- Education and Training: workshop
Institutional food service buyers at a wide range of scale – from group homes and summer feeding programs, to colleges and hospitals – are looking to purchase more “locally-grown” food in New York, especially fresh and minimally processed fruits and vegetables, but also meat and dairy. Many small- and medium-sized farms are seeking to expand beyond labor-intensive direct marketing to wholesale markets that will value their identity as “local” and “sustainable.” To capitalize on the demand from institutions, farmers need to understand product selection, processing, packaging, food safety and the other requirements of government agencies and food service management companies. Equally as important, growers need to meet and establish relationships with end buyers, distributors, processors, new aggregator-entrepreneurs and food hubs.
The Farm-to-Institution Market Readiness Training program is being led by American Farmland Trust and will train Extension educators and agri-service providers in helping farmers to assess the opportunities for sales to institutions and identifying changes that may be required in their production and management systems to take full advantage of these opportunities. The training program participants will gain the knowledge and tools to: 1)communicate with fruit, vegetable, meat and dairy producers about opportunities in institutional markets; 2) build relationships with buyers in the supply chain in their region and statewide; and, 3) provide ongoing assistance to growers. The training program will comprise a mix of presentations and experiential learning, as follows:1) two webinars at the project outset to set the stage with an overview of local food buying trends in the institutional markets and general farm to institution information; 2) visits to institutions by trainees in their home regions and interviews with buyers to identify best supplier practices in key business functions and the specific requirements of their institutions; and 3) a two-day interactive training conference, with the first day being a classroom setting with presentations and discussions and the second day consisting of group tours of local institutions.
Performance targets from proposal:
Twenty agricultural service providers in New York will provide educational programs and support for 80 fruit and vegetable growers and livestock producers. Fifty of these growers managing roughly 4,500 acres will either initiate or expand their sales to institutions by December 2017.