Assessing the capacity of producers to supply institutional markets

2007 Annual Report for ONE07-074

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2007: $9,824.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Monika Roth
Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County

Assessing the capacity of producers to supply institutional markets


The purpose of this project is to assess capacity of farmers within a 30 and 60 mile radius of Ithaca to meet insitutional demand. Many small producers are unfamiliar with the needs of institutional and food service buyers and have the perception that they cannot afford to sell at wholesale prices. At the same time, local direct markets are competitive in places like Ithaca and in rural areas there is not enough customer traffic. Alternative market outlets are needed if small-scale producers are to be able to expand and become more profitable.

So far have been to identify and survey the producers in the region to asess whether they have the capacity to expand. We have also worked with different distributors to assess their interest in local farm and food products. We have also hosted a networking meeting to facilitate communication between producers and buyers.

Objectives/Performance Targets

1. Assessing Producer Capacity – Assess producer capacity primarily within a 30-mile radius of Ithaca to supply farm products to wholesale buyers. And, where supply is short, identify producers within a 60-mile radius with products that are not available in a 30-mile area.

2. Cost of Marketing Study – engage four producers in a study to assess their marketing costs in direct and wholesale channels. Develop a template that can be used by other producers to evaluate marketing costs by channel.

3. Buyer profiles – develop profiles of buyers who are seeking local farm and food products.


1. Assessing producer capacity within a 30- to 60-mile radius of Ithaca.

A database of producers has been created that includes all producers we could identify within the target area. This includes fruit, vegetable, meat, and specialty product producers. There are 459 names in the database. A GIS map was generated that includes the producer locations so that we have a visual image of where producers are located that represents the foodshed of the region.
A survey was sent to the entire list of names.

The mailing generated 44 responses to date–results are still trickling in. Additionally 21 addresses were found to be incorrect. Results thus far reveal that about half of the responding farmers hold promise and capacity for expansion. A more detailed analysis of the results is needed and we plan to contact the producers who indicated on the survey that they are seeking additional markets to further assess their capacity to supply.

2. Cost of marketing study.

We were not able to identify producer cooperators during the 2007 season because of the grant start date (6/1); producers were already busy. Also, we did not find appropriate staff to conduct this study. We now have a graduate student in agricultural economics who can help us with this aspect of this project and at least two farmer cooperators have been identified.

3. Buyer profiles.

We have been working with buyers looking for local and regional products including: Cornell dining, Cornell catering, Statler Hotel School, Ithaca College, Cayuga Medical Center, Regional Access, Ithaca Produce, Garden Gate Delivery, Finger Lakes Family Farms, Red Jacket Orchards, and FoodLink. It was important to establish relationships with these buyers through one-on-one meetings in order to gain their confidence and permission to write up profiles. There is a great deal of competition among buyers and therefore, they are very concerned with confidentiality, so we have had to clarify that we are seeking only information that they themselves would provide to a prospective supplier.

In order for area producers and the above buyers to begin networking, we held a farmer-distributor networking meeting on March 25, 2008. Forty-eight participants attended from our identified 30- to 60-mile target area. A panel of six buyers was present and speakers provided a summary of the products in demand and selling arrangements. Additionally, we had prepared a handout to include other regional buyers seeking local products. The information presented was recorded is the basis of the profiles to be developed.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

1. Database of producers.

We have been able to identify and quantify the level of production within the region. By having this information, we are better able to single out producers who have the capacity to work with wholesale buyers and help them adjust their marketing strategies to meet buyer needs. We have also created a GIS map of these producers. This map represents the foodshed and supply capacity witin the 30- to 60-mile target area.

2. Buyer interest assessment.

We have identified buyers within our region of all sizes from large institutions like Cornell dining (25,000 meals/day) to small startup home delivery businesses like Garden Gate Delivery. These buyers have indicated interest in local products and through one-on-one meetings we have been able to identify their product needs and have been able to refer producers from the database with supply capacity to buyers. For example, Garden Gate Delivery, a new home delivery business, has almost entirely developed their product list from recommendations we have provided.

3. Farmer-distributor networking meeting.

At this meeting generated at least eight new accounts for farmers at the meeting. A follow-up e-mail has been sent to those in attendance to see whether any buyer contacts were made after the meeting. A few e-mail responses have been received indicating the meeting was very informative. We plan to follow up with attendees in midsummer and fall to assess whether new business arrangements have occurred as a result of the meeting.

We are requesting a project extension to accomplish the following tasks:

-further analysis of farmer survey data

-outreach to farmers who indicated an interested and capacity to supply more accounts including wholesale

-buyer profile write ups

-send selected farmers buyer profiles (those with capacity and interest in wholesaling)

-follow-up survey of farmers attending networking meeting to identify whether any new accounts were established during the season

-cost of marketing study

-final report preparation


Lael Gerhart
CCE community food educator
Cooperative Extension
615 Willow Avenue
Ithaca, NY 14850
Office Phone: 6072722292
Heather Birdsall
CCE Livestock Specialist
Cooperative Extension
Office Phone: 6077535077
Anton Burkett

Early Morning Organic Farm
Office Phone: 3157295916
Molly Shaw
CCE Fruit & Vegetable Specialist
Cooperative Extension
Office Phone: 6076874020
Chaw Chang

Stick and Stone Farm
Office Phone: 6072569941
Nathaniel Thompson

Remembrance Farm
Office Phone: 6072274650