Spring 2014

May 9th, 2014

Spring is finally here.  We had a long winter this year.  Lots of snow, which was nice, but I am looking forward to the flowers blooming, and some sunshine!  This winter was full of ups and downs.  The ups were quite exciting, I was invited to present at the NOFA-VT Winter Conference for the first time.  My workshop was titled “Market Research: How to Assess Opportunities.”  It was quite fun and I was pleased to see that the class almost reached maximum capacity with 37 out of the 40 workbooks we printed, spoken for.  You can download the workbook here.

rose and dad

Rose & Dad

Unfortunately, the downs were that during my workshop my father was rushed to the hospital back home in Quebec. He spent the next two months in hospital and passed away at the end of March.  I spent much of the winter dodging snow storms rushing back  and forth to see him, planning trips to farms in the Northeast Kingdom as a way to get work done while visiting.  In a whacky turn of events, the week-end my father passed away, I was en-route to see him while heading even further up the road to attend my Aunt Marian’s funeral in Brockville, Ontario.  She died suddenly a week before Dad, on St. Patrick’s Day.

So, it’s been a pretty heavy winter, but some bright lights are on the horizon: Jeff Roberts and I are wrapping up our NCIC Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge Report, and Rebecca Brown and I are putting the finishing touches on the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust Keep Growing Market Demand Study.  Both of these have exciting implementation steps being recommended so be on the look-out for the published reports!  The Vital Communities Agricultural Economy Needs and Markets Assessment study is also well underway and it is very fun to note that Nancy LaRowe, of Hogwash Farm has been hired as our lead interviewer!  Go Nancy!

April saw the wrapping up of most all of the 2013 business plans for Farm Viability and we are now getting 2014 farms underway.  On that note, I just received a call from an aspiring farm in Wyoming looking for business planning and recently completed work with my first farm in Maine and two farm projects in Massachusetts.  Farm Viability is getting around!

Have a great spring and happy summer.

Fall 2012

November 7th, 2012

Boy, this year has flown by.  I spent the summer working with NOFA-VT on the Farm to Institution Report, Scaling up Vermont’s Local Food Production, Distribution, and Marketing, a very exciting project to document and analyze the statewide institutional demand and supply chain infrastructure for local produce and eggs with the goal of increasing movement of local foods through the institutional marketplace.

In addition to the NOFA project I was busy on several business plans with dairy farms in the North East Kingdom through the UVM Extension North East Kingdom Dairy Viability Program that was funded by USDA Rural Development.  I was also working on business plans and feasibility studies with VHCB farms and with Field To Table, a Massachusetts based farm viability program.

I started on two new research projects, a feasibility study for a commercial scale grain mill with UVM Extension, and a feasibility study for a value added dairy plant for the South Hero Land Trust.

This coming Saturday I am joining Ela Chapin of VHCB, and Diane Bothfeld of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, on a panel about the value of business planning at Senator Leahy’s 16th Women’s Economic Opportunity Conference and this coming Tuesday I am hosting my first ever webinar with WAGN of UVM Extension to present a workshop on the basics of writing a marketing plan.

It’s been a busy and invigorating year so far.  Looking forward to Thanksgiving!

Winter 2012

February 6th, 2012

USDA Value Added Producer Grants Announced!

I am happy to report that all four farms I’m working with who submitted federal Value Added Producer Grants in 2011 received funding!  The awards were made this week.  Both Kimball Brook Farm– Cheryl and JD DeVos, and Kingdom Creamery of Vermont– the Michaud family, were awarded the maximum amount of $300,000; and Tamarack Tunis– Ben Machin and Grace Bowmer, and Sweet Rowen Farmstead received their requested amounts of approximately $50,000 each.

Rose has been working with Kimball Brook Farm and Tamarack Tunis since 2008 on business planning and market development.  For the grant she  helped them with feasibility studies and undertook their grant preparation.

Rose has been working with Kingdom Creamery of Vermont since 2009.  She helped them develop a business plan, and provides market development and business planning support.  Rose coordinated a feasibility study for the grant and financial lenders, and provided  guidance for the grant application process.

Rose was hired in July 2011 to help Sweet Rowen Farmstead develop a business plan, with the farm’s goal that they would have a business plan ready in August to submit with their grant application- talk about a short turn-around, that was a whirlwind!

Awesome news, congratulations everybody!

To see a complete list of 2011 award recipients click here.

Fall 2011

November 6th, 2011

Summer and Fall have been busy here in Vermont.  In addition to Tropical Storm Irene wreaking havoc across the state, our big news is that we wrapped up the New England Beef-to-Institution Market Study, and are very happy with the outcome!  We surprised ourselves even with our results, and are pleased to report that we found a path through which local beef can enter the local institutional marketplace in a way that will enable it to remain cost competitive, offer opportunity to our processors and meat producers, and provide a better return for our dairy farmers.  The unexpected key we uncovered is in looking to the processors as the center of the equation.  What I didn’t realize was how much of our processors’ existing business models are already set up around their own label and sales and marketing, they are already equipped to buy in raw product and resell it, and the product that they buy and resell themselves has much more flexibility in when and how they process it, enabling them to be efficient with this product and therefore cost-competitive in the $2-3/lb range.  And because they have a relationship with many farmers, they can secure the volume of raw materials- namely dairy culls and non-freezer trade grade beef- necessary to meet institutional-scale demand.  The benefit that it provides the dairy farmer is that animals that remain local and are bought by the local processor will not be deducted commission or trucking fees from their sale price.  While marginal, this benefit in pay price still creates added income they wouldn’t otherwise receive, and by having the processor take the central role, it relieves the dairy farmers of having to get any more involved than necessary or desired.  For beef producers, who want to be involved and sell direct, there are opportunities for them in the $4-5/lb price point if that is of interest.  The institutions willing and able to pay this are fewer and farther between, but they exist.  As part of our report we compiled an initial list of institutions who want to buy based on price point, ease of logistics and volume- these would fit the processor driven model, and institutions looking for a direct relationship with a producer, so that relationship development with processors and producers interested in pursuing this market can begin.

To read the report you can:

download the full report: http://www.vermontagriculture.com/education/documents/New_England_Beef_to_Institution_Market_Study_2011.pdf

download the executive summary: http://www.vermontagriculture.com/education/documents/New_England_Beef_to_Institution_Market_Study_2011_Executive_Summary.pdf

or download the webinar: http://www.vermontagriculture.com/education/documents/New_England_Beef_to_Institution_Market_Study_2011_webinar.pdf

Spring 2011

June 20th, 2011

Wow!  What a busy winter we have had, and what weather!  I was still skiing in April, with no rocks or bare patches!  While skiing I was also co-teaching the NOFA Marketing That Sells Course as part of the Integrated Learning Grant they received from SARE, conducting enterprise analysis with course participants, working on business plans, feasibility studies, grant prep, and marketing plans, and launching a new research project with three colleagues to conduct a New England Regional Beef to Institution Market Study, funded by all six New England states.  I’ve also begun a project with UVM Extension to research the feasibility of an alternative GAP certification program for smaller Vermont growers to service the local institutional market.

And now that spring has arrived, the garden has gone in, and we’ve planted a few more trees.  Good and productive!