Wholesome Harvest: The Expansion of Successful Collective Marketing

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2002: $18,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $92,824.00
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:


  • Agronomic: corn, flax, oats, soybeans, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: bovine, poultry, sheep


  • Animal Production: housing, parasite control, animal protection and health, grazing - continuous, free-range, herbal medicines, homeopathy, manure management, grazing - multispecies, pasture fertility, preventive practices, range improvement, grazing - rotational, watering systems, feed/forage
  • Education and Training: display, farmer to farmer, networking, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development, community-supported agriculture, cooperatives, marketing management, agricultural finance, market study, risk management
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, grass waterways, soil stabilization
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, permaculture
  • Soil Management: composting
  • Sustainable Communities: infrastructure analysis, new business opportunities, partnerships, urban/rural integration, employment opportunities, sustainability measures


    Wholesome Harvest has represented over 40 farmers from four states (IL, IA, WI, MN) since 2002. The farmers are all organic certified livestock farmers. They were organic certified before the grant, but needed access to new and bigger premium markets.

    The project goals:
    - Sustain the viability of small medium sized family run farms with maximum profit per acre
    - Find financial rewards for excellent land and animal stewardship in the free market

    Wholesome Harvest hired professional sales and marketing staff and won the new markets, such as national distributors and retailers, Whole Foods, SuperTarget, Hy-Vee, etc. The staff also organized a website with ecommerce capabilities and offered annual memberships to a virtual CSA. Our specific recommendations is to make sure you invest in growth, in the future, and in skilled staff instead of trying to be cheap and do everything yourself amateurish and part time. Also to form alliances and not be competing against your neighbor at farmers market for who has the cheapest organic certified produce.

    Support from advisors:
    - Iowa Department of Economic Development
    - Leopold Center
    - Coop Development Services
    - University of Wisconsin
    - Iowa State University Extension
    - Humane Society of America Farm Animal Project
    - USDA Rural Development
    - GRACE-NYC (Global Resource Action Center for the Environment)
    Farmer supplier/shareholders volunteered on committee work
    Farmers serve as board of directors

    Our results were measured in our ability to win customers. It is tough but we are adding volume and store locations. We have some of the best accounts in the nation and are working on international sales to Japan with 3 trips there and exhibiting at one tradeshow. The amounts farmers earn per animals is much higher than conventional contract growing, a combination of the farmer owned brand and the product differentiation. For example the profit goal per chicken is $1-2 and in conventional contract growing I believe the goal is $0.03.

    We believe that now there is the urgent necessity for organic farmers to organize and cooperate with farmer owned brands. Processors are launching their own brands, so farmers have a limited window of opportunity to build awareness and loyalty. Organizing direct marketing farmers is like herding cats.

    Project Impacts:
    We estimate that our project has impacted over 100 jobs at our suppliers (processors, truckers, warehouses, label manufacturers, lawyers, etc.) and we know we have helped 40 farmers find markets. We have around 100 farmers on a wait list/newsletter mailing list so we can work towards opening production clusters in their area to help them too. Our goal is to be a national umbrella organization and help with the logistics for regional organic meat systems that are identity preserved and farmer controlled.

    - Website
    - Speaker at conferences
    - Producer meetings
    - Brochures
    - Newsletter
    - Answering questions called into office
    - Newspaper, radio and TV features

    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.