A Demand-Driven Approach to Specialty Crop Market Development

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2006: $12,324.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Region: Southern
State: Tennessee
Principal Investigator:
Dianne Levy
Appalachian Spring Cooperative


  • Vegetables: cucurbits, eggplant


  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study, market study

    Proposal summary:

    Achieving access to profitable markets is commonly and correctly cited as one of the major hurdles in the development of successful and sustainable small farm and farm-based enterprises. Enterprising fruit and vegetable growers in the proposed project region find themselves in the enviable situation of having ready access to a demand-driven market for their crops. Under growing pressure from parents, health practitioners and public officials, and a soon to be implemented Federal mandate for the formation of local health councils, school system food service and child nutrition service directors in the project region are actively seeking out sources of locally grown and locally produced foods in an effort to improve the quality and nutritional value of foods served to children in the schools. The problem this project proposes to address is that current school system food preparation practices rely on prepared and processed foods as opposed to fresh, unprepared foods. Limitations in the variety of fresh foods commonly served in school cafeterias, poor childhood eating habits, pressures to minimize or reduce school food program expenses and the unfortunate opposition of the school year and main crop season in our region are problems we hope to deal with. Our answer to the problem is to direct human and financial resources to the task of market development with the specific goal of promoting and increasing sales of locally produced foods to local and regional school systems. We propose to do this by implementing a training program that will impart proven sales and promotional skills to participating growers, training growers and other program stakeholders and staff in organizing successful and effective “retail events”; and assisting with the coordination of an initial series of four such retail events. This is primarily a market development/sales growth project. In order to demonstrate that the program is effective, we will measure during the project cycle: changes in volume of sales of locally grown foods to participating school systems; changes in product type and variety of locally grown foods purchased by participating school systems; net gains/losses in income to participating growers from program sales; changes in prep and plate waste volumes in school cafeterias as a result of increased purchases of locally produced foods; and changes in share of locally produced foods as a percentage of total school food purchases.

    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.