What are Institutions?
You might picture big residential brick buildings, but eating happens in a range of dining settings from family day care centers to school cafeterias, college buffets to “grab'n’go” cafés, group homes and senior meal providers. They all share a mission to serve healthy, good tasting meals to meet the nutritional needs of the eaters, and locally-grown and raised foods fit the bill!
Buyers for smaller venues may be interested in buying directly from you, visiting your farm and inviting you to their special events. Chefs and buyers for larger kitchens may also want to meet you to learn about your farm and what foods you offer, and order your products through their distributor or a food hub. Building relationships with individual buyers is key – it is the story of your farm and the quality of your farm product that will build customer loyalty.
Farm to Institution Market Readiness
Cornell Cooperative Extension educators and other agri-service professionals from across New York State have participated in Farm to Institution Market Readiness training in order to assist farmers who are interested in learning about institutional markets, and how to build relationships with food service buyers. Sign up for FINYS updates to receive announcements of farmer-buyer meet-ups and workshops. Find a Market Readiness Trainer on this list.
How can buyers find you?
- Contact your local Cornell Cooperative Extension. Do they offer Farm to Institution Market Readiness workshops? Do they host grower-buyer meet-ups?
- Join the New York State Grown & Certified Program
- Become an approved vendor for New York's Unprocessed Fruits & Vegetables Pilot for schools. Contact Diane Green Office of General Services/Farm to School to learn more.
- The State of New York launched Buy NY to encourage state and municipal buyers to source New York foods. Check Buy NY tips and resources for vendors and buyers at state institutions.
Farm Food Safety Plans
Food safety is a top priority when we are cooking and feeding children, students and adults in cafeterias, dining halls, or hospitals, and it starts on the farm. Most wholesale buyers will require a Farm Food Safety Plan, and sometimes third-party GAP certification. Find out how to create a Food Safety Plan or sign up for an online or in-person workshop training. To help pay for the costs of GAP certification, apply for a grant from NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets.