Local food is more than just a casual Saturday shopping experience for those of us who think about our farmers every day of the year.
Since 2018, Rochester Farmers Markets has participated in a statewide effort to establish farmers markets as "hubs" - sites for aggregation and wholesale sales of vendors' produce and other products. We see the Farmers Market Food Hub project as an opportunity to grow the industries that we serve, create stronger connections between growers and buyers in our community, and build the market's reputation as a trusted resource for high quality, delicious products that are grown by area farm families.
On a practical level, we rely on our growers to tell us which products they will have in season throughout the year. Products are posted for sale to institutional buyers, and the market puts a 14% markup on products sold. This allows us to provide staff support for licensing and food safety, aggregation, pick-up, delivery, and customer service and makes it simple for buyers to acquire local products from multiple farms. Other markets have successfully implemented a "Market Share" program with shares going to worksite wellness customers or other groups of buyers wanting a weekly produce option.
In 2019, the project grew significantly with the addition of a new online purchasing platform and relationships with our local school system and other exciting new buyers. We recorded:
$4,387 gross sales
$3,517 increased sales for farmers
$805 market profit beyond grant support
185 reported hours of staff support
Our $4,387 gross sales included over $1,800 sales of local apples to Rochester Public Schools and $474 (10%) from a pilot “farm stand” with retail sales at the FEAST farmers market. We enabled $3,517 increased sales to farmers through the food hub, with 20 vendors and 6 buyers participating.
The market used the platform to acquire products for demonstrations and marketing purposes and to create relationships and begin conversations about market shares. Staff and volunteers contributed 185 hours to this project for an average estimated $15.16 per hour including $2,000 grant support and $805 market profit.
We used the aggregation project to supply produce for a grant-funded “alfombra” art display from nine farmers in December, which was an excellent all-around test of the system.
We are also proud of successfully implementing a new online store via Local Line!