5 Food-trend Opportunities for Farmers in 2019

In January the Mid-America Restaurant Expo dominated downtown Columbus. The annual restaurant and foodservice industry trade show featured the latest food trends and topics creating new marketing opportunities for farmers. I sampled more than my fair share to discover the following five trends for farmers in 2019.

Greenhouse trend: Indoor herb gardens
Indoor herb gardens give consumers the satisfaction of growing something they can use in the kitchen. Herb gardens appeal to consumers because they are easy to grow with little space, time and effort. PanAmerican Seed suggests consumers are willing to invest in potted herbs plants that offer earlier and prolonged harvests. ¹ Greenhouse growers can increase sales by offering multiple herb plants in culinary collections. Popular herb collections include a pizza garden of chives, oregano and parsley, and a tea garden of chamomile and mints.

Value-added product trend: Fermented foods
Health conscious consumers seek fermented food to improve gut health. An article in the New York Times notes several grocery store chains are packing shelves with pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi and other canned ferments. ² Fermented vegetables and fruits are an opportunity for farmers to create value-added products that complement their produce operations. Value-added products can also provide an outlet for imperfect produce and help farmers reduce food waste.

Meat trend: Oxtail and organs
Cuts consumers used to consider undesirable are trending in 2019. Pintrest searches for oxtail recipes have increased by 209 percent. ³ Organ meats: heart, liver and kidney are popular with paleo and carnivore dieters. Ground meat blends including organ meats provide the health benefits without the strong flavor. Farmers can work with meat processors to create ground meat blends or packaged organ meats for direct to consumer sales.

Bread trend: Sourdough, designer doughnuts and specialty grains
The spotlight on fermented foods has spiked consumer demand for sourdough bread. Designer donuts are the new cupcakes. Breads baked with alternative flours such as rice, spelt and einkorn, are gaining ground according to a Facebook trends report. ⁴ Farmers can partner artisan bakeries to offer specialty breads at the farm stand or as an add-on to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscriptions.

Farm to table trend: Buyer-seller partnerships
Chefs and retail buyers are sourcing local and regional food to meet customer demand. Buyers need a consistent supply of high-quality food and food products. Nation’s Restaurant News suggests buyers partner with farmers to plan production and delivery. Buyers benefit from priority access to the supply they need, while farmers gain a dependable market for their products. ⁵

References

  1. Josephson, C. “Looking Forward to 2019.” Jan 2019. PanAmerican Seed. Retrieved from https://www.panamseed.com/Blog/2019/01/02/looking-forward-to-2019.html
  2. Severson, K., “A Peek at Your New Plate: How You’ll Be Eating in 2019.” Dec 2018. New York Times. Retrieved from  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/21/dining/food-trends-predictions-2019.html
  3. Wahlgren, E., “100 Pintrest Trends for 2019.” Dec 2018. Retrieved from https://business.pinterest.com/en/blog/100-pinterest-trends-for-2019?utm_medium=2023&utm_source=31&utm_campaign=5fbf16#Food
  4. “The 2019 Topics & Trends Report.” Dec 2018. Facebook IQ. Retrieved from https://scontent.fdet1-2.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t39.8562-6/48606515_2199769090237778_5979666736092282880_n.pdf?_nc_cat=111&_nc_ht=scontent.fdet1-2.fna&oh=99550e34ded1d6d28d998b2a27e706b4&oe=5CD9B039
  5. Luna, N., “15 Trends to Expect in 2019.” Dec 2018. Nation’s Restaurant News. Retrieved from https://www.nrn.com/place-table/15-trends-expect-2019/gallery?slide=6

*Article originally published in Farm and Dairy Newspaper

3 Ways to Elevate your Farm Marketing in 2019

Local: The Gift that Gives Back

Vacant storefronts and barely-surviving businesses dominated downtown Chillicothe when I moved to Ohio in 2011. Today downtown is home to thirty thriving businesses, offering everything from retail items to food, personal and professional services. The revival of the downtown area and the continued success of its tenants depends on residents’ support and contribution to the local economy.

Shop local, Give local

Every dollar you spend in the local economy has a threefold multiplier effect: direct, indirect and induced, according to the American Independent Business Alliance. A direct impact occurs when businesses spend revenue to operate the business itself; purchasing inventory from local vendors, paying utilities, rent, and wages to employees. Indirect impact is the result of recirculating dollars in the local economy. The induced impact is additional consumer spending that happens when employees, business owners and others spend earned income locally. ¹

Supporting local businesses has non-economic benefits too. It cultivates hometown character and creates cohesion among community members. “It’s great to see decorated storefronts downtown instead of boarded-up windows,” a longtime resident of Chillicothe said, “The new downtown Chillicothe is something the entire community is proud of.”

Giving local gifts communicates your hometown pride. Givers can share the story behind the gift and what makes it special. For example, give a fruit basket from a local farm and share how your family looks forward to visiting the farm’s pick-your-own each fall. Give a personal recommendation with a gift card to an independent coffee shop, “The jumbo cinnamon rolls are the best!”

Local food makes great stocking stuffers and party gifts: wine, honey, jerky, candies and other products from area producers. These items are easy to ship and send a piece of your hometown to far-away family and friends. My husband has standing dibs on a turkey leg at holiday meals. One year he was stationed in Korea and missed the holidays with his family. His grandmother mailed the turkey leg across the Pacific Ocean. Although I don’t recommend sending perishable items, sending nonperishable local food products are a way to make the world feel a little smaller.

Small businesses are a great place to find locally made body products, housewares and jewelry. Small, independently owned businesses often serve as a retail gateway for local producers and artisans, who can work directly with the manager to stock products at a small volume, instead of coordinating a large volume through a regional distributor.

Don’t forget services- the person who has everything will appreciate the gift of local spa services, classes, or tickets to experience area attractions.

Buy local, online

No time to go downtown? You can still shop and give local online. Many local businesses have ecommerce websites that allow customers to pick-out, purchase and ship gifts without stepping foot in the store.

Looking for local food and products? You can find local produce, beef, dairy, herbs and value-added product at www.localharvest.org.

You can find locally made clothing, crafts and retail items from over 300 Ohio small businesses and farmers at Celebrate Local shops in Cincinnati and Columbus, or buy online at www.celebratelocalohio.com.

  1. “The Multiplier Effect of Local Independent Businesses.” American Independent Business Alliance. (n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2018 from https://www.amiba.net/resources/multiplier-effect/

*Article originally published in Farm & Dairy Newspaper

Food Hubs Connect Healthy Food, Farms, and Communities

The USDA defines a food hub as a “business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand”, but food hubs do much more. Food hubs are a catalyst for community wellness. They address problems of food insecurity and connect community members to the source of their food.

Building a regional food hub requires collaboration of multiple partners. Each partner contributes unique strengths and resources to the project. Community stakeholders amplify success by participating in project planning and execution and supporting the food hub in their community.

In 2018 the Ohio State University’s Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation (InFact) partnered with the Methodist Theological School in Ohio (MTSO), Seminary Hill Farm, and Franklinton Gardens Urban Farm, to develop a model for food hub businesses in underserved urban communities. The organizations invite community stakeholders, individuals and organizations to attend the Building Regional Food Hubs Conference on Nov. 9, 2018.

The conference will host local food leaders from across the state of Ohio. Anna Haas from Local Food Connection will share online possibilities for urban food hubs. Piper Fernway will describe how Bon Appetit Management Company connects institutions to local food in Appalachia. Leslie Schaller, the founder of the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks’ (ACEnet) Food Venture Center and Nelsonville Food Hub, will tell how ACEnet helps producers enhance their businesses with value-added products.

The conference will feature a panel of practitioners discussing challenges and opportunities for producers in food hub models. Panelist Tadd Petersen, manager of Seminary Hill Farm, notes that producers face many challenges. Tadd says, “Storage is the number one barrier facing producers.” Food hubs can provide aggregation, packing, processing and storage space to help farmers expand business capacity. Seminary Hill Farm works with 30 local farms to provide catering and event services, supply MTSO’s dining facilities with farm fresh food, and operate a 300-member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription. A tour of Seminary Hill Farm will follow the conference.

Attend the Building Regional Food Hubs Conference

Date: Friday, Nov. 9, 2018

Time: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Location: Methodist Theological School in Ohio, 3081 Columbus Pike, Delaware, Ohio

Fee: $10

To learn more and register for the event visit www.mtso.edu/foodhubconference

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References

1. Barham, James, Debra Tropp, Kathleen Enterline, Jeff Farbman, John Fisk, and Stacia Kiraly. Regional Food Hub Resource Guide. Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service. April 2012.

*Article originally published in Farm & Dairy Newspaper

Get ready for retail: Selling farm products at grocery stores and restaurants

Retail and restaurant sales are an opportunity for farmers and food businesses to increase sales volume and revenue, while building brand awareness in the local marketplace. But selling farm products to retail buyers isn’t as easy as showing up with samples. Before approaching grocery store and restaurant buyers, farmers must understand the market, obtain required insurance and certifications, and comply with industry standards for packaging and labeling.

Understand the market: products, people, promotions and pricing

Visit the grocery store(s) you wish to sell product to. Survey the store’s current products, customers, promotions, and pricing. Pay special attention to similar products that your products will compete against, noting the price range. Typical retail mark-up is 40%; if the retail price of fresh asparagus is $2.89 per pound, the grocer paid about $1.73 per pound.

Enjoy a meal at the restaurant you wish to sell products to. Look for language or signage that promotes local sourcing. Notice fellow diners- will your products appeal to the restaurant’s typical customers? Review the menu and consider if your products are a good fit. Make note of prices on the menu. Restaurant industry food costs average 30-35%, depending upon the style of restaurant.

Insurance and certifications

Retail and restaurant buyers may require vendors to maintain a level of product liability insurance, worker’s compensation and/or other insurance policies. Grocers may require vendor farms to be Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certified. Buyers will appreciate a copy of your farm’s food safety plan, and an invitation to perform an on-farm food safety inspection.

Be prepared to provide buyers with documentation proving your products are USDA Certified Organic, Certified Natural, Verified Non-GMO, Animal Welfare Approved or other specialty certifications. You may need to explain terms like “grass-fed”, “pasture raised”, “natural”, “antibiotic free”, and how those terms can be used to market products to customers.

Packaging and labeling

Grocery stores and restaurants require product to be delivered in packaging that complies with industry standards. Packaging may need to include USDA or industry grading, sizing and quality standard information.

Understand legal regulations for labeling retail products, including Country of Origin labeling, USDA inspection seals, label claims, weights and business contact information that allows for product traceability. Many grocers require a price look up (PLU) or universal product code (UPC) label.

Pitching your farm products

Farmers that understand the market, obtain required insurance and certifications, and comply with industry standards for packaging and labeling, can approach buyers with confidence! The first successful sale is the start of a long-term mutually beneficial buyer-seller relationship.

Need help getting ready for retail?

Join the Ohio State University Direct Food and Ag Marketing Team for MarketReady Producer Training.

Dates: Two-part training on Thursday, November 1, 2018 and Friday, November 9, 2018

Time: 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. both days

Location: OSU Extension- Cuyahoga County, 12200 Fairhill Rd. E Bldg. Cleveland, OH 44120

Fee: $30 covers both days (lunch is provided)

Register: Contact gardner.1148@osu.edu or 740-289-2071 ext 132 by October 30th.

*Article originally published in Farm & Dairy Newspaper

How to Communicate the Value of Local Food to Customers

Local food is good for health and the environment. Buying local builds a strong local economy and a resilient food system, ensuring there is an adequate supply of fresh and healthy food in the community.

Consumers concerned with how their food is grown and raised enjoy greater transparency through interaction with local food producers.

The benefits of local food are undeniable, but the price of local products is often higher than conventional goods. Inconvenience accessing locally grown produce and meat also keeps consumers from spending more of their food budget on local fare.

Communicating the health, environmental and economic benefits of local food justifies the added cost and effort consumers must make to obtain it. Farmers can communicate the true value of local food through conversations, samples, in-store signage, newsletters, menus, blogs and vlogs, and agritourism.

Conversations

Direct sales are an opportunity for farmers to communicate the value of local food to customers. “Consumers‘ Preferences for Locally Produced Food: A Study in Southeast Missouri” found consumers’ want to know the farmer behind their food. ¹ Since traditional grocery stores and food distributors cannot share the story behind the food, farmers’ ability to engage consumers in conversations about local foods during direct sales is a competitive advantage.

In-store signage

When conversations with customers are not possible, in-store signage informs consumers of opportunities to buy local and support farmers in their community. On a recent trip to the supermarket I noticed signage featuring a rancher selfie with cattle. The sign invited shoppers to buy beef raised on local pastures to support area farmers.

Samples

Freshness, taste and quality are the top reasons consumers purchase local food over conventional goods. ¹ Offering samples invites consumers to see, smell and taste the local food difference.

Samples also inspire consumers to try local favorites in new ways. Local honey drizzled over Ohio cheese and apple dumplings made with fruit from a hometown orchard, demonstrate local products’ superior flavor and versatility.

Menus

Restaurant menus and advertisements that list sources of local ingredients show hometown pride. Diners are less sensitive to premium-priced meals when they know their choice supports agriculture in their community. Their purchase of local food from a local business reduces food miles, invests in area infrastructure, and create jobs in the community.

Newsletters

Newsletters communicate the value of local food in depth. Farmers can educate consumers about the health benefits of just-picked produce, sustainable production of pastured poultry or grass-fed beef.

Readers learn what’s in season now, and what fresh produce to look forward to in the future. Farmers can engage customers by asking them to submit their favorite seasonal recipes or share a testimonial about their love of local food.  Newsletters share regional farm and garden events and tell customers where they can purchase farm products or how they can support local farms.

Print and digital newsletters make sense depending on delivery. Print newsletters work well in direct sales situations such as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Farmers who don’t have direct contact with consumers can create digital newsletters. Farmers can use free Microsoft Word templates to create newsletters and email to a list of subscribers. Alternatively, email marketing services such as Constant Contact and Mail Chimp are an easy way to create and manage newsletter subscriptions online.

Blogs and Vlogs

Blogs and vlogs are a window into farmers’ world. A blog is an online dairy of personal experiences and opinions. Vlogging (video blogging) is great for farmers who don’t enjoy writing or have limited time to create content. Both give consumers whom may never step foot on a farm an opportunity to experience agriculture and virtually participate in food production.

Agritourism

Inviting consumers to the farm is a powerful way to communicate the value of local food. Pasture walks, volunteer days, “How-to” and “DIY” clinics combine entertainment and education. Agritourism creates positive associations with farming and food production in the minds of consumers. It deepens their connection and commitment to local food.

Resources

  1. Brown, Cheryl., “Consumers‘ Preferences for Locally Produced Food: A Study in Southeast Missouri.” American Journal of Alternative Agriculture. Vol. 18, Iss. 4, December 1, 2003, pp. 213-224.

Article originally published in Farm & Dairy Newspaper, October 5, 2018.

 

Take Ag Action in Moorefield, West Virginia on 8/27 and Kearneyville, WV on 8/28

Think a co-op may be part of the solution for your farm or food business?

Now is the time to get involved and/or come to ask questions.

Date: Monday 8/27/2018

Time: 6:30 p.m.

Location: Eastern WV Community & Technical College, 316 Eastern Drive, Moorefield, West Virginia 26836

Date: Tuesday 8/28/2018

Time: 6:30 p.m.

Location: WVU Kearneysville Tree Fruit Research and Education Center, 67 Apple Harvest Drive, Kearneyville, WV.

For more information and to register contact:  tina.metzer@easternwv.edu or nbergdoll@wvda.us

From Farm to Cafeteria to Field

The Center for Cooperatives Guides National Farm to Cafeteria Tours

The 2018 National Farm to Cafeteria Conference brought together educators, dieticians, foodservice staff, farmers and local food advocates from across the country in Cincinnati, Ohio in late April. Attendees discussed how Farm to School initiatives enrich their communities, strengthen the food system and boost local economies. Conference sessions shared best practices to boost local food consumption in the cafeteria and provide agriculture, food, health and nutrition education to students.

The conference featured field trips to several Ohio food and farm destinations. The CFAES Center for Cooperatives guided tours “From Garden to Food Hub” and “The Science of Local Food” at the Ohio State University South Centers.

On the conference’s final morning, twenty conference attendees boarded the bus for a 2-hour scenic trip from the conference center in Cincinnati to OSU South Centers in Piketon. They participated in the award winning food-science program “The Story of the Strawberry.” The program is a partnership between OSU Extension Pike County, OSU Horticulture and OSU Food, Nutrition and Wellness.

Attendees learned about plasticulture strawberry production and OSU researchers’ efforts to extend the Ohio harvest season from a historical 3-week strawberry harvest to a 3-month harvest window. Attendees also gained disease prevention insights from current berry nutritional research. Hands-on activities included taste tests and strawberry DNA extraction.

Next, the group got on a hay wagon for a tour of South Center’s research plots. They visited the hops yard, grape vineyard and aquaculture ponds. Attendees learned about services provided to new businesses in South Center’s unique business incubator, the 27,000-square foot Endeavor Center. The Business Team shared how they help entrepreneurs, including agricultural producers and food manufacturers, start and grow businesses in southern Ohio.

CFAES Center for Cooperatives Program Manager Hannah Scott greeted twenty-five conference goers on a sunny afternoon outside of the Duke Energy Convention Center for a tour focused on local food aggregation and distribution. Attendees visited the facilities of Our Harvest Cooperative and Ohio Valley Food Connection located in The Incubator, a commercial kitchen and food aggregation incubator in northern Kentucky, to learn about the collaboration between the two southwest Ohio food hubs to move more local food to institutions. The field trip also took attendees to Fox Tail Farm in New Richmond, Ohio, a small produce farm marketing produce like carrots and greens through a hub. Participants learned about the farm’s production techniques and the advantages the farm experiences marketing through a hub.

The unique challenges of moving locally produced food from farms to restaurants, cafeterias, and retailers have been a focus of the Center for Cooperatives since 2014 through the Ohio & West Virginia Food Hub Network and technical assistance work with food hubs. According to a recently released study from Michigan State University’s Center for Regional Food Systems and Wallace Center at Winrock International, approximately 31% of U.S. food hubs marketed products to k-12 schools in 2017. Despite challenges, food hubs can help producers access larger markets than they may be able to working on their own. In 2017, approximately 18% of food hubs in the U.S. were cooperatively owned.

Article originally published in the Spring 2018 edition of The Ohio State University South Centers Connections newsletter. The full newsletter is available at: https://southcenters.osu.edu/newsletter/connections-newsletter

Scaling-up to Sell to Schools

 

Farm fresh food benefits not only students but the farmers that grow it for students. Scaling-up to sell to schools presents challenges, but farmers have achieved success through cooperation, collaborative relationships with buyers and year-round purchasing programs.

Farmers benefit from Farm to School

Institutions are a dependable market that provides farmers with timely and reliable payments. Clarity of a cafeteria’s needs allows farmers to plan production and delivery in advance. Schools streamline procurement, delivery and invoicing processes so farmers can focus their energy on producing high-quality food to nourish students.

Selling to schools is good for the local economy. Schools purchased $790 million of local food in 2013-2014. 42,587 Schools across the United States participated in Farm to School activities according to the USDA Farm to School Census. ¹ Case studies of public schools in Minnesota and Georgia found $82 of every $100 spent stayed in the local economy. ²

Some schools incorporate agriculture and nutrition education into Farm to School programming. Farmers that are passionate about inspiring the next generation of healthy eaters may have an opportunity to partner with educators to teach youth about what it takes to get food from the farm to the cafeteria.

Challenges selling to schools

Schools purchase a large volume of product. Small operations often struggle to produce a volume sufficient for foodservice needs. Cooperative marketing is a solution. An agricultural cooperative can aggregate multiple farms products to achieve intuitional volumes. A co-op offers farmer-members other benefits such as group food safety certifications, shared distribution and reduced costs on supplies. The Preston Growers Cooperative formed in response to the West Virginia Farm to School initiative. Working together, farmers achieve institutional volumes, maintain quality and offer a wider selection of products to local schools.

Farmers receive lower prices from institutional sales than other direct marketing channels. School buyers have tight budget constraints when making food purchasing decisions. The average school lunch cost $2.90 to prepare, only $1.07 of the total cost is allocated to food. The remaining $1.83 goes to labor, preparation and indirect costs. ³ Marketing Michigan Products: A Step-by-Step Guide from Michigan Farm to School is a free online resource that helps farmers prepare bid documents, price their products and negotiate contract agreements.

The school cafeteria is vacant during much of peak fruit and vegetable season. Minimal processing, such as freezing fresh food for future use, can be a solution. Cafeteria staff may process the food in the school cafeteria or coordinate with a food hub or co-packer to process the food in an approved facility. The Ohio Department of Education’s Summer Food Service Program provides a consistent market for farmers by purchasing food when school is not in session. Meals are served to youth enrolled in summer education programs at local YMCAs, libraries and other partner organizations.

Success

Farmers that have successfully sold to schools suggest developing working relationships with school dieticians, buyers and food service staff. Farmers should clarify vendor requirements, volume, packaging, delivery, insurance, payment terms and necessary food safety certifications prior to making the first delivery. Regular communication throughout the school year is vital to success.

For more information on Farm to School in Ohio visit http://farmtoschool.osu.edu/.

To learn about the Ohio State University Dining Service’s goal to purchase 40% local and sustainable Food by 2025 visit https://dining.osu.edu/sustainability/local-and-sustainable-food/.

References

  1. “Farm to School Census.” 2015. U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Nutrition Service.
  2. Christensen, L., Jablonski, B., Stephens, L. & Joshi, A. “Economic Impacts of Farm to School: Case Studies and Assessment Tools.” Sept 2017. National Farm to School Network. Retrieved April 27, 2018 from http://www.farmtoschool.org/Resources/EconomicImpactReport.pdf.
  3. “School Lunch and Breakfast Cost Study-II.” 2006. U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Nutrition Service.

*Originally published in Farm and Dairy newspaper 5/4/2018