Farm-to-Institution Market Readiness Training Program

2015 Annual Report for ENE15-138

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2015: $87,219.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2018
Grant Recipient: American Farmland Trust
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Glenda Neff
American Farmland Trust

Farm-to-Institution Market Readiness Training Program


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. To capitalize on the demand from institutions, farmers need to understand product selection, processing, packaging, food safety and other requirements of schools, government agencies and food service management companies. Equally as important, growers need to establish relationships with end buyers, distributors, processors, new aggregator-entrepreneurs and food hubs.

The Farm to Institution Market Readiness Training program will train Extension educators and agri-service providers to help farmers assess the opportunities for sales to institutions, and identify the changes that could be required in their production and management systems. They will gain the knowledge and tools to communicate to farmers the opportunity in institutional markets, how to build relationships with buyers in the supply chain in their region as well as at the New York State level, and how they can provide ongoing assistance to growers.

The training consists of a mix of presentations and experiential learning: 1) webinars at the start of the project set the stage with an overview of local food buying trends in the institutional markets and general farm to institution information; 2) trainees visit institutions in their home regions and interview 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: the first day a classroom setting with presentations and discussions, and on the second day group tours of local institutions.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Twenty agricultural service providers in New York will provide educational programs and support for 80 fruit and vegetable growers and livestock producers; 50 of these growers managing 4,500 acres will initiate or expand sales to institutions within 2 years.


1)  200 agricultural service providers learn about the opportunity to participate in Farm to Institution Market Readiness training. September 2015

Announcement of the training opportunity was broadcast during the month of November through American Farmland Trust blogs and email lists, Cornell Small Farms e-News, Cooperative Extension listservs, and FINYS partners across New York State. The timing was delayed until the signed contract was received by American Farmland Trust in mid-October. A total of 53 applications were received from a diversity of organizations and regions of New York. (See Announcement and Application PDFs.)

2)  25 service providers are selected from applications received and complete a survey to assess their knowledge and experience in assisting farmers with marketing to institutions. October 2015

Twenty eight applicants were invited to participate in the training program based on the following criteria:

  • commitment to participating in all the aspects of the training with the support of his/her organization;
  • experience working with growers and distributors;
  • geographic diversity, particularly regions with past and current Farm to School projects;
  • Organizational diversity.

Assessment of applicants’ knowledge and experience was made via the application, consultation with the advisory committee, and phone interviews. Of the 28, 27 accepted the invitation: 18 are Cornell Cooperative Extension educators; 7 are staff of non-profit organizations; 1 is staff of a Regional Planning & Development agency; 1 is the Coordinator of a Sustainable Agriculture program at a State University of New York community college.

3)  25 trainees participate in 2 introductory webinars to review the training program, timeline and communication tools; examples of current Farm to Institution opportunities with a range of types and scale; building relationships between growers and buyers; food safety update;. October-November 2015.

Twenty four of the 27 trainees participated in a webinar on December 17, 2015 that introduced the range of institutions who are interested in purchasing New York foods, their motivations and funding, an overview of MarketReady curriculum and the project goals. The webinar was recorded and archived for viewing by trainees who were unable to attend, advisors and others. (See the Webinar Agenda and Slides PDFs.) We will consider hosting a second webinar after the training conference on January 27-28, 2016, if we find a topic warrants more in-depth training, such as farm food safety or farm-to-institution incentive programs.


Laura Biasillo

[email protected]
Ag Economic Development Specialist
Cornell Cooperative Extension Broome County
840 Upper Front Street
Binghamton, NY 13905-1500
Office Phone: 6075845007
Heidi Blythe

[email protected]
Director of Institutional Giving
American Farmland Trust
1150 Connecticut Avenue NW, Ste. 600
Washington, DC 20036
Office Phone: 2023781252
Cheryl Thayer

[email protected]
Local Food Distribution & Marketing Specialist
Cornell University Cooperative Extension
21 South Grove Street
East Aurora, NY 14052
Office Phone: 6075929507
Timothy Woods

[email protected]
Woods Consulting
808 Willow Oak Circle
Lexington, KY 40546
Office Phone: 8595591845