FamilyFarmed’s mission is to expand the production, marketing and distribution of locally grown and responsibly produced food, in order to enhance the social, economic and environmental health of our communities. FamilyFarmed works directly with family farmers as well as with local and national organizations that serve farmers and are working to build local food systems. We also work through our website, annual Good Food Festival and Conference, and Chicagoland CSA Guide to educate the public about eating locally grown food, supporting farm families, and becoming members of local CSA programs.
Our Market Development work is extensive. We believe that developing wholesale markets for family farmers is key to building local food systems as more than 99% of agricultural products consumed in America are purchased through wholesale channels. FamilyFarmed works to build demand and supply and helps to create infrastructure that supports the growth of the system. FamilyFarmed.org works with many leading buyers of local food including Whole Foods Market, Chipotle, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Sysco, Compass Group, Goodness Greeness, Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality (Chicago Public Schools), Irv & Shelley’s Fresh Picks, Testa Produce, and others to connect them with local food sources.
FamilyFarmed also provides technical assistance and training for farmers. We published Wholesale Success: A Farmer’s Guide to Food Safety, Selling, Postharvest Handling and Packing Produce. The 312-page manual is the definitive training source for selling into wholesale markets. It includes comprehensive sections on issues such as Building Relationships with Buyers, On-Farm Food Safety and Calculating Return in Investment. It also includes over 100 crop profiles that give specific harvesting, cooling, storage, and packing information on most of the fruits and vegetables grown in the United States. It is the basis for our Wholesale Success farmer training workshops that are conducted across the US. We also do “Meet the Buyer” events in select markets to link local producers face to face with wholesale buyers.
From our Market Development work we realized that it was important to trade buyers that farmers have a written on-farm food safety plan in place. And, more and more buyers were requiring food safety certification in order to do business. At the same time, small to mid-scale growers were confused about what it would take to become certified and what the advantages could be for their operation if they were certified. In 2009, we began conducting grower workshops on Wholesale Success and On-Farm Food Safety. Throughout the workshops, we heard loud and clear that farmers needed help in writing their on-farm food safety plan, the basis for any food safety program.
We then engaged an unprecedented national coalition of stakeholders to guide our creation of this website. We hope that through this website, farmers can begin to document the good work they are already doing on their farm, learn about and implement additional procedures to help minimize risk on their farm, and formalize an on-farm food safety program for their operations as a best practice in farming. Should farmers elect to pursue food safety certification, their food safety plan and program will serve as the basis for an audit. This website is the culmination of stage one of our project.
Over the next year, we will work with stakeholders to cement a long-term vision and implementation strategy to ensure that across the nation, small to mid-sized growers utilize this tool to create a comprehensive food safety program for their farm. As part of this process, we will explore ways to work with county Extension agents, State Departments of Agriculture, NGOs, and the private sector to build a comprehensive farmer support system for on-farm food safety.