- Farm Business Management: farm-to-institution, feasibility study, market study
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) is undertaking a project titled Connecting Sustainable Farmers to Emerging Health Care Markets. The outcome of this project will be that hospitals and hospital systems will become a growing market for sustainable farmers and ranchers—a market that is both significant in size and straightforward for farmers and ranchers to access. In the short term, we will increase knowledge among hospitals and health care purchasing officials and among farmers about the necessary steps for both groups to take to build this market, leading to intermediate-term increased sales of sustainable, local food to hospitals. Hospitals and hospital systems represent a sizable potential market for sustainable farmers, and interest in increasing purchases of local, sustainably produced food among hospitals and hospital systems is growing. However, limited hospital resources and the complexity of food purchase contracts and agreements at many hospitals have prevented farmers from accessing this market in any significant way to date. We will work directly with two to three hospital partners to conduct research to assess the current and potential market, conduct surveys and interviews of both farmers and hospitals, and then develop a “roadmap” with resources both farmers and hospitals can use to maximize hospital purchases of local, sustainable fruits, vegetables, meat and other farm products. Our work will both address “low hanging fruit” and identify solutions to systemic barriers. We will share the results of our work throughout the region using reports, fact sheets, presentations and web resources. The whole process will be overseen by an advisory committee which will include both regional farmers and hospital representatives. Our evaluation process will parallel our project process, with evaluation questions and indicators identified and measured at each step.
Project objectives from proposal:
The long-term outcome of this project will be that hospitals and hospital systems will become a growing market for sustainable farmers and ranchers—a market that is both significant in size and straightforward for farmers and ranchers to access. (This is also means that in the long term, hospitals will be able to structure their food sourcing contracts in a way that allows them to maximize their purchases of local, sustainably produced food.)
This project will contribute to this outcome in the short term by increasing knowledge among hospitals and health care purchasing officials about steps they need to take to increase their purchases of local, sustainably produced food (including changes that may need to be made to purchasing contracts and agreements), and at the same time increasing knowledge among farmers about how to access the hospital market.
The intermediate outcome of this project will be that hospitals increase their purchases of sustainable, local food, and that farmers will increase their sales to hospitals. Because of the complex nature of food sourcing contracts, we anticipate that in some cases increased sales achieved in the intermediate term may be limited by these agreements. Thus, an additional important intermediate outcome will be that hospital participants will begin to take steps as necessary toward adapting their purchasing guidelines and contracts to allow for increased purchases of local, sustainable food. (This may include taking steps to adapt current contracts, but more likely will be in the form of planning how they will change the next round or renewal of the contracts.)
The audience for the project will be two-fold. First, local farmers who produce food sustainably will use our information and resources to learn about and access a sizable new potential market. Second, hospitals will use our information and resources to more easily and effectively meet their internal goals for increasing the sustainability of their food purchasing.