Workshop to Help Small Farm Businesses Break into Wholesale Markets

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Program features best practices for small farms to sell to commercial and institutional buyersws-manual

Frederick, MD – As demand for local food soars opportunities abound, but to take advantage and grow, growers need help navigating the wholesale market. On January 23-, 24, 2017, Community FARE (Food-Advocacy-Resources-Education) a local non-profit organization, with support from the U.S.D.A and FamilyFarmed, will host the “Wholesale Success” workshop.  The program was developed and will be led by the FamilyFarmed’s Atina Diffley, an organic farmer and author of the 2012 award winning memoir, Turn Here Sweetcorn: Organic Farming Works.

The event will be held at Fox Haven Organic Farm and Learning Center in Jefferson, MD, which has offered their restored Dairy Parlor for 25 farmers to come together and learn what it takes to work within the wholesale buyer’s system.


Topics to be addressed include:

  • sizing and grading vegetables and fruit,
  • how to label and assign lot codes,
  • building grower/buyer contracts,
  • pricing,
  • communication,
  • sequential planting,
  • quality control, trends and more.


Monday January 23, 2017

 8:30 am         Registration (networking, beverages and food)

9:00 am          Marketing: Meeting The Needs and Values of Wholesale Produce Buyers Meeting the needs and values of produce buyers is fundamental to creating a healthy long-term relationship. How to actively seek buyers is just the start. Who is your customer and why do they buy?  Maintaining the relationship requires attention to details from bunch sizes, labels, and lot codes, contracts, pricing, communication, sequential planting, quality control, trends and more.  Learn how to serve the wholesale market and make your farm a highly desired source of fresh produce.

10:45 am         Break

11:00 am         Marketing continued

12:15 pm         Lunch

1:15 pm         Sorting and Packing for Wholesale Markets  Wholesale buyers selling into the retail market expect to receive high quality produce packed to USDA industry standards. Come learn about packing standards: size, shape, and uniformity, grading, proper cartons, liners, and unit packaging, are all crucial components of a well-packed carton. Learn what it takes to keep your wholesale buyer coming back for more and willing to pay a premium for your produce.

2:30 pm          Break

2:45 pm           Co-Marketing: Promoting Your Farm Brand in a Wholesale Market: How about a Marketing Agreement with your wholesale buyer? One of the most effective ways to create market stability and committed relationships is through source-identified product and farm-brand marketing. Working with your wholesale buyer to “co-market” your farm brand and products brings the one-on-one advantages of direct marketing to the volume of wholesale.  Buyers are motivated to keep your branded product on the shelf—it differentiates them from the mass-market. Customers learn who you are, what you stand for, and develop loyalty. Without it, your product is fungible, replaceable for another of like kind, and vulnerable to cheap commodity pricing. Learn to tell a compelling story about yourself, your farm, and your products and how to represent yourself with point of purchase materials that work for you and your buyer.

3:45 pm           Break

4:00 pm           Buyer Panel:  Local wholesale buyers have been invited to speak for 10 minutes each.

5:00 pm           Social – appetizers and beverages

5:45 pm           Dinner

6:30 pm           One-on-one Grower/Buyer Meetings:  Stations will be set up for local wholesale buyers to meet one on one with farms to discuss buyer needs and start a conversation about growing to fulfill that need;  this will last 1 hour – until 7:30pm.

Tuesday January 24, 2017

8:00 am          Networking, beverages, and food

8:30 am           Check in on Meet The Buyer

 8:45 am           FSMA Food Safety Produce Rule, Your Status and Resources

10:30 am         Postharvest Handling  Success for produce farmers requires good postharvest practices to preserve quality and shelf life, and an understanding of postharvest food safety practices to minimize risks. We will discuss the cold chain, respiration, harvest, cleaning, cooling, storage, transportation, and sanitation for maximum shelf life. Food Safety will be discussed from a risk-prevention perspective, integrated into post harvest, and be FDA Produce Rule relevant. This workshop will include examples and discussion of cost-effective and scale appropriate postharvest systems and short videos from working farms for group discussion.

12:15 pm         Lunch

1:15 pm           Post Harvest Handling continued and Packing Shed Photo Tour

3:00 pm           Intentional Crop Planning to Meet Market Needs and Maximize Profits  A key component of produce marketing success is timing production to mature for when your market needs it. Successful planning requires skill with sequential planting, crop maturation, and good recordkeeping. Other benefits include maximizing space and fertility, extended harvest windows, maximizing space and farm profits, continuous supply, and optimize quality and yield. Learn how to design a sequential planting/harvest plan, including when to plant, which cultivars, and how to adjust plantings based on weather and markets.

4:15 -4:45 pm  Wrap-up: Questions, Takeaways, Next Steps     

This workshop will bring participating farmers closer to serving wholesale markets.

Marylanders import 90% of the fruits and vegetables consumed in the state.  “Our grocery stores, school cafeterias and restaurants are filled with food that travels thousands of miles and spends up to weeks in warehouses before it makes its way onto our plates,” said Janice Wiles, Director of Community FARE. “Changing our food system so that purchases are local and food is harvested nearby will take communication, training, and work on the part of both the buyer and the grower to narrow the gap between them. There are three things we know for sure:  Frederick County has great potential to grow more food, significant untapped markets exist within the county and the region, and with new markets farmers will be more inclined to expand their production,” said Wiles.  “Community FARE (CF) is working to make this happen”, she added.

The workshop organizers plan to include a panel of retail and institutional buyers to talk about their experiences buying local and their own specific needs.  Farmers would then have an opportunity to talk one on one with a number of the buyers.

Participating farmers (who did not receive a copy last year) will receive a free copy of the Wholesale Success manual. Normally a $70 retail value, this 300 plus page manual, now in its 5th edition, has been updated to include the latest food safety information from the Food Safety Modernization Act. The Wholesale Success manual covers best practices for food safety, postharvest handling, packing, marketing and crop-specific profiles for over 100 crops.