- Education and Training: workshop
- Farm Business Management: marketing management, whole farm planning
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems
Among the Gullah and other Black farmers, as well as other limited resource farmers in South Carolina and Georgia, the historical lack of access to agricultural resources and support has created a significant gulf between the skilled production of these limited resource farmers, the number of certified (Organic and GAP) farmers, and the delivery of high quality product to wholesale packing, processing and distribution facilities. On these under-resourced small farms, planning, production and harvesting systems do not maximize efficiency and fully achieve ecological sustainability. These incredibly skilled farmers cannot produce properly sorted and graded harvests, they are challenged to maintain quality, and they are unable to match production with wholesale market demand (including organic).
The Gullah Farmers Cooperative (“the Coop”) has successfully launched a 10,000 sq. ft. Packing and Processing Facility on St. Helena Island, SC, which is owned by Black, limited resource farmers. The Coop was established to provide essential services for limited resource farmers to penetrate the highly competitive wholesale market in this region, and to be able to achieve the profitability and sustainability that will uphold the future of sustainable agriculture in Black farming communities.
The Coop recognizes that talented farmers must have efficient post harvest systems and meet high quality standards to compete in wholesale markets, The Coop’s proposed Wholesale Market Success Program is designed to ensure that limited resource farmers have the education, know-how, and practices in place to be competitive in wholesale markets, to achieve profitability, and to prioritize sustainable agricultural practices. By successfully earning a share of this market channel, small Black farms will gain market success and increase equitable opportunities for Black farmers. Program participants are not required to be Cooperative Members or to utilize Cooperative packing, processing and sales services in order to participate, although these services will be made available to all farmers in the program.
Through this project, limited resource farmers will secure greater access to wholesale markets and environmentally sustainable agricultural practices. At a minimum, the project will achieve an increase of $250,000 in new/expanded wholesale market sales for farmers and establish 25 new/expanded wholesale sales relationships for farmers. It will achieve these goal by tailoring trainings to specific on-farm assessments for harvest/post harvest systems (efficiency and quality of product), lead 4 on-farm workshops and 4 hands-on crop planning sessions, and provide training materials to support 100+ coaching and feedback sessions for farmers. The Coop’s wholesale success educator will support at least 40 capacity-building registrations/certifications/grant applications submitted for farmers as they seek to access resources that increase competitiveness (Organic and harmonized GAP certification, South Carolina grown licensing, FSMA waivers, etc.). Additionally, educational materials that are specific to wholesale readiness for small farms in the South, and adapted to meet the needs of these Black farmers, will be created and disseminated.
Through these strategies, the Coop will ensure that limited resource farmers in the coastal South, who are highly skilled producers, are successful as high quality wholesale producers.
Project objectives from proposal:
- For limited resource producers, gather, review and analyze at least 15 on-farm harvest and post harvest efficiency assessments and performance plans to increase the delivery of high-quality produce to packing, processing and distribution outlets for wholesale markets.
- Provide four educational training workshops to support the implementation of harvest/post harvest performance plans, resulting in the delivery of high-quality produce to packing, processing and distribution outlets for wholesale markets and the increase of GAP and Organic Certifications.
- Gather, review and analyze coaching and feedback sessions to provide critical workshop and group consultations for 1-00+ farmer participants, supporting farmers as they implement harvest/post harvest performance plans that result in organic and GAP certification and the delivery of high-quality produce to packing, processing and distribution outlets for wholesale markets.
- Disseminate educational materials re wholesale markets regarding resources, and support 40+ certifications, registrations, designations and grant applications to be completed by limited resource farmers to maximize on-farm resources and wholesale competitiveness (including renewal/application for harmonized GAP certification, organic certification, South Carolina or Georgia Grown licensing agreements, FSMA waivers, and reimbursement applications for GAP certification, water testing, cold storage, and packaging supplies.)
- Ensure that 25 new or significantly expanded wholesale sales relationships are secured, demonstrated by at least $250,000 in new/expanded wholesale sales dollars earned by farmers over the 12 month grant period.