Grower-Buyer Network Development through Culinary Collaboration

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2020: $25,838.00
Projected End Date: 10/01/2022
Grant Recipient: Sprout MN
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: demonstration, networking, participatory research, youth education
  • Sustainable Communities: community development, community services, food hubs, local and regional food systems, partnerships, quality of life, social capital, social networks

    Proposal abstract:

    This proposal seeks to determine the effectiveness of personal, intentional, and collaborative culinary events, developed by producer-chef duos, as creative marketing tactics to increase food sales of small family farms. We will also assess impact differences of on-farm versus in-kitchen culinary events. Our Central Minnesota region has high quotients in animal production and agriculture, producing a variety of commodities (poultry/eggs, cattle/cow milk, turkeys, grains (i.e. oats, wheat and wild rice)) and over 70 varieties of vegetables. While the average size of farms in our region was 227 acres in 2012, most farms are small, 1 family-owned farms of 40 acres or less, and include several Amish farming families, farms owned and operated by women, and beginning farmers (less than 10 years). Biodiversity is a common thread among these small farms, making it difficult to meet buyer demand of single commodities without the aggregation, distribution, and market development assistance of the food hub. Similarly, our small farmers face barriers to harnessing the marketing power needed to compete in the commercial grocery market, which has co-opted the term “local.” We propose to conduct a marketing and engagement campaign that personalizes local food, and study the impacts over 23 months.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Pair 6 local producers with partnering chefs to create a new buyer relationship.
    2. Plan, implement, and evaluate 6 in-kitchen demos and 3 on-farm demos per year (18 demos over 23 months).
    3. Establish baseline data including product sales, social media presence, and product offerings. Track changes prior to and after each activity.
    4. Develop an evaluation matrix for assessing the “grower-buyer network impact” including the identification of different buyer types and their potential purchase power.
    5. Observe the collaborative planning process and make improvements based on producer and chef feedback. 
    6. Create a final report summarizing findings with case studies and marketing samples.
    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.