Gaskill Family Farm receives the Value-Added Agricultural Producer Award

A local farm’s fruit is jammin’ in area stores.

Rick and Valerie Gaskill
Rick and Valerie Gaskill

Gaskill Family Farm received the 2021 Value-Added Agricultural Producer Award from the Michigan State University Product Center and Michigan State University Extension on May 6, 2021. The award was presented during the virtual Making It In Michigan Conference. 

“Growing and packaging healthy food options not only kept us in business, it grew our business during the pandemic. Using ingenuity and expanding our networks, we found a multitude of different methods to market our value-added products into greater consumer markets. God has been the mainstay throughout our lives and He deserves the most credit for getting us to the right people, places and markets as well as helping our plants survive the late freezes,” Valerie Gaskill said.

In 2014, Gaskill Family Farm began using its excess fruit to produce and sell jam. With the addition of honey from their beehives in 2017 and coated popcorn in 2018, their value-added food products were providing further business sustainability. In October 2019, they obtained a state food license and rebranded themselves for wholesaling their products in places like Life is Sweet Bakery in Milan, The Apothecary Kitchen and Cool Benz Coffee in Dundee, and the Meijer Capital City Market in Lansing.

To help increase their growing capabilities and product diversification this past year, they added a greenhouse and hoop house to grow microgreens. With this diversification and new customer base, their online farmer’s market sales of greens, microgreens, jam, honey, and repackaged products like popcorn sales totaled $1,200 to $1,300 a month. Overall, from 2014 to 2019, Gaskill Family Farm’s packaged food business grew from 16% to 66% of their overall farm income. They are now in the process of revising their website with the goal of enabling customers to order all products that they produce and grow.

Gaskill Family Farm is a prime example of a farm that used their locally grown produce and ingenuity to create a new sustainable revenue stream with value-added packaged food products,” Mollie Woods, director of the MSU Product Center said.  

The Value-Added Agricultural Producer Award recognizes a Product Center client who creates or captures value outside the scope of the traditional value chain in agricultural or natural resource production. The award recognizes the client’s ability to increase their product’s economic value by using a unique production process (organic, green power, hoop houses, food processing, etc.) and the ability to regionally brand their product to increase consumer appeal and a willingness to pay a premium.

The 2021 Making It In Michigan conference featured in depth educational sessions, networking opportunities, and take-home resources for Michigan’s first and second stage food processors. The event also included a pitch competition with the Michigan Good Food Fund and an MSU chef recipe showdown in partnership with the Michigan Bean Commission. 

The virtual trade show provided a virtual space for food entrepreneurs to promote their products and make connections with buyers. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation partnered to offer a unique matchmaking opportunity for buyers and sellers.

MSU Extension and the MSU Product Center assist entrepreneurs and businesses to develop products and services in the food and agriculture markets. Its team of experts consults with clients on a one-on-one basis, helping new entrepreneurs navigate from concept development to launch and beyond. The MSU Product Center also offers specialized services such as labeling, packaging, and nutritional analysis. If you are interested in business counseling from the MSU Product Center, please visit our website at www.canr.msu.edu/productcenter or call 517-432-8750.

 

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