2016 Projects, Reports and Updates

2016 was a busy year! We completed several research projects, helped write 5 successful USDA Value Added Producer Grants, and continued to work directly with farms one-on-one on business planning and market development.

If you are interested in growing elderberries, gaining a better sense of the cost of distribution, understanding the need and desire for aggregation, storage, and distribution in the North Country, North East Kingdom, and Belknap County, NH here are the reports to download!

For a quick summary:

  1. Our Growing Elderberries: A Production Manual and Enterprise Viability Guide for Vermont and the Northeast demonstrated elderberry has good potential in our region, but to date yield has varied so greatly, and so frequently comes in below the grower’s desired yield that it is critical folks focus on their yield, then develop their price points based on their yield, and ensure a market at their price points, or improve yields in order to ensure their operation’s feasibility before investing. Form our research we have found that most operations could achieve a 10 yr or better return on investment if they can achieve an average yield of 4.5 pounds per bush and a $4 per pound price point.
  2. The CAE NVDA Storage and Distribution Report for Local Food in the Northeast Kingdom provides a great pyramid visualizing the stages of business or “distribution readiness” which delineates the pros and cons of different methods of transportation along with consideration of the capital expense (see page 11). And the CAE NVDA study, the NCIC Storage, Aggregation and Distribution Report for Local Food in the North Country and the LRAC Local Foods Market Assessment provide a “communication tool” list of contacts to help connect those who said they were interested in collaboration on storage, distribution and/or aggregation, and those interested in sourcing local (see tables in the appendices).
  3. The NVDA Agricultural Transportation Feasibility Study provides key guidance on a) the capital and operating costs one needs to factor in when considering transportation expenses. b) the pros/cons of owning vs leasing: one should definitely consider leasing vs owning if you are traveling more than 15,000 mi/yr or your total cost of ownership (operating costs + capital invested) are greater than $1.30/mi) (see page 6).  c) a comparison of VT vs national fleets (national small scale truck fleets average $0.78/mi, whereas VT small scale truck fleet operators average $1.30/mi (see page 16); and d) a handy margin matrix to help readers gain a sense of how much value a truck would need to be carrying depending on what rate the shipper was charging for its service in order to cashflow. For example, a shipper going from Hardwick to Boston charging a 2% margin would need to have $35,700 worth of product on the truck to cashflow (assuming a $1.30/mi cost to break even based on VT average), whereas if they were charging a 15% margin the truck would only need to have $4,670 worth of value on the load in order to break even (see page 30).

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