Mentoring small fresh produce farmers who want to increase farm revenue by selling value-added products through direct-market channels

2006 Annual Report for LNE05-221

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $65,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $12,400.00
Region: Northeast
State: Delaware
Project Leader:
Anne Fitzgerald
Delaware Department of Agriculture

Mentoring small fresh produce farmers who want to increase farm revenue by selling value-added products through direct-market channels


This project is designed to successfully help twelve farmers who are growing fresh produce on the Delmarva Peninsula increase their farm revenue by selling value-added products through any direct marketing channels available. These farmers have been involved in a commodity marketing model for years and in some cases for generations. The project is targeted to work with a group of twenty farmers who understand the collaborative process of the project and have the motivation and commitment to achieve the performance target.

After an initial meeting with each farmer collaborator to jointly draw up a plan for their individual operations, we schedule monthly one-on-one mentoring sessions with each of the farmer collaborators. These sessions last two to four hours and are designed to help the farmers work their plan. Each session starts with a review the progress to date and ends with action items to be completed by the time of the next session. This mentoring process helps the farmer collaborators to identify and overcome barriers they face in selling value-added products through direct market channels.

The mentoring process is the key in empowering the farmer collaborators to take ownership of the process and gain confidence through each step they take toward achieving the target outcome. The farmers are eager to increase their revenue and believe they can be successful if they can learn new skills in direct marketing.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Of the 20 farmers engaged in this project, 12 will be using the new added-value direct marketing model within 2 years of the start of this project and be selling value-added products through one or more direct channels.

We will measure success based on each of these farmers reporting sales of value-added products through one or more direct channels resulting in increased income to the farmer over previous years.

As part of our outreach commitment, we will share our methodology, data and lessons learned with all cooperative extension organizations of all universities on the Delmarva Peninsula. We will also send out a newsletter to all the farmers that were not part of our project to encourage them to participate when we reach out to mentor others in the years beyond our project.


  1. 1. The project recruitment brochure mailing in the first month of the project was not successful as the response was minimal.

    2. Follow-up telephone calls in the second month to non-respondents was also fruitless. We adjusted our recruitment activity based on recommendations from candidates of agricultural contacts on the peninsula. We then proceeded with one-on-one personal interviews that yielded some great farmer collaborators.

    3. We started with a group of fifteen farmer collaborators from our targeted number of twenty From this amended process and our group of fifteen we wound up with a group of twelve farmer collaborators.

    4. We eliminated our project kick-off meeting because the candidates were widely geographically distributed and there were difficulties in getting an agreeable date and time for a meeting.

    5. After a couple of sessions of building rapport and demonstrating we were there merely to facilitate their dreams and plans and not to tell them how to run their operations, working one-on-one with the farmer collaborators went very well.

    6. We dropped our plans for quarterly meetings for the same reasons we eliminated our kick-off meeting.

    7. Our work with the twelve farmer collaborators have yielded good results and the process has confirmed that regardless of the size or the tenure of their operations, farmers can benefit greatly from a mentoring program.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The make upof the group of twelve is varied. Five of them are farmers who have mature operations. Four of them are farmers who are young and small operations. Three are new start-up operations.

Eight of the twelve are in regular traditional farming. Four of them are in organic/naturally grown farming. There are seven in Delaware three in Eastern Shore of Maryland and two in Eastern Shore of Virginia.

The types of projects are equally as varied. The facilitation discussions included business planning, marketing techniques, financial planning, market analysis and targeting, web site start-up and use, retail start-up, branding, and product analysis and presentation.

All twelve have desires two increase and sustain their revenues and gained new insight in objectively looking at their operations through the facilitated mentoring process. All of them see that they have opportunities to increase their income and sustain it over time.


This two-year project started in April of 2005 when the growing season was already underway. The project would have benefited by being able to span two complete growing seasons.


Shannon Freeman

[email protected]
27362 Johnson Road
Seaford, DE 19973
Office Phone: 3028417413
Rick Felker

[email protected]
4103 Barlow Creek Lane
P.O. Box 689
Eastville, VA 23347
Office Phone: 7576785731
Mark Maloney

7028 Whitleysburg Road
Harrington, DE 19952
Office Phone: 3023989005
Tim Bell

10329 Woodyard Road
Greenwood, DE 19950
Office Phone: 3023495834
John Johnston

Locustville, VA
Office Phone: 7577102752
Gary Petitt

[email protected]
Project Manager
Blackbird Consultants
Delaware Department of Agriculture
2320 South Dupont Highway
Dover , DE 19901
Office Phone: 3026984535
Eric Chouri

[email protected]
469 Howell School Road
Bear , DE 19701
Office Phone: 3028321498
Jacob lovett

11575 Coopers Lane
Worton, MD 21678
Office Phone: 4108103513
Michael Alexander

5211 Little Mastens Corner Road
Felton, DE 19943
Office Phone: 3022840346
Wayne Quidas

[email protected]
6370 Bell Creek Road
Preston, MD 21655
Office Phone: 4106737238
Ilene Milburn

1495 Appleton Road
Elkton, MD 21921
Office Phone: 4103981349
Kathy Brooks

7371 Canterbury Road
Felton, DE 19943
Office Phone: 3022849757
Ben Lonsk

237 Autumn Moon lane
Magnolia, DE 19962
Office Phone: 3026971293