Wholesale Success: Building the capacity of farmers to meet demand for locally and sustainably grown produce

Project Overview

ES17-137
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2017: $78,008.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2019
Grant Recipient: Clemson University
Region: Southern
State: South Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Geoff Zehnder
Clemson University

Commodities

  • Vegetables: Project addresses all vegetables and other specialty crops that are harvested for fresh market.

Practices

  • Crop Production: postharvest treatment, winter storage
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, extension, mentoring, technical assistance, workshop
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems, organic agriculture

    Abstract:

    This project is led by Clemson University in collaboration with the South Carolina SARE Program, the FamilyFarmed organization, non-profit farm advocacy organizations  and Clemson and South Carolina State University Extension. The goal of the project is to build the capacity of small- and mid-scale farmers to take advantage of the increasing wholesale market demand for locally-grown produce by adopting best practices in food safety, post-harvest handling, packing and business management. In this SARE PDP project we collaborated with FamilyFarmed and our stakeholders to develop a customized Wholesale Success training curriculum and series of training events for Extension agents and other agriculture professionals. The curriculum was designed to train these professionals so that they in turn can help farmers to gain the knowledge and skills needed to implement best harvesting and post-harvest handling practices to access wholesale markets and also to improve the quality of produce for direct markets. A series of “Wholesale Success” training events was held over two years to address stakeholder-identified challenges related to post-harvest handling and other areas that are critical to successful wholesale and direct marketing of fruits and vegetables. The project team and FamilyFarmed collaborated on development of program evaluation protocols as described in the proposal. Through this SARE PDP program, a core group of experts in  best practices for produce harvest- and post-harvest handling was stablished who will continue “Wholesale Success” training programs for local farmers into the future.

    Project objectives:

    The overall goal of the project will be to build the capacity of small- and mid-scale farmers to take advantage of the increasing market demand for locally grown produce by adopting best practices in food safety, postharvest handling, packing and business management. Through the project a core group of agriculture professionals will be trained in these practices who in-turn will be able to educate growers by providing the knowledge and skills they need to implement best harvest and post-harvest handling practices to meet the high quality standards that wholesale markets require.

    Objective 1. Collaborate with FamilyFarmed and SC SARE Program stakeholders to develop a custom “Wholesale Success” training curriculum in best food safety, post-harvest handling, packing and business management practices for agricultural professionals and educators specifically to aid them in helping small- and mid-scale produce farmers in South Carolina and the region to be more efficient and profitable.

    Objective 2. Organize a series of Wholesale Success training events for 1862 and 1890 Extension, NRCS and other agriculture professionals to address stakeholder-identified challenges related to post-harvest handling and other areas that are critical to successful wholesale and direct marketing of fruits and vegetables. The near term outcome of the project will be a core group of agricultural professionals with necessary knowledge and skills who will help our farmers to implement best harvesting and post-harvest handling practices to access wholesale markets and also to improve the quality of their produce for direct markets. In the long term, the project will  result in 1) a greater number of local farms who are able to sell products to wholesale market outlets thereby increasing farmers’ market diversity and economic viability, and 2) a greater number of consumers with access to fresh, local produce.

    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.