- Fruits: apples, berries (other), berries (blueberries), melons, peaches, berries (strawberries)
- Vegetables: asparagus, beans, beets, cabbages, carrots, cucurbits, garlic, onions, peppers, tomatoes
- Crop Production: food product quality/safety
- Education and Training: farmer to farmer, mentoring
- Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, value added
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, partnerships, sustainability measures
Interest in the farm-to-table movement is growing. Sunbury residents have increasing awareness of their food sources and a desire to take control over their consumption. Demand for local food is mounting. Sunbury is fortunate to benefit from farmers and gardeners (producers) who grow a variety of fruits and vegetables on their small to mid-sized farms. Yet, each year, thousands of pounds of local produce is wasted. Although many factors contribute to waste, our proposed project addresses three:
- Much of the produce grown—despite its nutritional value—may not meet visual or size standards for sale.
- Although preserving this produce would be a viable option to promote sustainable agriculture and provide a value-added product for local consumers, processing mechanisms that could preserve this fresh produce that would otherwise spoil (unsaleable produce) are unavailable.
- Local producers have limited opportunities to connect to local consumers who have expressed interest in their produce.
In 2015, John Russel approached GRC to assist in creating value-added products from unsaleable produce. John—like many of the producers with whom we intend to partner—is a young farmer who uses organic methods to grow 21 acres of various farm market vegetables. John supplied unsaleable produce; GRC provided kitchen equipment, technical capacity, and training in preservation methods. By pooling our resources, knowledge, and skills, we were able to create 400 jars of five new value-add canned products from otherwise unsaleable local produce. We co-created a product name and affixed a label from both GRC and Fall Creek Farm to each jar. John has since sold all of his jars at various Ohio farm markets, and GRC has only a few jars remaining in our Local Food Shop. Many other small-scale fruit and vegetable producers in Sunbury—several of whom we are already in contact—could benefit from a similar collaboration.
In this project, Formalizing Partnerships to Scale-up Value-added Local Food in Rural Ohio, we aim to: 1.Bridge the gap between local producers’ excess produce and consumer by partnering with local farmers to preserve their unsaleable seasonal produce into a value-added, shelf stable product.
2.Create twice monthly farm market targeting local producers to offer otherwise unsaleable product.
Partnering to produce value-added products
In this project, we will use funds to purchase a steam-jacket kettle. This equipment will speed and increase production while providing a consistent, high quality product. GRC has immense capabilities and know-how in food preservation and will provide technical assistance to local producers with unsaleable produce. These partnerships are intended to promote sustainable agriculture by decreasing food waste, creating local food products for sale in the community, and increasing revenues for farmers. On a large scale, it opens a market opportunity for producers, offers a quality product for the consumer, and reduces waste in the field.
Twice monthly farm markets
GRC will host twice monthly farm markets where local producers will be encouraged to offer otherwise unsaleable products. Farm markets will be scheduled mid-week in coordination with other local farm markets, giving consumers an additional evening of fresh produce availability. At each market, we will offer fresh produce as well as the value-added preserved products created in Aim 1. In lieu of cash exchange, the fee for producer participation in the market will be an agreed-upon amount of produce. Produce that does not meet market aesthetic standards will be accepted. The produce will be used to create a weekly “to-go meal” which will be offered for purchase at the market. Offering ready-to-eat meals helps the consumer eat farm-fresh meals, inspires additional purchases, cuts waste of otherwise unsaleable products, and creates community-farmer linkages.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Reduce waste and create local community-producer linkages to promote sustainable agriculture.
- Bridge the gap between local producers’ excess produce and consumer by partnering with local farmers to preserve their unsaleable seasonal produce into a value-added, shelf stable product.
- Create twice monthly farm market targeting local producers to offer otherwise unsaleable product.