Evaluating On Farm Value Added Production in Utilizing Unmarketable Produce to Reduce Waste While Helping Small Farms Engage in Agritourism and Become More Profitable

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2016: $7,379.00
Projected End Date: 01/30/2018
Grant Recipient: New City Urban Farm
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Lance Kraai
New City Neighbors

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Vegetables: asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), leeks, onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), rutabagas, tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts


  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: agritourism, new enterprise development, community-supported agriculture, feasibility study, agricultural finance, market study, value added
  • Sustainable Communities: community planning, new business opportunities, public participation, urban agriculture

    Proposal summary:


    This project will address the following three problems:

    1. Direct market small farms have few market options for seconds and surplus produce:

    Direct market farms often have large amounts of surplus and seconds produce that goes to waste. For instance, farmers plant enough tomato plants for their customers for mid-July to late September, but in peak season in August there is a glut of excess tomatoes. In addition, many small scale growers are growing heirloom varieties that often produce more seconds than hybrid tomatoes. This gap in the market is not allowing small farms to maximize a return on their field labor.

    2. Small farms are not financially viable:

    In 2014, the West Michigan Growers Group conducted an internal survey to evaluate how to best serve its members. In response, long term financial sustainability was cited as the farmer’s greatest concern. In addition, the Grand Rapids Urban Growers conducted an open book exercise with seven small farms. Through opening books it was determined the average hourly wage for the seven farms was $6.66 an hour. Both rural and urban small scale farms are clearly struggling financially in West Michigan.

    3. CSA farms are no longer selling out of their CSA share offerings:

    In 2015, Local First received USDA funding in partnership with the West Michigan Growers Group to increase market demand for CSA shares because members of the group were no longer selling out of their CSA offerings. The project has increased market share, but a majority of CSA farms in the area are still not meeting their CSA sales goals. More creative marketing strategies are still needed for farms to attract new members, and farms need to creatively consider how to enhance the CSA experience.


    This project will research how effectively on farm wood fired pizzas and prepared soups can help small farms better reduce waste by utilizing excess and seconds produce. It will also demonstrate how both methods can enhance the CSA farm experience in order to expand the market, while also making small farms more profitable.

    This project will provide funding for New City’s farm director and farm chef to travel to Wisconsin to tour and receive consultation from Suncrest Gardens Farm and Troy Community Farm (Troy Community Farm hosted a three day pizza oven building workshop in 2015). The goal will be to acquire plans for building a wood fired pizza oven, learn how each farm has attracted customers, how they have complied with food safety laws, how profitable the venture has been to date and how it has helped each farm use excess produce. This research will complement New City’s existing production of soups.

    New City will then pilot five farm pizza nights in 2016 while continuing to make weekly soups for its shareholders. We will collect data on the total amount of unmarketable produce utilized by both methods. We will calculate the market value of the produce used if it were marketable and determine the labor used by each method and which required more outside ingredient purchasing. In addition, we will evaluate startup costs of both methods, and track new customers gained and current customer satisfaction through the offering of soups and pizza through shareholder surveys. This data will paint a picture for other small farms of the potential benefit of on farm value added production, and it will give practical hands on knowledge of how to enter this marketplace through soup and pizza production.

    Project objectives from proposal:


    1. Reduce food waste and promote methods for doing so by demonstrating how value added production can make use of seconds and excess produce that would otherwise go to waste. 
    2. Enable farmers to receive a higher return for their labor through value added production and increase CSA farm share sales through soups and pizzas.
    3. Empower youth employees by teaching them marketing skills, data collection skills, customer service skills, and culinary training.
    4. Share project results through a three-day pizza oven building workshop, a youtube video of the pizza oven making process, and a soup tasting and pizza oven demonstration day.
    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.