Richman visit continues with Expo presentation

Visit from Ness Richman provided opportunities for learning and collaboration for Great Lakes Farm to Institution stakeholders.

This is the second half of a two-part article on a visit from Nessa Richman of Farm to Institution New England, read part one here.

On day two of her visit, Ms. Richman presented during the GL Expo Farm to Institution Session. This session has been held annually and has previously featured several different programs including panels, speakers and group discussions. To bring a broader perspective on farm to institution work across the country, Ms. Richman was invited to speak about her work with Farm to Institution New England.

As the audience for the Expo session is primarily farmers or producers, Ms. Richman’s presentation focused on a recent report documenting results of a producer survey in New England. The report, titled Producer Perspectives: The New England Farm to Institution Market, demonstrates the attitudes of producers towards the institutional market. Some key points from the report and Ms. Richman’s talk include:

  • 71 percent of producers surveyed are currently selling to institutions or would like to sell to institutions.
  • Producers using direct-to-institution markets reported making 49.3 percent of their institutional sales to K-12 schools and 30.7 percent to colleges and universities. Hospitals (10.2 percent) and other institutions (9.9 percent) made up most of the remainder.
  • Producers with gross sales of $50,000 and higher were more likely to sell direct-to-institution, while producers with gross sales below $49,999 were less likely to sell direct-to-institution.
  • Top products sold to institutions included: tomatoes, apples, meat, carrots and potatoes.

Ms. Richman’s talk and these highlights generated discussion as to how this applies to Michigan and the Great Lakes Region. The first part of this article highlighted the many similarities between Michigan and New England. One of the key differences pointed out by Ms. Richman was the scale of farmers operating in each region. New England is home to smaller farms, on average, than Michigan. This shows that there is a larger opportunity for farm to institution programs in Michigan based off the FINE producer research.

Overall, the visit and speaking opportunity provided as part of the Great Lakes Expo included opportunities for learning, networking and potential collaboration. The impacts will go far beyond a single presentation as Michigan State University Extension will continue to develop relationships with FINE and other regional networks, to further farm to institution work in Michigan.

The Michigan Farm to Institution Network is coordinated by the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems with support from Michigan State University Extension.

For more information on starting or strengthening Farm to Institution programs in your area contact your local member of the Michigan State University Extension Community Food Systems Work team.

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