Survey seeks info to boost markets for smaller MN farms

Published 5:29 pm Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Local producers encouraged to help complete picture of direct sales

If you’re a farmer who sells your food directly to consumers, grocery stores, restaurants, distributors, and others, a Statewide Cooperative Partnership for Local and Regional Markets led by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and University of Minnesota (UMN) wants to hear from you this spring.

A recently released survey asks small-, mid-sized- and emerging farmers to share their experiences operating farms and selling in direct-to-consumer and direct-to-institution markets such as farmers’ markets, U-Pick, CSAs, and schools.

Once collected, data will be analyzed collaboratively by the Partnership’s more than 40 member organizations. Results will help identify market trends and opportunities, support the development of programs and services such as the MDA’s Minnesota Grown program, and strengthen recommendations to the Minnesota Legislature to support historically underrepresented and under-supported farmers, Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen said.

“We want to build on the partnerships we have with local and regional markets to help farmers, retailers, public institutions, and consumers in Minnesota,” he said. “This is a real growth opportunity for our ag economy in the coming years, and we need to understand how we can support it.”

According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, Minnesota has about 3,500 farms that sell directly to consumers, while more than 630 sell directly to retail outlets such as grocery stores, restaurants, schools, and other institutions. These sales generate an estimated $184 million in economic activity each year.

The survey, available now for Minnesota farmers and ranchers involved in direct sales, will supplement the U.S. Census of Agriculture administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It is designed to report on the nuances of smaller producers and their primary markets that are not captured by the Ag Census. The Partnership survey takes less than 30 minutes and respondents will be compensated for their time.

A grant from the USDA’s Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program is funding the three-year partnership, now in its second year. The Partnership previously gathered background research on the state’s direct food sales markets and will analyze the data gained from this survey and form recommendations in its final year.

More information is available at the MDA’s Statewide Cooperative Partnership web page.

To take the survey, go to: https://z.umn.edu/statewide-producer-survey