County Fair Tomato Cooperative: Developing an Organic Tomato Processing Cooperative
Objectives and results of this project in year one include:
1) Develop and test a variety of processed tomato products.
Using Kansas State University (KSU) Food Processing expertise, we have canned golden and red tomatoes in quart jars. We have developed golden and red salsas using other local farm products. We are developing a tomato sauce which uses other local farm products. The salsas and sauces enter a more crowded market but have a higher value.
2) Develop low-cost equipment for limited processing runs in a certified kitchen.
We have designed and built four hot bath canners using recycled materials. They are used for hot bath processing as opposed to hot pack. Hot bath is a very time consuming process. We are tending towards more hot pack products because of this. Tomato peeling is very labor intensive. We will be working on this as the project progresses.
3) Develop label and nutritional analysis.
We have met with KSU food science and determined that our production quantities are too low to trigger the need for nutritional analysis. Thus, having it on the label becomes a marketing issue. At this time, our label graphics are being developed and will follow guidelines supplied by Extension.
4) Develop productions standards for farms.
We have had some grower turnover. We undertook variety trials in the summer of 1999. All tomatoes are trellised. We have resolved some issues around proper culling, cleaning and packing. We still do not have enough production to effectively judge actual costs at full-scale production.
5) Develop a marketing cooperative.
We have completed the Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws and will submit them to the Secretary of State after a growers’ meeting.
6) Exploration of at least three marketing channels.
Products were sold through community-supported agriculture, to a restaurant for resale, to regular customers of some of the farmers and to a gift shop specializing in Kansas products. We have not had enough production to explore direct mail or wholesaling through the whole foods network.
7) Increasing farm family income.
Increases in family income have been slight, due to insufficient production. However, summer 1999 production, the grant’s first year, has not yet been distributed and sold. Production did increase over 1998 quantities. Farmers have three possibilities of increasing income: through selling tomatoes to the cooperative, by working as hourly labor during canning, or by taking compensation in processed tomatoes and reselling at retail prices.
Treehouse Berry Farm Processing Kitchen
11830 222 St.
Linwood, KS 66052-9721
Office Phone: 9137233326
Kansas Rural Center
PO Box 133
Whiting, KS 66552
Office Phone: 7858410671
Extension Specialist - Food Systems
Kansas State University-Food Processing
Manhattan, KS 66506
Office Phone: 7855321668