Using USDA Local Foodsystems Toolkit to Assess and Implement the Best Cooperative Direct Marketing for an Existing Local Food Group to Increase Local Sales

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2017: $21,850.00
Projected End Date: 01/30/2019
Grant Recipient: Good Turn Farm
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:

Information Products


  • Fruits: apples, berries (blueberries), berries (brambles), berries (other), berries (strawberries), grapes, melons, pears, plums
  • Vegetables: asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), greens (lettuces), leeks, okra, onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), rutabagas, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips
  • Additional Plants: ginger, herbs, native plants
  • Animal Products: honey, meat
  • Miscellaneous: mushrooms, syrup, cut flowers


  • Education and Training: networking, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: cooperatives, e-commerce, farm-to-institution, farm-to-restaurant, farmers' markets/farm stands, feasibility study, market study, marketing management
  • Sustainable Communities: community development, food hubs, infrastructure analysis, local and regional food systems, partnerships, public participation, social networks

    Proposal summary:


    Farmers in our area often have excess produce that they are not able to market through existing channels and do not have the labor available to devote to marketing that extra produce. Consumers in our area are interested in purchasing produce from local farmers but there is not a system in place for easy purchase or pick up from multiple farms at one time. This leads to farmers seeking larger markets outside of our community and to consumers purchasing their produce from larger grocery stores and distributors outside of our community. Starting in the fall of 2015, many producers and consumers interested in strengthening our local food economy in the Lake Pepin region of Western Wisconsin joined together to form the Lake Pepin Local Food Group (100+ individuals, 13+ farms). Our mission as a group is to bring together local food producers and consumers, working to build a sustainable, vibrant and resilient community with economic opportunity and good quality of life for all.

    During the growing season of 2016 we implemented a collaborative “Product Availability List” posted online with available products & contact information from six local farms. The list was updated on a weekly basis and shared with the food group as well as on a larger community email. Participating farmer saw a small increase in local sales but not enough to justify the added marketing labor. After a busy growing season, we are now coming back together as a group and deciding how to move forward and make our local food system operate more smoothly. We want to determine the best course of action to build a local food system that is profitable for farmers through large-capacity markets including restaurants & institutions while also accessible to local individuals.


    The Lake Pepin Local Food Group is proposing a research project to determine the best steps forward to increase the volume of local produce sales in our area using the sustainable agriculture practice of direct marketing. We are proposing to use the new USDA local foodsystems toolkit (“Economics of Local Foodsystems: A Toolkit to Guide Community Discussions, Assessments, and Choices”) to help guide our group in making the best decisions for moving forward(1).

    At this point, we believe that utilizing an online platform to streamline direct to consumer sales and cooperative deliveries is the best way for us to increase the volume of produce sold locally. However, there is an overabundance of online sales platforms to choose from. We want to utilize the USDA local food system toolkit to help us decide if moving forward with an online sales platform is the best course of action. As part of that process we need to research the currently available sales platforms, summarize the different models, and decide which is the best fit for our unique local food system.

    The online sales platform or other direct marketing method chosen as a result of our research will be implemented in the summer of 2018. Whatever the platform or method of direct marketing chosen, we will use personnel to make sure connections with consumers are strong through marketing materials, individual meetings, and continued support during the implementation of the sales platform.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Implement the USDA Local Foodsystems Toolkit to determine how the Lake Pepin Local Food Group can move forward cooperatively to increase local sales of produce from participating farms to restaurants, institutions and individuals – proposedly through an online sales platform.
    2. Increase demand for sustainable farming acreage by increasing direct marketing of locally grown, sustainable produce in the area, bringing environmental benefits including reduced erosion, increased pollinator habitat, and decreased pesticide usage.
    3. Economically benefit local farmers by increasing the amount of food dollars circulating in the local community rather than out into larger, neighboring communities.
    4. Increase strength and resilience of farmers in the area through participation in the group and communication with local consumers, and attract more young farmers to the area and decrease the amount of farm consolidation happening by creating a strong cooperative marketing system.
    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.