While every farmer knows that time during the summer months slips by in a flurry of picking and packing, an overcast Wednesday at the end of June pulled a group of farmers from their fields for the first segment of NABC’s Wholesale Farming Success workshop series. Farmers came out from Nash’s Organic Produce, Boldly Grown Farm, Silva Family Farm, Sumas River Farm, Hunters Moon Farm, Blanchard Mountain Farm, and Red Shed Farm, in addition to representatives from Sustainable Connections and the Washington State Department of Agriculture. During the three-hour tour in the peak season, these attendees got a look into three established wholesale operations: The Puget Sound Food Hub, Ralph’s Greenhouse, and Skagit Flats Farm.
As farmers gathered outside the food hub warehouse, they were greeted by Operations Manager Scott Morris, who spoke from his 20+ years in food service as he explained food hub best practices and gave advice on cultivating relationships with buyers. As he underscored the importance of quality packaging, farmers shared from their own experiences how best to operate a post-harvest operation by efficiently packing, learning the market standards, and maintaining close communication with buyers and distributors.
The second leg of the farm tour brought the group to the driveway of Ralph’s Greenhouse, where farm manager Tim Terpstra loaded everyone into one of the farm’s signature school buses for a bumpy ride through the fields before a tour of the farm’s pack and wash station and cooling facility. With attendees gathered amongst the light spray of washing lines, Tim explained how the farm manages various types of produce, how and to whom it sells, and how it has standardized its post-harvest process for high efficiency.
From Ralph’s, the group carpooled down the road to Skagit Flats Farm to gather amidst tables of budding flats and ask farmer Andy Ross how he manages his tight, wholesale-only operation. After Andy fielded questions about selling to Charlie’s, packing in the field, compost, and crop planning, the group wrapped up the morning and farmers headed back to their own fields for the afternoon.
June’s post-harvest farm tour was the first segment of NABC’s Wholesale Farming Success workshop series, with further classes coming in October and November 2017. Workshops will cover topics such as wholesale economics, building relationships with buyers, risk management and food safety, and a follow-up on packing and distribution.