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Discerning Pallets: Grower's Experiences Selling Their Crops Through Food Hubs

What is it like to sell to or through a food hub? What are the benefits ... and what is not so good? Learn directly from seasoned farmers!

Description

What is it like to sell to or through a food hub? What are the benefits ... and what is not so good? Learn directly from seasoned farmers!

We have assembled farmers representing a wide variety of experiences – different geographies (CA, MT, MI, and MA), different sizes (from 8 to 400 ac.), different products (vegetables, animals, and mixed) … who sell into different kinds of food hubs (non-profit, for profit, growers co-op) asking different services from them (simple transport, sell-through, and selling to the hub).

Each of these farms has different reasons to work with their local food hub. What works for them? What doesn’t work so well? How do they choose what to sell through the hub? We’ve asked these farmers to share their unedited experiences and advice with their fellow farmers across the country who might now be considering a relationship with a food hub.

Learn how they chose to start selling to the hub, why, what the hub demands of them, what they get in return, how they are managing risks, and how their business' bottom line has been affected.

Considering selling through a hub? Learn from the experience of your peers. Advise farmers? Enrich the service you can provide.

Recording

 

Slides

 

Presenter and Hub Bios

Cherry Capital Foods

Located in the northern part of the lower peninsula of Michigan, Cherry Capital Foods, a for-profit hub, serves many markets, from white tablecloth restaurants to K-12 schools, retail and institutions. Cherry Capital Foods works only with Michigan producers to enhance the local economy and environment. CCF carries a very wide variety of products including fresh produce, meats, dairy, eggs, and value-added items (for instance chocolate covered cherries – yum!). Cherry Capital Foods does distribution, marketing and sales. They do take ownership of all product, buying from farmers, and taking responsibility to sell the product. Their margin varies by product. They have a large number and variety of farms and food producers who supply them, and a large number of buyers. Operating 14 refrigerated trucks, CCF moves a lot of food!

Fred Monroe

Fred Monroe is the owner of Monroe Family Organics - an 8 acre farm located in rural Central Michigan.  Fred grows over 100 varieties of fruits, vegetables, and herbs for local markets including coops, stores, CSA, local distributors, and restaurants.  The farm is certified organic and is going into its 5th season.  Fred started growing vegetables in a ¼ acre garden for the local farmers market when he was 16 and then went to Michigan State University for his Bachelors in Horticulture and Agribusiness. He also interned at Angelic Organics a large CSA farm in north of Chicago and the MSU Student Organic Farm.  After school Fred worked for Chefs Garden in Ohio as a manager raising mostly leafy greens for high-end restaurants across the United States.

Farm Fresh Rhode Island

Farm Fresh Rhode Island is a not for profit dedicated to growing a local food system that values the environment, health and quality of life of RI farmers and eaters. To that end they run an impressive variety of food programs from farmers markets, to a food prep training program for at risk youth, to finding ways to fight hunger in the state.

Their food hub, called Market Mobile, emerged to serve the restaurant and institutional buying needs for those looking for local food. In the Market Mobile program farmers are responsible for posting their availability for the week on the website. Farmers then pack and deliver the product to the Farm Fresh warehouse. Farm Fresh handles payment and distribution. Farm Fresh does not take ownership of the food destined for wholesale, nor do they much in the way of active selling. Farm Fresh does have a consumer box program they run (this is thought of as a customer of Market Mobile) for which Farm Fresh does do sales and marketing.

In summary, Farm Fresh RI takes an 18% commission for services of creating a convenient market for wholesale buyers to buy, maintaining a convenient aggregation facility, and for distributing farmers’ goods.

Chuck Currie

Chuck Currie is a New England based farmer focused on creating equal access to ecologically produced food. After completing a degree in Plant, Soil, and Insect Science, he spent three years working on a mixed vegetable farm and six years starting and running his own farms in Vermont and then Rhode Island. He currently runs Freedom Food Farm in Raynham Massachusetts, a 90 acre, four season diversified produce and pasture-raised livestock farm.

Capay Valley FarmShop

Capay Valley Farm Shop, located in a rural area near Sacramento, CA is a strongly mission-based for profit company that works with their more than 40 organic or sustainable, small and mid-scale growers. Capay Valley has three primary sales channels – a multi-farm consumer box program, a wholesale business to institutions, restaurants and the like, and a partnership with online grocer Good Eggs, managing a section that features many of their farmers and ranchers. Capay Valley offers multiple services, including pick up from their farmers (aggregation), marketing, packing, and distribution.

Rachel Kasa

Rachel is one third (with her husband Anthony and daughter Olivia) of Casa Rosa Farms, a small-scale grass fed and pastured meat producer located in Yolo County, California.  They also farm orchard crops, primarily olives for oil, but a little specialty fruit as well, and hay. Her family has been farming in California's Central Valley since emigrating from the Azores in the 1960’s. Casa Rosa Farms’ crops are certified organic, but they have chosen not to get organic certification for their meat products, instead pursuing relationships with small butchers and smokehouses to sell small batches of incredibly tasty grass fed meat products.

Western Montana Growers Co-operative

Western Montana Growers Cooperative (WMGC) is a farmer-owned marketing and distribution service which serves over 40 Montana farms, ranches and food manufacturers.  From this diverse collection of producers, WMGC is able to offer the market a full-plate of MT grown and produced products including fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, cheese, eggs, meats, lentils, grains, honey and grocery items, as well as frozen fruits and vegetable.  Through partnerships with other distributors as well as its own fleet of 3 trucks, WMGC is able to move food to customer across MT and into northern ID and eastern WA.  WMGC serves a wide cross section of customers including grocery stores, health food stores, restaurants, institutions, buying clubs, distributors, as well as individuals and families through our multi-farm CSA program.  WMGC was incorporated in 2003, and after 12 years operating on an on-farm facility in Arlee, MT, the office and warehouse were moved into a renovated warehouse in Missoula, MT.

Jim Sugarek

Jim started his food career in 1978 in San Francisco at a consumer co-op in the Outer Sunset District. He enjoyed his work buying produce from the farmers' market, Veritable Vegetable, and the commercial produce terminal in SF. Since then he’s worked his way up and down the food chain, including work with the United Farm Workers, farming for three years, and work in retail grocery sales in the produce and grocery departments. He has spent numerous years in marketing and for his own farm, the Farm Workers, a Montana vegetable seed company, and a certified organic dairy.  He has worked with the Western Montana Growers Co-op since June of 2010, doing marketing and distribution, and whatever else is necessary.  He has a fondness for mathematics, and is spending more time doing financial management for the co-op now. 

Tracy Potter-Fins

Tracy Potter-Fins is half of County Rail Farm, located east of Dixon, Montana. She and her wife provide fresh, high quality, certified organic, Montana HomeGrown produce to their community via a farmers market and at a variety of stores and restaurants through the Western MT Growers Co-Op. This is their 5th season growing on approximately two acres, including perennial fruits and vegetables. County Rail is best known for asparagus, arugula, salad mix, cherry tomatoes, and english cucumbers.

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