Michelle Miller, Program Manager
Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Michelle Miller talks about efforts to get local produce growers into the wholesale market.
2:56 – Total Time
0:48 – Wholesale is where the money is
1:11 – Putting together enough
1:44 – A new market model
2:12 – Developing market access in Wisconsin
2:39 – More information
2:47 – Lead out
Sevie Kenyon: Getting local produce growers into the wholesale market. We’re visiting today with Michelle Miller, Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, University of Wisconsin-Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon. Tell us about the troubles growers have getting to a wholesale market.
Michelle Miller: The Center for Integrated Ag Systems works with farmers to figure out problems that they have. Seven, eight years ago we started hearing from farmers that it was very difficult for them to access wholesale markets in a way that was efficient enough that they could actually make money there and so we started looking into some of the issues of bringing enough product together, aggregating product and also transportation issues that were prohibiting access to market.
Sevie Kenyon: Michelle, first of all why is that wholesale market so important to growers?
Michelle Miller: A wholesale market is where growers can start to realize production efficiencies. Our Center’s worked very hard with farmers to think about sustainable production practices and now they’ve got those nailed down and they’re ready to scale up their production; especially a number of vegetable crops. But in the meantime, access to market has dried up.
Sevie Kenyon: Michelle, what impedes the flow of produce to the wholesale market for many growers?
Michelle Miller: I think scale is one of those. So the scale of our grocery industry has grown and concentrated over time. So that where there used to be a couple of small grocery chains, now there is one large grocery chain that serves the entire upper Midwest. Because they’re looking at very large supply chains, they can’t take small amounts of product, so there’s a need to aggregate the product into supply chains that are of scale to meet the needs of these larger markets.
Sevie Kenyon: And Michelle, what steps are being taken to meet this market?
Michelle Miller: We’re very interested in the work that they’ve done in Ontario to assure access to market from smaller farmers. They’ve got what amounts to a wholesale farmers market where farmers are able to sell direct wholesale to any scale of buyer. So they could sell to a large buyer like a Kroger, they could also sell to a smaller one like a locally owned grocery store or a restaurant in a neighborhood.
Sevie Kenyon: Michelle, what initiatives are under way to address the wholesale market issue?
Michelle Miller: A very exciting one is the efforts of the Madison Regional Economic Partnership, which is a coalition of a number of counties in southern Wisconsin to look at what it’s going to take to build the food and beverage industry in our region. And they’re very interested in doing some feasibility studies to figure out what it would take to build a wholesale aggregation point for farmers in our region.
Sevie Kenyon: Michelle, where can people go for more information about this topic?
Michelle Miller: On the web www.cias.wisc.edu Google Center for Aggregated Food Systems.
Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Michelle Miller Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, University of Wisconsin-Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon.