Cooperative Farmers Markets

An abundance of fresh vegetables stacked on a table at an outdoor market.

Here in Ohio, the growing season is ramping up quickly! In some communities, farmers markets have already kicked off their season and in others, local food enthusiasts won’t have to wait long to enjoy the market. The estimated 8,000+ farmers markets across the United States[1] are an important way farmers sell to customers directly.

Based on the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Census of Agriculture, in Ohio an estimated 8% of farms sell approximately $90 million worth of products directly to consumers.[2]

Advocates of farmers markets, like the Farmers Market Coalition, cite benefits like:

  • Helping farm businesses succeed – Farmers with direct-to-consumer sales are more likely to remain in business than other farms, according to USDA data.[3] Producers with farms that sell food through direct channels, like farmers markets, were more likely than all U.S. farms to be female and aged 34 or younger.[4]
  • Creating community food access points – 99% of farmers markets responding to a 2019 USDA survey sell fruits and vegetables and about half of responding markets accepted Federal Nutrition Programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP)[5]
  • Positive community impact – About half of farmers markets responding to a 2019 USDA survey had a paid market manager and just over 5,000 markets across the U.S. engaged over 31,000 volunteers.[6]

A stall of vibrant, fresh vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers, at an outdoor farmers market.

Farmers Markets and Business Structures

Starting and growing a successful farmers market involves many moving parts – building a community of farmers, engaging with local community leaders and patrons, effective marketing, and strong operational plans. Among the important aspects for new and established markets to consider is their business structure – like whether the market is an independent legal entity like a corporation or part of a larger umbrella organization. A market’s business structure can impact how decisions are made for a market, the extent of personal liability for market leaders, eligibility for certain types of funding like grants or charitable donations, how the market is taxed, and more.[7]

The Farmers Market Legal Toolkit from the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School provides helpful information about business structures for farmers markets, along with information about accepting public benefits and managing risks at markets.

Cooperatives as a Business Structure for Farmers Markets

An illustration of raised hands in rainbow colors.Cooperatives are one of various business structure choices for farmers markets. Cooperatives are member owned and controlled businesses that distribute benefits based on use and grounded in principles like democratic member control and concern for community.[8] Cooperatives operate across sectors from insurance and financial services to housing, purchasing, and utilities. In agriculture, cooperatives market various food and agriculture products, procure supplies and inputs, and provide services, like financial services.[9]

Farmers markets structured as cooperatives might be owned and governed by farmers who sell at the market, by community members who shop at the market, or by both groups in a “multistakeholder” cooperative.

Cooperative markets owned and governed by farmers are one form of marketing collaborations for farmers. Learn more about “Marketing Collaborations for Farmers” in our blog post here.

Some of the potential benefits of structuring a farmers market as a cooperative might include:

  • Member engagement and decision-making – Many decisions for a cooperative are made by a board of directors elected from and by the members. Members elect the board and can cast their vote on certain major issues for the cooperative. Democratic control is a defining principle of cooperatives and members generally vote using a “one member, one vote” set up. Cooperatives generally distribute their profit to members based on their use of the business.[10]
  • Community focus – As a business, the focus of a cooperative is on providing benefits to its members.[11] The internationally recognized cooperative principles highlight that “[c]ooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities.”[12] This member and community orientation might create opportunities for cooperative farmers markets to develop a community-orientation and focus.
  • Existence of the market beyond current leaders – Operating a farmers market can be a lot of work. To ensure the successful operation of a market well into the future, it may be important to consider how to effectively share or transfer responsibilities for leadership and how to create a stable structure. As independent legal entities that are governed by a board, cooperatives may have opportunities to share leadership responsibilities and generally can exist perpetually as long as appropriate formalities are met.[13]
  • Limitation of liability and easily updated membership – Generally, cooperatives are legal entities created by filing appropriate forms with a state agency. As independent legal entities, generally the personal liability of each member in a cooperative is limited to the equity the member holds in the cooperative. Cooperatives set up as separate legal entities can add and remove members.[14]

However, cooperatives may have disadvantages compared to other potential business structures for farmers markets. For example, cooperative markets may be limited in their ability to legally use volunteers and unpaid staff compared to nonprofits, they may be limited in raising certain kinds of capital compared to corporations, and they rely on strong engagement and participation from members compared to structures that rely on just one or a few members like limited liability companies.[15]

People in business professional dress standing in a circle holding wooden gears together.

 

Like any decisions for a business with varied and far-reaching consequences, those interested in exploring the right business structure in their specific situation should consult knowledgeable competent professionals, like attorneys, accountants, and others. This information is provided for educational purposes only. It is not legal advice. It is not a substitute for the potential need to consult with a competent attorney in the appropriate jurisdiction.

Take a deeper dive into the cooperative business model, including cooperative legal frameworks, governance, financial concepts, and more with Co-op Mastery: Beyond Cooperatives 101 at go.osu.edu/coopmastery.

 

References

[1] 2019 National Farmers Market Managers 2019 Summary. (Aug. 2020). U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. https://downloads.usda.library.cornell.edu/usda-esmis/files/pz50hd694/gx41n598k/jd473j98z/nfar0820.pdf

[2] Data from the 2022 Census of Agriculture “Ohio: Market Value of Agricultural Products Sold Including Landlord’s Share, Food Marketing Practices, and Value Added Products: 2022 and 2017” and “Ohio Historical highlights: 2022 and Earlier Census Years,” U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service.

[3] Key, N. (2016). “Local Foods and Farm Business Survival and Growth.” U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2016/march/local-foods-and-farm-business-survival-and-growth/

[4] Direct Farm Sales of Food: Results from the 2020 Local Food Marketing Practices Survey. U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Highlights/2022/local-foods.pdf

[5] National Farmers Market Managers. (Aug. 2020). U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. https://downloads.usda.library.cornell.edu/usda-esmis/files/pz50hd694/gx41n598k/jd473j98z/nfar0820.pdf

[6] National Farmers Market Managers. (Aug. 2020). U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. https://downloads.usda.library.cornell.edu/usda-esmis/files/pz50hd694/gx41n598k/jd473j98z/nfar0820.pdf

[7] “Why does the market’s business structure matter?” Farmers Market Legal Toolkit. Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, Vermont Law School. https://farmersmarketlegaltoolkit.org/business-structures/why-your-choice-matters/

[8] (2014). Co-op Essentials: What They Are and the Role of Members, Directors, Managers, and Employees. USDA Rural Development Cooperative Programs.

[9] Wadsworth, J., Lapp, K., & Rivera, J. (2021). Agricultural Cooperative Statistics 2019. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Service Report 83.

[10] “Co-ops 101: An Introduction to Cooperatives.” (2012). U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, Cooperative Information Report 55. Retrieved from http://www.rd.usda.gov/files/cir55.pdf

[11] Zueli, K. & Cropp, R. (2014). “Cooperatives: Principles and practices in the 21st century.” UW Extension.

[12] “Cooperative identity, values & principles.” (n.d.). International Cooperative Alliance. Retrieved from https://www.ica.coop/en/cooperatives/cooperative-identity

[13] “Legal Foundations of a Cooperative.” (1995). U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business – Cooperative Service, Cooperative Information Report 45, Section 9. Retrieved from https://www.rd.usda.gov/sites/default/files/CIR45-9.pdf

[14] “Legal Foundations of a Cooperative.” (1995). U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business – Cooperative Service, Cooperative Information Report 45, Section 9. Retrieved from https://www.rd.usda.gov/sites/default/files/CIR45-9.pdf

[15] “Cooperatives.” Farmers Market Legal Toolkit. Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, Vermont Law School. https://farmersmarketlegaltoolkit.org/business-structures/cooperatives/#topic-overview

Marketing Collaborations for Farmers

Marketing is “creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value,” according to the definition adopted by the American Marketing Association. As is clear from the definition, marketing is broad! It encompasses concepts around product, price, place, and promotion.

At the 2023 Farm Science Review (FSR), CFAES Center for Cooperatives program director, Hannah Scott, shared collaborative approaches to marketing that may help fruit and vegetable farmers grow their businesses. From cooperative efforts to reach customers to group buys for marketing supplies, the key question for collaborative approaches is whether a group can do something better together than they can individually.

Colorful pattern of lettuce, tomatoes, eggplants, and carrots on tan background.

Collaborative Promotion

To help reach customers and promote their farms and products, farmers might consider taking advantage of collaborative programs like Ohio Proud, a program of the Ohio Department of Agriculture to promote Ohio grown, raised, or processed food and agriculture products. Other community-led efforts to promote local food, like the Pike County Local Foods Directory, led by Pike County OSU Extension, may be opportunities for farmers to reach new customers and raise awareness.

Interested in Collaborative Promotion Strategies? Here are some things to consider:

  • Are there existing programs your farm could engage simply and efficiently?
  • How can your farm share promotional items from these collaborative programs? Using social media or placing materials around your community?
  • If you help create new materials, who will “own” keeping them updated?

Controlling Costs through Joint Purchasing

Does your farm use marketing supplies that others also often use? Think of items like bags, boxes, cartons, crates, stickers, signage, and more. Sometimes purchasing supplies as a group may help farmers access bulk discounts while reducing the inventory they need to hold themselves. Group buys might also help control shipping costs and reduce administrative burdens.

Interested in Collaborative Purchasing? Here are some things to consider:

  • Will group purchasing save costs on goods and/or shipping?
  • Do the logistics work for the group?
  • Be aware of potential risks and plan for them, including potential risks around payments for goods, the quantity purchased, storage and timing considerations, and more.
  • Ensure that communications around the what, when, where, and how, for group purchases are clear and consistent.

Collaborative Marketing Approaches to Enhance Product Diversity

Sometimes offering a diverse array of products might help a business attract more customers. For example, farmer’s markets often work to recruit a diverse group of vendors so they can offer customers everything from fruits and veggies to meat and proteins, dairy, baked goods, and more. In some instances, business-to-business (B2B) sales, including approaches like multi-farm CSA’s, may help farmers or markets increase their product offerings or extend their marketing season.

Interested in Collaborative Approaches to Enhance Product Diversity? Here are some things to consider:

  • How can you manage for the quality and safety of products you do not produce?
  • Does product diversity actually help sales in the market channel you are in?
  • What strategies might you need to help manage risk and set clear expectations around terms of B2B sales?
  • Does the market channel where you sell products allow for B2B sales? For example, some farmer’s market rules may not allow for sales of items a vendor did not produce themselves.

An illustration of a laptop with retail store awning and paper airplane next to brick buildings to represent online business marketing.

Cooperation to Reach New Market Channels

Some market channels require higher volumes of product more consistently than others – think k-12 institutions or wholesale buyers – and these markets might be challenging for some farmers to enter. Producer-owned cooperatives that market products on behalf of their members may offer opportunities for farmers to pool products to reach higher volumes more consistently. Some farmer’s markets may be producer-led cooperatives (like the Chillicothe Farmers Market in Ross County, Ohio). Cooperatives may be a useful approach where pooling product or resources helps solve a challenge, but they can also be complex.

Interested in the Producer-Owned Cooperative Model? Here are some things to consider:

  • Who will be involved as members and what will be their role?
  • How will the group make decisions?
  • How can the group manage risk?
  • Will working together create the intended benefit? Can that benefit be clearly identified and communicated to members?

Access the slides for the presentation, “Marketing Collaborations to Improve your Farm’s Bottom Line” here!

 

To learn more about cooperative and collaborative approaches in agriculture, reach out to the CFAES Center for Cooperatives at Ohio State at go.osu.edu/cooperatives or 740-289-2071. The publication, “Cooperative Farming: Frameworks for Farming Together” published by Northeast SARE is also a great place to start learning about cooperative and collaborative approaches in agriculture.

Farm Science Review is a three-day, annual outdoor event hosted by Ohio State University featuring commercial exhibits, educational programs, and field demonstrations showcasing the future of agriculture. The presentation was part of 15 different learning sessions at the OSU Extension Fruits & Vegetables exhibit at FSR. The OSU Extension Fruit & Vegetable team posts educational resources and updates at https://u.osu.edu/vegnetnews/

MEATing a Need – Resource kit available for those exploring meat processing business

By Joy Bauman

beef carcasses

A team of Ohio State business and meat science specialists have compiled a Meat Processing Business Tool Kit for people who are exploring the meat processing business. Designed as a decision-making aid for people exploring investing in or expanding a meat processing facility, this online tool kit can help entrepreneurs evaluate the business and navigate business planning. The Meat Processing Business Tool Kit is available in the Business section at the OSU South Centers webpage and at the OSU Extension Meat Science webpage.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers saw shortages of meat in large supermarkets caused by disruptions in large packing plant operations. “As a result, consumers started shopping at smaller, local meat shops, that didn’t have shortages of meat,” explained Lynn Knipe, PhD, associate professor of food science and technology at Ohio State who worked with the team to develop the meat processing business tool kit. “This, in turn, increased business for the smaller meat processors to a point that people who were used to taking animals to their local slaughterhouse, had to schedule their animals much farther out than normal,” Knipe said.

Knipe explained that entrepreneurial people who either raised livestock or had some past experience with slaughter or cutting of meat, have decided to consider opening their own meat businesses. Knipe and his colleague, Lyda Garcia, PhD, assistant professor of animal science began receiving more calls than usual, with people finding them either through their Extension Meat Science website or by referral from meat inspection people they had contacted.

Likewise, many of the same people were reaching out for guidance from the business development specialists at OSU South Centers and the specialists at the CFAES Center for Cooperatives, which is also based at the OSU South Centers. While gathering information to assist clients in summer 2020, the Center for Cooperatives team members reached out to OSU Extension meat science specialists Knipe and

Garcia. Soon, a working group was formed with team members from the CFAES Center for Cooperatives, the Small Business Development Center at OSU South Centers, the Extension Meat Science Program, and the OSU Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics.  Together, the group developed and compiled resources to help guide entrepreneurs interested in the meat processing business.

“It only made sense that we work together as Ohio State colleagues to better serve our clientele,” said Garcia. “Instead of individuals contacting one OSU source and getting a bit of information and then needing to contact another OSU source for more information, we can all point them toward this fantastic online resource that will help answer their questions and guide them in the decision-making process,” Garcia explained.

On the webpage housing the tool kit, users will find information to help get started, including understanding the capacity for such a business, maps of federal and state inspection facilities and auction sites, as well as livestock inventory. To aid in decision making regarding business models, there are samples of cooperative and corporate business models, with business planning templates, financial worksheets, and information about funding sources. Contacts are also listed for those using the tool kit and seeking additional assistance with their business planning.

“The materials lead entrepreneurs to investigate critical considerations during the planning process, including collecting livestock data, gathering financial information, financial modeling, and business planning. That means that the tools are adaptable and intended to be changed to the user’s unique circumstance,” said Ryan Kline, Cooperative Program Specialist for the CFAES Center for Cooperatives.

A business plan is helpful as a decision-making tool for entrepreneurs and it becomes a tool they can use when talking to potential lenders, investors, or future key employees. CFAES Center for Cooperatives program manager Hannah Scott explained, “In our experience, entrepreneurs don’t usually look forward to business planning, but many of them are already going through the business planning process mentally as they consider a new business or ways to expand their current operation. We encourage entrepreneurs to write down their plans – and to use tools and coaching that can help them approach the process in a systematic way without being overwhelming – because it can help them identify potential issues and consider topics they might not have before.”

“There is lots of assistance for entrepreneurs going through the business planning process, from templates like the ones in this tool kit to assistance from business development specialists like our team at the CFAES Center for Cooperatives or the OSU South Centers Business Development Network, which houses a multi-county Small Business Development Center (SBDC),” Scott said. The SBDC program is a nationwide network of business development specialists who provide no-cost business consulting for entrepreneurs. Readers can locate their nearest SBDC here.

“We hope that the tool will be intuitive as entrepreneurs move through the planning process,” Kline said. “When visiting the website, people will find a self-guided and self-paced exploration of Meat Processing that we hope will help anyone interested in starting a meat processing facility.”

To find the Meat Processing Business Tool Kit online, visit: southcenters.osu.edu/meat-processing-business-toolkit or meatsci.osu.edu/programs/meat-processing-business-toolkit.

Appalachia Cooperates Tours the Region’s Cooperative Economy

On January 27, the Appalachia Cooperates Initiative (ACI) hosted the “Exploring Appalachia’s Cooperative Economy” webinar. Our center manager, Hannah Scott, and cooperative program specialist Ryan Kline prepared a presentation on the region’s cooperative efforts. Together they explored the co-op model’s foundations, cooperatives as economic development agents, and collaborative efforts in Appalachia today during the webinar. According to the program organizers, the virtual event was a success, with the webinar having almost 100 attendees. That number does not include additional people who registered but could not attend and requested the recorded webinar.

Central Appalachia fosters a network of cooperatives as diverse as the people who call the region home. ACI is a learning network connecting cooperative, community, business, and economic developers and advocates in Central Appalachia interested in expanding cooperative efforts in the region. The CFAES Center for Cooperatives works with cooperators across the region to coordinate speakers and promote regional cooperative development.

Though you may not have been able to participate in the webinar, it is not too late! Because of increased interest, we have recorded the entire webinar for anyone interested in exploring cooperatives throughout Central Appalachia. You can contact the staff for a recording of the whole webinar!

For more information, or to learn more about what our Center offers, email us or check out our website.

Sustainability through Cooperation

While the concept of sustainability can mean different things to different audiences, the cooperative business model builds sustainable practices into the fabric of businesses from agriculture to food cooperatives to credit providers. The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) organization include concepts of productivity, environmental stewardship, profitability, and quality of life in the way they think about sustainability. The examples shared here from cooperatives across industries, geographies, and growth stages demonstrate how sustainability is a part of being a co-op.

Environmental Stewardship

In early 2020, Ocean Spray, a farmer-owned cooperative of cranberry growers across the United States, Canada, and Chile, announced that 100% of the cranberries it used in products from juices to snacks to fresh fruit were sustainably grown, according to the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform’s (SAI Platform) Farm Sustainability Assessment. The SAI Platform defines sustainable agriculture as the “efficient production of safe, high- quality agricultural products in a way that protects and improves the natural environment, the social and economic conditions of farmers and their communities, and safeguards the health and welfare of all farmed species.”

Practices like water efficiency technologies, nutrient management practices, and more help ensure that cranberry production enhances the quality of natural resources. Ocean Spray shared that, on average, every acre of cranberry bog conserves 5.5 acres of natural lands for native plants and wildlife.

Concern for Community

Social aspects of sustainability focus on promoting resilience and well-being for individuals and communities. The National Council of Farm Cooperatives (NCFC) adopted an approach to sustainability that includes community well-being, including “conducting our businesses responsibly, maintaining safe, healthy and respectful workplaces for our employees, and fostering vibrant rural communities.” Co-op regulars will recognize in these concepts one of the principles of the cooperative model – concern for community. The concept of community engagement is an internationally recognized and celebrated principle of the cooperative model. Not only are co-ops rooted in community through their member-owned structure, but they also support their communities in ways that are as diverse as the co-op community across the U.S. For example, in Ohio, three cooperatives founded Fueling the Cure, an effort to promote cancer research and prevention. By donating $1 for every delivery stop of bulk propane purchased through their cooperatives, the group has now donated over $1.5 million to help find a cure for cancer.

Economic Viability

For an enterprise to be sustainable, it must be economically viable over the long term. Cooperatives are no exception. But cooperatives also have characteristics that ensure that their economic viability spreads beyond the co-op itself to its member-owners. One of the hallmarks of the cooperative business model is that member-owners share in the benefits of the business, including the profits or surplus. Cooperatives share profits based on member-owners’ use of the business rather than their investment in the enterprise. This is known as patronage. Patronage refunds that are returned to member-owners can be reinvested in their farms, businesses, or homes. For example, in early 2020, Farm Credit Mid-America, a lender in the Farm Credit system serving Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee, announced that it would return $186 million in patronage to customer-members. In 2019, the co-op returned $146 million to customer members.

Watch “Cooperating for Sustainable Development”

In November 2020, the CFAES Center for Cooperatives teamed up with the OSU School of Environment and Natural Resources Environmental Professionals Network and the OSU Sustainability Institute to host “Cooperating for Sustainable Development.” The webinar was a conversation with Dr. Kip Curtis and founding members of the Richland Gro-Op cooperative (RGO), Matthew Stanfield, and Walt Bonham. RGO is a marketing co-op supporting new growers in Richland County, Ohio, in their goals to grow new farmers and build a more sustainable and just food system in their community. The CFAES Center for Cooperatives team has supported the development of RGO since 2018. You can view the video of the conversation below with introductory comments from special guests Dr. Ryan Schmiesing, Vice Provost for Outreach and Engagement at The Ohio State University, Dr. Cathann Kress, Vice President for Agricultural Administration and Dean of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, and Doug O’Brien, President, and CEO of the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International.

Cooperatives interested in developing a comprehensive sustainability program, or refreshing an existing program, can use the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives’ Field Guild for Farmer Cooperative Sustainability Programs for guidance.

Community-owned co-op grocery stores key in revitalizing food deserts

Community-owned Grocery in Detroit

Detroit People’s Food Co-op, opening later this year in a food desert, is an example of a community-driven project.

Food insecurity and lack of area grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods hold much blame for hunger in America. Local and state governments, along with national leaders have prioritized the elimination of “food deserts,” with large retailers promising to open or expand stores in underserved areas.  Some got past the planning stage or closed shortly after opening. The article “Why community-owned grocery stores like co-ops are the best recipe for revitalizing food deserts” looks at 71 supermarkets that had plans to open in a food desert since 2000, and explores why some groceries succeeded while others failed.

The supermarkets driven by government or commercial interests had a mixed track record, but nonprofits and those driven by community involvement tended to succeed.

Author Catherine Brinkley, Assistant Professor of Community and Regional Development at the University of California – Davis noted, “Importantly, 16 of the 18 community-driven cases were structured as cooperatives, which are rooted in their communities through customer ownership, democratic governance and shared social values.”

Policymakers and officials interested in improving wellness in food deserts should consider community ownership and involvement. If you are involved in efforts to bring a supermarket to an underserved community and want to consider cooperative business options, contact the OSU CFAES Center for Cooperatives by calling 740-289-2071 ext. 111.

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