summary:

500 Farmers participated
150 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

Note this “Education & Outreach Activities Summary” section is broken down into four parts:

  1. Educational Activities: On-Farm workshops
  2. Educational Activities: Additional workshops/outreach
  3. Media List
  4. Notes on attendance/number calculations



  1. Educational Activities: On-Farm workshops


Specific to this grant, RTC hosted two on-farm workshops with two farm partners: Squash Blossom Farm and Campo di Bella. Media generated via these farmer partner workshops is on the Media List. NEWS RELEASE Wisconsin

Attachments related to on-farm workshops:

Press release:  Wisconsin


Press release:  Minnesota


Outreach flyer

Field Days Posterpdf

Survey given to attendees (sample from Squash blossom); see “Learning outcomes” for survey results

Come and Get it! Survey-Aug1

Workshop agenda (sample from Squash Blossom)

Squash Blossom -- Agenda

Event photos (samples from Campo di Bella)



Workshop date:  8/13/18

Location:  Squash Blossom Farm (Oronoco, MN)

Farm Partner hosts:  Susan Waughtal & Roger Nelson

Attendance: 33


Workshop date:  8/23/18

Location:  Campo di Bella (Mt. Horeb, WI)

Farm Partner hosts:  Mary Ann & Marc Bellazzini

Attendance: 19


  1. Educational Activities: Additional workshops/outreach

In addition to these two on-farm workshops, we found multiple receptive opportunities to present and share this project with a targeted farmer audience.  The following list compiles key venues members of our RTC team presented the C&GI project and resources to date along with additional scheduled outreach this year.


Event:  Diversification workshop  MOSES New Farmer University

Date: 4/28/18

Location:  Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center (Wisconsin Dells, WI)

Attendance:  44  (mostly beginning farmers)

Full C&GI program presentation led by Brett Olson & Lisa Kivirist, RTC


Event:  MOSES In Her Boots workshop

Date:  6/21/18

Location:  Wylymar Farm (Monroe, WI)

Attendance: 42 (all women farmers; mostly beginning farmers)

  • Lisa Kivirist discussed project at diversification breakout sessions and had materials on display


Event:  MOSES In Her Boots workshop

Date:  8/3/18

Location:  Raleigh’s Hillside Farm (Brodhead, WI)

Attendance: 82 (all women; mostly beginning farmers)

  • Lisa Kivirist discussed project at diversification breakout sessions and had materials on display


Event:  Midwest Renewable Energy Association Energy Fair

Date:  6/16/18

Location:  Midwest Renewable Energy Association headquarters (Custer, WI)

Attendance:  53

  • Lisa Kivirist discussed project at beginning farmer workshop and had materials on display at RTC booth.



Event:  National Farmers Union Women’s Conference

Date:  1/12/19

Location:  Catamaran Hotel (San Diego, CA)

Attendance:  100

  • Lisa Kivirist presented on project: How She Does It: Women Farmers Generating Income through Farmstays, Value-Added Products, On Farm Food Service & More!


Event:  MOSES Conference

Date:  2/22/19 & 2/23/19

Location:  La Crosse Convention Center (LaCrosse, WI)

  • Homemade for Sale Cottage Food Workshop

Included project information

Attendance:  70


  • In Her Boots women farmer break-out session on diversification

Jan Joannides & Grace Brogan with RTC and farm partner Audrey Arner/Moonstone Farm

Attendance:  65


Given the strong response to this project, we continue to have additional opportunities to share project results. (Note these numbers are not counted in the final grant report totals.)

Additionally, we are excited to be part of the NCR-SARE Farmer Forum track coming up October 17-19, 2019 at the National Women in Sustainable Agriculture Conference (WISA) hosted by MOSES in St. Paul where Jan Joannides and Grace Brogan will be hosting a workshop on this project specifically:  Come & Get It:  What You Need to Know To Serve Food on Your Farm.

Event:  Midwest Renewable Energy Association Energy Fair

Date: 6/22/19

Location:  Midwest Renewable Energy Association headquarters (Custer, WI)

Lisa Kivirist to present on “Soil Sisters:  Empowering Women Farmers for Change” and include project program/resources


Event:  MOSES In Her Boots workshop

Date:  8/2/19

Location:  Riemer Family Farm (Brodhead, WI)

  • Lisa Kivirist to again discuss project at diversification breakout sessions and have materials on display


Event:  MOSES In Her Boots workshop

Date:  8/13/19

Location:  Lady Fern Flowers &  Two Pony Garden (Long Lake, MN)

  • Lisa Kivirist to again discuss project at diversification breakout sessions and have materials on display. This venue is particularly appropriate as Two Pony Garden hosts pizza nights.


  1. Media List

Come & Get It  received very strong media coverage, both for the on-farm workshops and the final publication release:

Organic Broadcaster

Sept/Oct 2018

By Lisa Kivirist (RTC Team Member)

Farmers offer tips to help others start on-farm food service

  • Reach: 15,000
  • Features input/quotes from farm partners

Coverage in both Wisconsin and Minnesota Morning Ag Clips TWICE:  Morning Ag clips picked up both the on-farm workshop release as well as the final toolkit release. 

  • Reach: 17,000 (8,500 for each release within Wisconsin and Minnesota)






The Sustainable, Family Farm Culture of Midwest ‘Pizza Farms’

  • Rewire picked up by TPT


Minneapolis Star Tribune


Your Own Pizza Farm




Farmers coached on finding a side hustle in food service

  • Cover story! PDF attached.


News 3 This Morning Campo di Bella



  • Was scheduled to come out and cover the workshop but needed to cancel due to flooding. Did give the workshop a shout-out on the morning news still.




Diversify with on-farm food

"Having more options for the public to visit and experience where your  food comes from helps our whole local-sustainable agriculture movement  grow."


American Family Farmer (National syndicated ag radio show)


Women In Agriculture, Springing Up In Record Numbers

  • Lisa Kivirist discusses Come & Get It


Tent Talk Podcast


Episode 29: Lisa Kivirist on advocating for women in sustainable agriculture

  • Lisa Kivirist discusses Come & Get It


Wisconsin State Farmer


Exploding interest in on-farm dining inspires new Wisconsin resource supporting start-ups


Country Today


New resource helps with on-farm food startups


MOSES In Her Boots podcast:

Both on-farm workshop hosts were interviewed for a MOSES In Her Boots podcast series by Lisa Kivirist, specifically targeting women farmers and with episodes dedicated to on-farm food service and this project:


Episode 69:  Pizza Farms with Susan Waughtal

We are back and digging deeper with Susan Waughtal of Squash Blossom Farm in Oronoco, Minn., on the start-up of their pizza farm and on-farm kitchen installation. She provides the inside scoop on building a commercial kitchen and the impact of adding a pizza night to the farm business mix. Persistence sounds like the key ingredient!



Episode 77: MaryAnn Bellazzini with Tips for On-Farm Food Service

We are back with MaryAnn Bellazini of Campo di Bella digging deeper into the start-ups of an on-farm commercial kitchen, winery, restaurant, and more. It’s all about relationships and getting to know details level by level, from the township to county to state and perhaps even federal level.


Episode 76: MaryAnn Bellazzini on Launching an On-Farm Restaurant

We continue our series with MaryAnn Bellazini of Campo di Bella as she digs into how she and her husband started their farm-to-table restaurant and winery. She explains the importance of research, persistence, and being open to new ideas. Key tip is strategically testing the idea by first renting a licensed commercial kitchen.





Final publication announcements in various sustainable agriculture newsletters including:

  • MISA Newsletter
  • Driftless notes
  • MOSES E-News


Appreciation to Marie Flanagan for posting announcements to the NCR-SARE website <!-On-Farm-Food-Service-Manual> and sharing the publication release on Facebook and Twitter.  Potential feature in Winter Field Notes.



  • Feature on Successful Farming & Living the Country Life nationally syndicated radio show w/o 7/7/19. 1.9 millions outreach


  • Feature article via UW-Stout Communications on the research/student component and collaboration with RTC.


  • Feature article in FEAST Magazine


  1. Notes on attendance/number calculations

Consultations: 75

Defined as one-on-one, detailed conversations with farmers about this project’s resources and the possibility of their expanding into on-farm food service.


Curricula, fact sheets or educational tools: 5

Refers to five separate/distinction sections of full publication:

  1. Manual

  2. Case Studies
  3. Minnesota specific laws, rules and regulations
  4. Wisconsin specific laws, rules and regulations

  5. Customer Assessment


Journal Articles: 0

Published press articles, newsletters:

Note we included all media under the later “published press articles/newsletters.”   A pending article is under review for the UW-Stout Student Journal.

Learning Outcomes

500 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key changes:
  • Strong interaction, questions, and networking
    Both sessions attracted very on-target attendees who had a lot of questions. Only a few had officially started an on-farm food service project, but everyone was actively farming/doing things in various ways and looking to diversify.

  • Survey results of attendees documented this strong response
    Both the Minnesota and Wisconsin sessions received a 4.6 out of 5 on “How helpful did you find today’s workshop.” In rating their knowledge before and after the workshop, the majority of attendees scores increased a full point.

  • Sessions provided opportunity to invite other agency partners and additional farmers to serve as on-site resources.
    For example, two representatives from DATCP attended in Wisconsin: Lois Federman (Something Special from Wisco) and Kietra Olson (Local Food Initiative). They were quite impressed and we left the door open that we could readily do something like this again, sponsored by DATCP. April Prusia of Dorothy’s Range also attended the Wisconsin session to speak during lunch on her experiences getting her catering license last year and renting a restaurant kitchen in town to do her cooking/prep and service in her barn (i.e., alternatives to building an on-farm kitchen).

  • Media invitations
    We invited local agriculture media to each event which resulted in two feature stories in
    state-wide agricultural newspapers along with photos.

  • Unforseen weather issues
    Major flooding (12 inches of rain!) in the region the night before Campo di Bella session unfortunately dampered attendance as the area was declared a disaster area. While getting to their farm was readily doable, lots of surrounding roads were still closed. This probably deterred any last minute rsvp or walk-ins (that said, everyone who registered showed up).

  • Create new collaborations
    This project sparked new collaborations with other entities that could both use the resources we created and tap into this new expertise. For example, The Land Stewardship Project will be using this publication at a how to start on-farm events at A to Z Produce and Bakery in Stockholm, Wisconsin in September. The Oneida Nation approached RTC to serve as a resource and provide feedback in a new proposed on-farm market and food demonstration project they recently submitted an FMPP grant for funding. Additionally, RTC continues to reach out to and connect with other state-specific non-profit organizations that we would love to build future partnerships with and co-create other state-specific regulation chapters.

Project Outcomes

90 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
2 Grants received that built upon this project
15 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

Response to Come & Get It has been very positive and strong and the “ripple effects” will continue long after this grant cycle, as intended. 

Some key insights and outcomes:

• Over 900 web hits & growing

With the over 500+ farmers attending workshops and in-person events, we also have had strong engagement and downloads of the materials and final publication off the main website, reaching a total of 939 unique page views to date.


• Rooted in a collaborative spirit of sustainable agriculture

A core of this project’s success and impact remains the fabulous farm partner team.  The fact that these successful on-farm food business owners were so openly willing to share their learnings and challenges defies traditional business models:  why would you share your secrets so another might benefit?  But creating new collaborative models is what the sustainable agriculture community is all about, and Come & Get It celebrates that.  Our farm partner team members remember what it was like to be starting out in on-farm food service and not knowing even the right questions to ask in the beginning and, importantly, sees the potential in supporting new business ventures.


• Supporting farmers to launch – or not

A big part of this project involves exploring and researching the concept of on-farm food service BEFORE investing or, worse yet, going into debt.  The materials and resources created through Come & Get It give a realistic overview of what is involved in such an endeavor and, importantly, do not sugar-coat or romanticize the process.  While there is a lot of hype and interest in such farm-to-table, on-farm dining experiences, Come & Get It underscores the reality and often unpredictability of such ventures.


To this point, we have heard from farmers attending our various sessions and reading the publication that decided an on-farm food venture was not for them, which we deem a success, as we have helped support a farmer to make the right business decision for them personally and not invest in a wrong direction. 


• Strong media outreach

We achieved strong media traction with 12 feature articles, multiple podcasts and radio interviews -  with more upcoming.  We found sending a targeted press release to state agriculture media, that included both quotes from our farm partners along with high-resolution photos, resulted in wide traction.

Such media also helps support the viability and sustainability of our farm partners as they help promote both their businesses and the overall on-farm food event movement.

Success stories:

“I didn’t know where to start in researching the idea of doing on-farm food events and the toolkit and workshops really saved me a lot of time and kept me from going in the wrong direction by synthesizing key information all in one place.  I will feel much better educated and empowered when I do eventually call my health department and engage local zoning.”

Beginning farmer in Wisconsin


“Having ‘safe space’ to ask questions to farmers running food businesses and hear their struggles and successes was very helpful.  The stories in the publication of other farmers and their learnings gave me insight into what to expect.”

Attendee to Minnesota workshop


“I will definitely be able to use the publications created through this project in my work with farmers as I get questions all the time about how to start a pizza farm and serve meals on the farm, but up until now didn’t have anything to offer folks.  These resources will be readily used.”

Educator with Wisconsin Department of Agriculture

“We are looking forward to host a workshop at our farm and share our experiences starting pizza nights here.  We launched our farm in our 50’s without any farming experience and really appreciated the many resources and mentors that helped us when we started and we are delighted to now complete the circle, helping support other farmers interested in bringing people to eat on their farms.

Farm Partner and host of an on-farm program workshop (Minnesota)


• We really benefitted by partnering with the University of Wisconsin-Stout and a graduate student in facilitating the on-farm research. With UW’s help, the research came out much stronger and helpful.  This situation also helped our farm partners out by taking away the responsibility of distributing and collecting paper surveys during their already busy on-farm event nights.

• One theme that came through in the farm partner case studies is how such an on-farm food business often shifted them away from the growing side. In some cases, this worked well as the food service side provided more income.  However, for some farms it was a real challenge to “give up” the farm side (five of the farm partners either no longer offer CSA shares or cut back significantly.)

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.