Island to Island, Farmer to Chef: Ag Agricultural Marketing Proposal

Final Report for SW09-067

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2009: $133,967.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Grant Recipient: University of Guam
Region: Western
State: Guam
Principal Investigator:
Dr. L. Robert (Bob) Barber, Jr.
University of Guam Cooperative Extension Service
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Project Information

Abstract:

Through the USDA-NIFA Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (Western SARE) grant for $133,967, the Guam Farmer Chef Initiative was able to guide major hospitality industry events (ex. Pastries in Paradise, Taste Guam, etc) on Guam in celebration of local produce and provide produce seasonality displays and education at Micronesia Chef’s Association meetings to foster networking and support collaboration. The project assisted the Farmers’ Cooperative Association of Guam through a strategic planning process to develop market channels for local produce into the tourism industry.  The grant supported three regional Farmer-Chef conferences (Guam, Pohnpei, Palau). Through regularly scheduled Farmer Chef Farm Grill Nights, and other island-wide food events, meaningful relationships between agricultural and culinary professionals were developed.

Project Objectives:

1. Survey the tourism industry’s total monthly demand for each fruit and vegetable grown on the islands.

 

2. Conduct market surveys and farmer interviews on product seasonality by month.

 

3. Develop food processing methods to extend the availability of few key seasonal products.

 

4. Organize regular community building events between farmers and chefs.

 

5. Develop educational products like “What’s Fresh Now” monthly guide.

 

6. Host Farmer/Chef meetings on product standards, market logistics, seasonality and other issues.

 

 

Introduction:

For decades regional needs assessments identified agricultural marketing issues at the top of the list of issues of concern to farmers. For five years UOG CES has developed linkages between farmers and the tourism sectors in efforts to increase import substitution. As a point of reference, in 2007 there were no Farmer’s Co-ops, no formal linkages between the agricultural community and tourism industries, very limited individual sales of local produce to the tourism industry, and a general lack of awareness among Guam’s chefs as to local produce seasonality and availability.

 

Regional agricultural stakeholders from Guam, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau identified needs at 2007 Western SARE Pacific Subregional Conference. The island states specifically requested more production/import/marketing data, an increase in public awareness of cooking and utilization of local produce, increased local agricultural marketing and promotion efforts, farm tours, farmer-chef network building, value-added processing and packaging, and tourist-oriented products.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Thomas Camacho
  • Jim Currie
  • Peter Duenas
  • Dr. Jian Kim
  • Ken Love
  • Dr. Jim McConnell
  • Roland Quitugua
  • Bernard Watson
  • Ernest Wusstig
  • Dr. Jian Yang

Research

Materials and methods:

The project team started by attending meetings of key organizations involved in the production of local produce (Farmers’ Cooperative Association of Guam) and with organizations in the tourism industry whose members utilized produce: Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association Food and Beverage group (GHRA) and Micronesian Chefs Association (MCA).

 

The project team worked with the Farmers’ Coop to develop a strategic plan to develop relationships with the tourism industry. This started by Coop members and UOG CES faculty attending the MCA and GHRA meetings, then  beginning a campaign of awareness building on local produce by bringing “Whats Fresh Now” seasonality displays of local fruits and vegetables as topics of discussion and for the members to take home and try after the meetings.

 

These displays lead to agreements with both organizations to identify large annual culinary events where showcasing local produce would be made a priority.  The planning and implementation of these events (initially Pastries in Paradise and Taste Guam) led to relationship-building between the organizations and their members and created an interest in exploring other venues to promote local produce and activities, such as a chef and purchasing agent demand survey.

 

These efforts led to Farmer/Chef events such as the Farmer Chef Grill Nights,  Maila’ Ta Fan Chesa and other smaller events. It also served to get farmers and chefs talking about how to make local produce more effectively available to local chefs.  These discussions lead to a local food distribution firm, which regularly attended MCA meetings, to start a dialogue with the Farmers Coop to identify local products (initially cherry tomatoes) which were price competitive with imports for market channel development. This effort continues to grow. A key strategy of the project was to get organizations on both the supply and demand side of the market to engage in the planning of community activities in order to develop personal relationships that later develop into market relationships.

Research results and discussion:

1. Survey the tourism industry’s total monthly demand for each fruit and vegetable grown on the islands.

 

In 2011, the Farmer Chef Initiative surveyed the tourism industry’s demand on Guam for locally or island grown produce through a survey, multi-session focus group and one-on-one discussions.

 

The written survey of Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association Food and Beverage Group (GHRA Food) members and the Micronesia Chef’s Association (MCA) was conducted. While the response rate was low, the completed response provided sufficient data to identify seven locally produced vegetables and fruits that can compete with wholesale imports on price alone.

 

MCA members were also used as a focus group over multiple meetings to identify new marketing channels and chef demand for local tropical fruits and to gather feedback on farmer marketing efforts and potential for new promotional activites

 

Finally, project team members held one-on-one discussions with Palau chefs about local fruit utilization and chef preferences towards produce for culinary experimentation and cultivation.

 

In 2012, there were several survey activities conducted on both Pohnpei and Palau. In Palau the project team surveyed  the tourism industry’s aggregate weekly demand for  fruits, nuts, root crops, spices and vegetables grown on the islands (see attached). They also surveyed (through interviews and focus group sessions) markets, agricultural professionals and farmers identifying fruit seasonality in order to develop the fruit seasonality poster discussed below.

 

2. Conduct market surveys and farmer interviews on product seasonality by month.

 

Throughout program years, the Farmer Chef Initiative developed fruit and vegetable seasonality charts for both Guam and Palau. This effort surveyed agricultural professionals and farmers and observed product availability in local markets over several years. These posters are utilized by UOG Cooperative Extension and farmers groups in education event with chefs and other buyers and are often requested as handouts at Farmer/Chef events.

 

On Guam discussions were held with MCA to obtain chefs’ buy-in for making a calendar on monthly market basket of local fruits with chefs’ monthly menu. They noted it might be a worthwhile activity but noted it would need to be changed each year. They proposed that maybe developing a farmer chef cook book that contains seasonality information might be more practical. The project was able to initiate interest and discussion along these lines on Guam, and we hope to see this continued in future years.

 

In Palau the team jointly polled farmers and chefs to identify the most popular fruit, root and vegetable that is in season each month of the year.  A fruit seasonality poster was developed for Palau. Also, a seasonality calendar was developed as a monthly print on demand product (see attached).

 

3. Develop food processing methods to extend the availability of few key seasonal products.

 

In 2011, Palau identified key initial target products for value-added efforts, including: calamansi, jackfruit, panama berry, soursop and pickle fruit. During the same year on Guam, soursop and calamansi were targeted for value-added research and demonstration. Workshops were held on processing frozen soursop puree and calamansi marmalade.  Food dehydrators were purchased for UOG & NMC to developing dried fruit and vegetable products for Guam and CNMI.

 

A key activity which was not funded by this grant, but is a direct outcome of the Guam Farmer Chef conference, was the training of agriculture and culinary professionals in value-added processing and food preservation. Local funding from two sources, New Farmer Plan of Work (of which the Western SARE PDP is a part) and Children, Family, Youth, and Nutrition programs, was leveraged to subsidize training for a California certified Master Food Preserver program. Fourteen local agriculture, UOG Cooperative Extension, and Guam Community College culinary professionals successfully completed a two-week, 70-hour food preservation and processing training in September/October 2012. As part of their certification process, these professionals agreed to implement community workshops during the year following the ending of this grant period. They will also form a working group that will contribute to the development of a Guam Master Food Preserver/Processer program and complete another 20 hours training to fulfill California MFP certification requirements.

 

4. Organize regular community building events between farmers and chefs.

 

Through regular meetings with MCA and GHRA, Cooperative Extension has worked to focus the three biggest culinary/hospitality industry events of the year on local produce:

 

Pastries in Paradise was a dessert expo, including a culinary competition fruit displays. This project provided coordination in using local fruit and vegetables in this competition for the project years. Dates for these events in the program years were: October 10, 2009, October 30, 2010, and October 1, 2011.

 

Taste Guam is a culinary event featuring cooking demonstrations, competition and opportunities to purchase food. Dates for these events in the program years were: June 20, 2009, June 19, 2010, June 4, 2011, and May 19-20, 2012.

 

The Pacific Hotel and Restaurant Expo (PHARE) is a trade show with industry seminars, networking/contracting opportunities and product showcase. Dates for these events in the program years were: April 16-18, 2009, May 7-8, 2010, and April 12-13, 2012.

 

In addition to these very large events, the project coordinated the cooperation of farmers and chefs in many smaller culinary and local produce promotional events over the years of the project.

 

Particularly successful were four quarterly Farmer/Chef Farm Grill Nights in which the hospitality and agricultural professionals participated in farm tours, learned from produce seasonality displays and other educational events. Chefs were also engaged in a competition using local fruits and vegetables. Attendance exceeded 75 people per event. As a result of enthusiasm generated at the Grill Nights, new partners like Guam Humanities Council have expressed interest in joining. Additionally, topics for the Farmer/Chef Conferences of 2012 (July 17-27) were a direct result of feedback generated at these Grill Nights. Dates for these Farmer Chef Grill nights were August 23, 2011, February 28, 2012, July 24, 2012, and December 18, 2012. The partners intend to continue the Farmer Chef Farm Grill nights beyond the period of the grant.

 

5. Develop educational products like “What’s Fresh Now” monthly guide.

 

In Guam seasonality charts and posters for both local fruit and vegetables have been produced. Educational programs to chefs, tourism groups and the general public have been held on these educational tools.

In Palau, a fruit seasonality poster was developd, and an annual calendar—including recipes from local chefs—on the topic of “What’s Fresh Now” was developed for print-on-demand for calendar year 2013.

 

In developing these seasonality posters and ,we worked with Ken Love, president of Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers,  to identify materials developed in Hawaii and used these materials as guides to develop similar materials or directly adapted Hawaii materials for Guam and the Western Pacific. One measure of this effort’s success is that now in planning events, MCA routinely looks to these posters and to the Farmers Coop and UOG CES to verify what is fresh for use in the event.

 

6. Organize Farmer/Chef meetings on product standards, market logistics, seasonality and other issues.

 

In 2011, through regular meetings of farmers’ groups and MCA on Guam, a new market channel with a local wholesale operation was opened for the first target vegetable, cherry tomatoes. The product moving through this channel expanded in one year from 600 pounds/week to 1,200 pounds/week with the current demand growing at 2,000 pounds+/week.  This work was based on the chef and purchasing agent survey and communications with the local wholesale firm at MCA meetings.

 

In 2011 and 2012, the project team assisted the Farmers Coop in introduction of a second product into this market channel  –  Kalamansi (Calamundin Lime). This was followed by addition of cucumber, eggplant and cooking bananas. This value chain continues to develop beyond the period of the grant.

 

In 2012 the Farmer Chef Initiative spearheaded Farmers Chef Conferences in Pohnpei (July 17-18), Guam (July 23-26) and Palau (July 26-27). These conferences, depending on local needs, included workshops on food safety, food preservation and processing, creating successful farmer-chef linkages, Master Gardener programs, break-out sessions on procurement, food technology, nutrition and/or taste testings. Each conference also allocated time for facilitated needs assessment and planning sessions to develop future collaborative activities in farmer-chef linkages, community and home gardens, food preservation and value-added processing.

Research conclusions:

We promoted local farmer name recognition and their sustainable practices as a marketing tool to chefs. Through the Farmers’ Cooperative Association of Guam and local wholesaler partnerships, we opened a market channel for wholesale sales to Guam’s tourism industry for cherry tomatoes, calamansi, cooking bananas, cucumbers and eggplants. Product range continues to expand even after project completion. Also, farm income, competitiveness and markets for local products increased through this import substitution activity in the tourism industry. This should improve nutrition by substituting fresher local products for imports. We are seeing increased chef demand for new and under-utilized local crops and unique tropical fruits through the many promotional efforts of this project, thus increasing the islands enterprise diversity.  We developed personal relationships between approximately 20 MCA chefs and ten Coop farmers. All of this is resulting in economic and social gains from import substitution in the tourism industry.

 

“Maila’ Ta Fan Chesa” (March 23, 2012) is a direct product of UOG CES’s network building and facilitation. This sold out event was entirely planned and implemented by the MCA and the Farmer’s Coop without UOG financial support. Featuring four chef-local farmer pairs, these teams highlighted the produce of different villages on Guam. Its success is an indicator of the strength of the networks UOG CES developed under this farmer chef initiative. Repeat of this event is planned for both 2013 and 2014 and is being coordinated by MCA and the Farmers’ Coop.

Thought the seasonality education efforts on Guam and Palau there is an increased restaurant and chef awareness of the seasonality of produce on our islands and more realistic expections of supply availability. Also through these efforts, farmers are now more aware of the wholesalers product specification needs for sales to restaurants and are delivering product in line with these expectations.

The relationships build by this project are growing a permanent fixture in Guam’s agricultural markets.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Guam Fruit Seasonality Chart

 

Guam Vegetable Seasonality Chart

 

Palau Fruit Seasonality Chart

(In progress) Farmer Guide for Pohnpei

 

Calendar from Palau’s Recipe of the Month

 

Episode of “Outdoor Chef” on one Farmer Chef Farm Grill Night

Farmer/Chef Farm Grill Night Guide

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Survey response rate on Guam was too small for formal statistical analysis. But the data gathered was able to identify seven local products that could compete with imports on a price basis alone. This guided the development of market channel development for cherry tomatoes, calamansi, cooking bananas, egg plant, cucumbers, basil and mint.

Farmer Adoption

Over 20 members of the Famers’ Cooperative Association of Guam are regularly participating in Farmer/Chef events and the Coop/Wholesaler market channel even after the project’s reporting/funding period has ended.

Agricultural professionals and farmer groups on Guam are using the seasonality posters in educational events on Guam.

The Micronesian Chefs Association and the Farmers Cooperative Association of Guam continue to plan public events featuring local produce. The relationships continue to grow.

Six farmers are now following post-harvest handling and packaging practices for cherry tomatoes that match the wholesale specifications expected by the import dominated tourism industry identified under this project. Farmer Coop members are also doing this for cooking bananas, calamansi, long eggplant and cucumbers.

From the Palau and Pohnpei conferences there is strong store and farmer interest in developing programs similar to those developed on Guam under this project.

Recommendations:

Areas needing additional study

The Guam conference identified a strong local demand for workshops on food preservation, food safety and value-added product development. The Pohnpei and Palau conferences identified similar desires among farmers on these islands.

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.