- Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns
- Production Systems: organic agriculture
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, community development
In partnership with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Healthy Acadia coordinates the Hancock County Gleaning Initiative, a professional surplus management service for farms. The Initiative provides support to local farms to harvest and distribute seconds and surplus to Food Security Organizations (FSOs). These efforts expand the local markets available to farms and increase the amount of local, healthy food available to community members experiencing low income (over 10,000 pounds in 2013). Utilizing a variety of models, in 2013 Healthy Acadia generated $33,250 in income for farms, 1000 hours of volunteer labor, and over 20 media appearances for local farms while also meeting critical food security needs.
This proposed project will enable the Gleaning Initiative to further help farms reduce their costs, increase their revenues and expand their markets for surplus and seconds. The project will reduce costs and increase revenue for farms by coordinating volunteer labor, transportation, marketing, and logistical support, as well as by expanding the work exchange models that benefit farmers. The project will provide research and price planning to enable farms to incorporate the support of Gleaning efforts into their price calculations for surplus and seconds in order to effectively develop markets for this produce. Finally, the proposal will leverage other revenue opportunities that can support the sales of surplus and seconds to alternative markets, such as grants provided to FSOs to buy local produce. This project will increase revenue for farms, support our food system’s sustainability, reduce food waste, and tackle hunger in our region.
To share the results we will publish “Farmers’ Guide to Surplus and Seconds Management,” on the benefits, considerations, and strategies for developing market-based gleaning relationships.
Project objectives from proposal:
This project will address the problems of food waste on farms and the barriers to selling surplus and seconds in a number of innovative ways.
First, the Gleaning Initiative will provide support to farms to enable them to rescue food that would otherwise go to waste, and to reduce the cost of distributing and selling that food. The Initiative will enable farms to sell their surplus and seconds at prices that support their bottom line and are affordable for alternative markets, such as Food Security Organizations (FSOs). The Initiative will reduce costs by coordinating volunteers to provide needed labor to farms, as well as organizing transportation, distribution and logistical support to farms. The Initiative will also market farms’ surplus and seconds and will work with FSOs and other alternative markets to explore and expand ways for them to purchase the food that would otherwise go to waste. As part of the effort to reduce costs for the farm, reduce food waste and tackle hunger, the project will also expand work exchange models, in which individuals experiencing low-income work on a farm in exchange for food. The individuals will provide real economic benefit to the farm by volunteering needed labor to the farms, and the individual will also benefit through acquiring healthy food. Numerous work exchange models exist, and the project will build on past research and success, helping to determine and coordinate models that work best for the farms and community members.
Second, this project will help farmers to better market and sell their surplus and seconds by providing research and price planning that incorporate the support of Gleaning efforts into their pricing. Partnering with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, the project will help farmers to track and understand their costs so that they know at what price points they can offer surplus and seconds to alternative markets (such as FSOs) in ways that support their bottom line. The pricing would incorporate the reduced costs created by the Gleaning Initiative’s support, as described above. The research and price planning will help farmers think about new and creative ways to market surplus and seconds to FSOs. These efforts can also help farmers explore other commercial outlets and market opportunities for this produce.
Third, this project will leverage other revenue opportunities to support the sales of surplus and seconds to alternative markets. A variety of organizations, such as the Good Shepherd Food Bank and Maine Farmland Trust, provide grants to FSOs to buy local produce. However, in many cases these programs offer prices that do not cover the costs for which our farms could afford to harvest and distribute their produce. By working with the FSOs and the farms and by providing support that reduces the cost of selling surplus and seconds, this project can help FSOs take advantage of the grants and purchase from local farms at prices that support the net income of the farms.
Below, we outline the main focus of work that will begin in each month. Much of this work will continue across the life of the project, which will take place from March to December, 2014.
March – Price Points and Cost Analysis w/ Cyon Business Solutions
Based on an estimated surplus and seconds supply for the 2014 season, map and calculate the farm-to-pantry logistical costs of placing surplus and seconds within the Food Security Organizations (FSOs).
Determine the cost of labor, transportation, logistical other support the Gleaning Initiative incurred in 2013. Draft tentative price points for different surplus products based on farm-to-pantry cost analysis
April – Farm-to-Pantry Purchase Agreements and Grant Application Support
Establish the needs for each FSO based on access to grants and overall budget.
Determine the various levels of involvement needed from the Gleaning Initiative to reach purchase agreements with local farms.
Communicate the farm-based volunteer and work exchange opportunities to community members through multiple channels.
Help FSOs apply for grants to fund local farm purchases.
May – Coordinate Ordering System, Coordinate Volunteer Work Crews
Set up an ongoing ordering system to manage the demand for food from FSOs and support the sale of surplus and seconds on a sliding scale.
With support from champion volunteers who have experience and a relationship to the farms, design training days to familiarize the working crews and farmers, and set expectations for the program.
Ensure that schedules are fixed and that time and attendance is consistently reported on a weekly basis to the Gleaning Coordinator.
June – Establish Food Delivery Systems
Develop and implement food delivery systems that meet the needs of farms and FSOs.
Begin delivery of food to local FSOs and individuals participating in work exchange programs.
July – Mid-Season Evaluation and Guide Publication
Evaluate and document the farm-to-pantry programs underway. Assess if the price points are well calculated and if the project partners and volunteers are satisfied with the results. Make strategic changes as needed.
Publish “Farmers’ Guide to Surplus and Seconds Management,” on the benefits, considerations, and strategies for developing market-based gleaning relationships.
August – Further Market Expansion
Conduct research and assessments to explore opportunities for farms to further expand their market through FSOs in other areas as well as other outlets.
September & October – Gleaning for “Waste=Food”
Promote the Gleaning Initiative’s goals of food waste prevention and eradication of hunger in Hancock County. Help place farms’ seconds at FSOs and encourage community members, businesses and institutions to subsidize the surplus.
Coordinate large-scale gleaning events, recruit additional volunteers to participate, and involve various media channels to cover these events.
November – Sorting Root Crops
Coordinate volunteer work crews to sort root crops on-farm. Continue to provide transportation, logistical, and marketing support to place surplus and seconds within FSOs.
December – Program Wrap-up and Evaluation
Meet with program partners to assess successes and opportunities for improvement.
Calculate total farm income generated from gleaning activities, amount of produce sold and/or donated to FSOs, total number of volunteer hours, and overall economic impact on local farm economy.