How do I know if I’m ready to scale up production on my farm?
Answer: Local foods purchasing has moved beyond farmers markets to mainstream grocery stores. As consumers become more interested in purchasing local foods, chain grocery stores from Walmart to Safeway tout their support of local farmers. At the same time, many established farmers want to move out of time-consuming farmers markets into wholesale markets. A University of Wisconsin study points out that with the interest in local foods, “local food systems have the potential to borrow some of the economic and logistical efficiencies of the industrial food system while retaining social and environmental priorities” (Day-Farnsworth et al., 2009).It is important to plan for the expansion of your farm. Every time you increase the scale of your operation, you will experience growing pains. Planning for improvements and growth within your operation can help alleviate these. Questions you might ask when you consider increasing your production:? Do you have the ability to move more product through your washing and packing facility? ? Do you have enough space in your cooler, delivery truck, etc.?? How many more people will you have to hire, and do you have the management skills to handle a larger crew? ? Do you have a good farm administration system? As your farm increases in size, this will likely become more complex, including more taxes and stricter insurance requirementsScaling up can mean many things to a farm. It can mean simply producing more because your market demand is greater. Or it can mean expanding production capacity and business to produce for wholesale markets or significantly expanding your farm to meet direct-market demands. It is important to keep in mind that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to expanding your farm.For more detailed information, consult the ATTRA publication Scaling Up Your Vegetable Farm for Regional Markets. This publication addresses the planning considerations and provides some resources and worksheets to determine whether or not your operation is ready to scale up. It is available at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=469.In addition, ATTRA has produced a new online tutorial, titled Scaling Up for Regional Markets, which provides lessons and information for farmers who have success in smaller and more direct marketing channels and who are interested in expanding their operations to meet a growing demand for local food. It is available at https://attra.ncat.org/tutorials/scalingup/index.php.Reference:Day-Farnsworth, Lindsey et al. 2009. Scaling Up: Meeting the Demand for Local Food. Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, Madison, WI. www.cias.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/baldwin_web_final.pdf