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


    Project Activities

    Appalachian Spring Cooperative held several grower workshops. In August of 2006 Jim Webster conducted a marketing workshop which was recorded. The tape is and has been available to any interested party wishing to take advantage of this presentation and to repeat this workshop. On October 28, 2008 another workshop on Wholesale and Retail Marketing and Pricing was presented by David Bilderback and Robin Robbins which was attended by 14 farmers.

    A three quarter day training for growers, school food service and program staff in organizing retail events was held on March 11, 2008. The presenters were Emily Jackson and Mollie Nicholie from the Southeast Regional Farm to School lead office. It was titled “Organizing Retail Events”. An overview of retail events, organization and planning, was presented, with group work sessions planning a mock retail event following. There were 11 attendees for this event.

    The first retail event was held the evening of the March 11, 2008 workshop. Staff, growers, school staff (Hawkins Family Resource) and the Child Nutrition Director of Hawkins County Schools held a “Family, Farms and Schools Event/Dinner” at Church Hill Elementary School. In attendance were 45 people including teachers, school board members, staff, growers, local legislators, and parents. The food was grown and processed locally. Guest speakers were growers, the Child Nutrition Director and the School Health Coordinator.

    The second retail event was held at Hancock County Middle School on October 15, 2008. The event was called a “Taste Party” and reached all 75 children of the 7th grade class and their teachers. Staff, Deborah McDaniel (School Health Coordinator), Hancock County (UT) Extension personnel and the Child Nutrition Director in Hancock County were involved with planning and coordinating the event which coincided with National School Lunch Week. The activities included a basic explanation of Farm to School, a presentation from three local farmers, a tasting of dishes made from less common vegetables (spaghetti squash desert and eggplant casserole). Children were invited to take fact sheets about the vegetables and recipes home. After tasting the children rated the dishes and voted if they would like these vegetables in school meals.

    Several grower workshops exploring means of opening up farm-to-school markets were held at the office of Jubilee Project.



    Measurable results are that the growers increased their school sales from $3,000 in 2007, $4,580 in 2008, and thus far in 2009 $7,000 of an annual food budget of $1,260,500 in Hawkins county. These purchases included watermelons, cantaloupes, peppers and potatoes. Growers have a better understanding of what is needed and involved in engaging the school staff, parents and children in sales of produce to schools. We feel that children, teachers, staff, school board and parents reached through retail events and outreach have a much better appreciation and support for providing local food to children.

    Project objectives:

    Future Work

    If we would do the project again we would place a greater emphasis on moving school systems from their established purchasing patterns to being more open to purchase locally grown seasonal foods.

    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.