- Fruits: berries (blueberries)
- Vegetables: greens (leafy)
- Education and Training: decision support system, extension, workshop
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, market study, value added
- Sustainable Communities: values-based supply chains
Problem, Novel Approach and Justification: There is an opportunity for farmers to meet growing demand for local foods and increase farm profitability by entering a new market for retail sales of frozen value-added products. In particular, farmers could capitalize on opportunities provided by recent investments in regional food processing facilities by freezing produce for retail sales in winter. Like many new marketing opportunities, farmers do not have access to information they need to determine profitability in the new market: whether the returns from processing and selling retail frozen produce are greater than the costs or producing safe, high-quality food products that meet food safety regulations. Farmers have indicated that they are interested in the market, but need better information on: processing/production costs; food safety/quality assurances; consumers’ demand/pricing; and packaging/marketing. We propose to combine original research in this proposal with existing supply-chain information provided by community partners to fill the information gap so farmers can determine whether this could be a profitable market for their operation.
Hypothesis and Research Plan: Our overall research hypothesis is that local produce can be profitably grown and processed (frozen) for off-season retail sales. Two additional hypotheses are important to that overall hypothesis. First, we hypothesize that consumers have higher willingness-to-pay for locally produced and processed frozen foods, and second, that the costs of producing safe, high-quality locally grown and processed frozen foods will not exceed consumers’ willingness-to-pay. To test our hypotheses, we estimate returns using a demand survey to estimate consumer willingness-to-pay for product attributes, including labels, packing, origin information, pricing, past purchases, and demographics. We develop two safe, high-quality prototype products, and produce them at-scale to assess processing/production costs. We supplement this cost research with marketing data from community partners to estimate total costs, then subtract cots from returns to assess profitability.
Outreach Plan: Research results will be shared through outreach efforts utilizing networks and programs established within UMass Extension. We provide additional knowledge regarding local value-added production opportunities to Northeast farmers and other agricultural partners and service providers. We deliver 10 outputs through a diverse outreach platform, including technical presentations, extension workshops, webinars, and peer-reviewed and extension publications.
Performance targets from proposal:
The project objective is to assess farmer profitability in the Northeast region from selling a new product, retail frozen local foods, by estimating key returns and costs, and then subtracting costs from returns. We fill the knowledge gap by: 1) estimating consumer demand for locally processed products; 2) developing non-proprietary standard operating procedures for two safe, high-quality, popular retail frozen fruit and vegetable products, and: 3) estimating processing/production costs using scale processing pilots and costs data from community partners. This information will fill the knowledge gap that hinders adoptability of retail frozen local sales in the Northeast.