- Agronomic: peanuts
- Additional Plants: herbs
- Animal Products: dairy, eggs, meat
- Farm Business Management: marketing management
We are core group of beginning and experienced farmers that seek to develop a replicable model for joint marketing and sales that expands markets and increases overall income for sustainable farm operations, specifically targeting small-scale and beginning farmers. We seek to create a farmer-owned joint sales and marketing venture that is more profitable and accessible than traditional wholesale outlets and less time consuming than selling direct. We specifically seek to support small-scale and beginning farm businesses, anchored by more established operations.
This grant proposal builds off of a pilot project that our core group conducted during 2014. In 2014, we created the shared “Good Food Farmers Network” brand (www.GoodFoodFarmers.com) with 6 participating farms, a single distribution site, and sixty customers. During 2015, we seek to expand the endeavor to include 12 participating farms, multiple distribution sites, and 300 customers.
We feel 300 customers with $250,000 in joint sales is the minimum required to be a viable venture. However, the model is scalable to the extent a group of farmers wishes to expand and replicable across communities.
We seek support from SARE to develop, document, and distribute information pertaining to our ownership and profit-sharing structure, operations (ordering, fulfillment, payouts, etc.), farmer agreements and product quality standards, and membership criteria, expectations and commitments. We seek to create documentation that will support widespread replication of the concept. Outreach will be conducted through presentations at agricultural conferences and farmer gatherings in Winter 2015 as well as through electronic distribution of materials.
Project objectives from proposal:
This project builds on a pilot project that our core group conducted in 2014 called “Good Food Farmers Network”. During 2014, our four farms (Dog Wood Farm, Mountain Brook Farm, Lineage Farm, and Little Seed Gardens) joined together to pilot the idea of a farmer-owned and operated joint marketing venture. We identified a new market and enrolled sixty participants; created a brand, website (www.GoodFoodFarmers.com), and related materials; tested an online ordering platform; incorporated items from four additional sustainably-minded and/or certified organic farms; made deliveries, both to individual homes and to a central location; and conducted a membership survey to gauge customer satisfaction and areas for improvement.
We seek a grant to develop the protocols and structure necessary to effectively operate this joint venture and to share our knowledge with others. The grant will be used to develop and institute appropriate ownership, leadership, and accountability structures; create criteria for membership, including farmer-to-farmer reviews and support; formulate product standards; and test a new online sales and marketing platform (likely Local Food Marketplace). Relevant documents will be created for distribution to other farmers and farming communities who are interested in developing their own farmer-owned joint marketing ventures.
Our goal for 2015 is to formalize and expand Good Food Farmers Network and to document and disseminate our decisions for use by other farmers. We lack funds for legal expertise and to provide stipends for the farmers and administrators who are assisting with early stage development. We seek funding from SARE to help close these start-up gaps and to support the development of documentation to create a replicable model that can be adapted across farming communities.
To this end, we have the following goals and methods of measurement:
Goal 1: Provide a valuable service to participating farmers
This goal will be measured in the number of farmers served, the additional income generated for each farm, prices received by farmers compared to other outlets, and an assessment of the impact on participating farmers.
Number of Farmers Served
In 2015, we seek to incorporate at least eight beginning farmers and four experienced growers. A core of approximately four beginning farmers will be contracted with to grow for the regular season. The additional beginning farmers will be contracted with to grow specific items, for example, root vegetables for delivery at Thanksgiving, greens for freezing for a Winter Share, etc. Experienced growers will be brought on to help fill gaps and to serve as mentors for the beginning farmers. Overall, we expect at least 12 farms to be involved in 2015.
Additional Income Generated for Each Farm
We will track payouts to each individual farm both for contracted sales and for additional sales, such as surplus product from a bumper crop that is frozen for a winter share. We will specifically measure new sales, as identified by each farmers (i.e. sales for which the farmer had no other existing outlet or sales that represent direct growth of the farmer’s business).
Prices Received by Farmers Compared to Other Outlets
Throughout the 2015 season, we will compare the prices received by participating farmers to the prices in the marketplace for alternative outlets, such as farmer’s markets, restaurant sales, and wholesale distributors.
Participating Farmer Assessment
In addition to dialogue throughout the 2015 season, we will conduct a formal survey of participating farmers at the end of 2015. The goal of this survey will be to gauge the impact of participation on the farmers involved – Did participating help grow the farmer’s business? Did participating alleviate some of the stress related to finding outlets for surplus products? Etc.
Goal 2: Increase demand for sustainably produced foods
This goal will be measured by tracking total number of customer-members, total value of purchases by customer-members, and sales to other outlets such as restaurants.
Total Number of Customer Members
We plan to reach 300 members and to serve at least two communities in 2015. We anticipate our current site with 60 members to grow to 100 members for the 2015 season. We are working with a restaurant and other contacts to launch additional sites with at least 50 members each. In addition to these opportunities, members of our core group and other participating farmers may choose to transition one or more existing sites from their individual farms to Good Food Farmers Network. Although it will take substantial work, given the cumulative experience of the participating farmers, we do not anticipate having trouble meeting our 300-member goal.
Total Value of Purchases by Customer Members
As we seek to strengthen our regional food system and encourage more people to purchase more of their food directly from sustainable farms. We will track purchasing habits using our ordering platform and integrated bookkeeping service.
Sales to Other Outlets
As we seek to develop new outlets for beginning farmers, we will explore opportunities to sell jointly to restaurants, dining halls, and other establishments. We will track these sales as well as how many such customers are new to buying local food and/or were able to expand their local food purchasing by buying from us through our joint platform and all-in-one place product offerings.
Goal 3: Create, test, and modify operating procedures to best meet the above goals
This goal will be measured by formal adoption of operating procedures and legal and leadership structure by the group as well as the related documentation created. The following documents will be created and adopted by the group by December 2015 and will be shared widely with other farmers who wish to create a similar joint venture:
- Ownership and Legal Structure
- Organizational Structure & Governance
- Farmer Participation Criteria
- Farmer Participation Agreement: Expectations, Responsibilities, Risks, and Rewards
- Product Standards
- Setting Prices and Creating Production Agreements
- Orders, Delivery, and Payment Procedures
June – October 2015
- Hilary Corsun, Project Leader, plans and leads core group plus three additional participating farms for five, 3-hour working sessions during the growing season (1/month). A stipend is provided to each participant. Tasks include:
- Review of season to-date – what’s working, what isn’t
- Review of remaining goals and plans
- Report-backs from meetings with advisors, other collaborators, etc.
- Drafting of documents
- Hilary Corsun, Project Leader, meets with advisors to discuss legal structure and other document components; Hilary drafts concepts and notes to share with whole group during working sessions.
- Hilary Corsun, Project Leader, and Molly Johnston-Heck conduct interviews with other joint marketing ventures to gain insight; all notes are compiled.
- Hilary Corsun, Project Leader, applies to present at National Young Farmers Conference, NOFA NY Winter Conference, Cornell Agribusiness Strategic Marketing Conference, and NESAWG Conference.
November 2015 – January 2016
- Finalization and adoption of documents by core group.
- Assembly of documents and narrative by Hilary Corsun, Project Leader, and Molly Johnston-Heck for dissemination.
It is our goal to create a replicable model and to share the model widely with farmers, food system organizers, and others. To achieve this goal, Hilary Corsun, Project Leader, will apply to present at the following conferences:
- Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) Conference, typically November
- Cornell Agribusiness Strategic Marketing Conference, November
- National Young Farmers Conference at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, typically early December
- NOFA-NY Winter Conference, typically end of January
In addition to these regional conferences, Hilary Corsun and other core group members will request opportunities to present and lead discussions at:
- Cornell Small Farms Program webinar series
- Hawthorne Valley Farm Learning Center
- Hudson Valley Farm Beginnings Program classes
- Hawthorne Valley Farmscape Ecology Program Farmers’ Research Circles – wintertime meetings of farmers in Columbia County, NY and surrounding communities
A webpage will be created with the documents readily available as downloadable .pdf files. Links to the website will be shared via farming listservs such as:
- Cornell Cooperative Extension emails and print newsletters
- National Young Farmers Coalition
- Hudson Valley Farm Beginnings participant
- Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT)