- Education and Training: decision support system, extension, workshop
- Farm Business Management: business planning, farm-to-restaurant, financial management, marketing management
- Sustainable Communities: food hubs, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, quality of life
Over the past 8 years, farmers markets have grown by 38% in the state of New York, the second highest number in the country1. While this growth has provided an abundance of easy-to-access markets for small and beginning farmers, established farmers have started reporting slower sales and customer loss due to intense competition2. These farmers complain of ‘burn-out’ from investing significant time and energy in direct-marketing strategies that are yielding diminishing returns. Meanwhile, distributers such as food hubs, grocery stores and restaurants are now recruiting product from small to mid-sized farms to meet growing consumer demand for local and sustainably-grown food. Although technically ‘wholesalers’, these businesses are often eager to establish attentive relationships with their suppliers, offer attractive prices and terms, and maintain a product’s branding and integrity3.
New York’s small farmers expressed strong interest in exploring these ‘new models’ of wholesale in a highly detailed marketing trends survey conducted by the Cornell Small Farms Program in February, 2014. Nearly half (39% )of the 445 NY survey takers reported currently selling at farmers markets, farm stands or CSA’s, but 25% indicated plans to explore either a food hub or a restaurant over the next 2 years. An additional 7% indicated interest in a grocery store or cooperative. However, respondents identified many questions and perceived risk factors in making a transition to wholesale that need to be addressed4. The following farmer quote represents a typical question: “I need to increase my sales to people interested in high quality locally grown products, but cannot afford the time to sit at a farmer’s market. Where are the food hubs, and how do I go about providing products?”
In a survey geared toward agricultural service providers titled “Educators: Are you Ready to Help Farmers Sell Wholesale?” conducted by the NY SARE office in May, 2014, 46 educators in NY indicated strong interest in a professional development training to acquire the tools and resources to help farmers decide if, when and how to sell to a wholesale market. In addition, 19 signed up for a task group to design curriculum for Wholesale Market Training and 14 signed up to serve on an advisory panel for this project topic.
The 2014-2017 NY SARE PDP program will address this gap in Wholesale Market Training for educators and farmers by facilitating a 3-phase Train-the-Trainer program. The first year of this project will bring a task group of 12 educators together to assess current educational initiatives and generate a teaching curriculum. In YR 2, 36 educators will attend a 2 day workshop to learn, critique, and implement this curriculum. In YR 3, these same educators will work in regional teams of 3 to present the final curriculum to farmers accompanied by either a farmer-buyer networking meeting or field trip to a grocery, restaurant or food hub.
Performance targets from proposal:
36 agriculture service providers who gain competency in wholesale market readiness curriculum will work in teams of 3 to teach 12 workshops to 120 small and mid-size farmers interested in pursuing wholesale markets.
40 farmers will enter a new wholesale market within 1 year of a Wholesale Market Training. 20 of these farmers will report higher level of satisfaction in 3 of the following 5 areas:
- PROFIT earned through this new channel LABOR required to sell through this new channel
- VOLUME of PRODUCT required to send through this new channel
- LIFESTYLE PREFERENCES that selling through this new channel provides
- RISK specific to selling through this new channel
- ASSOCIATED COSTS required to sell through this new channel