In the fall of 2020, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) joined with the University of Minnesota (UMN) to begin a three-year Statewide Cooperative Partnership for Local and Regional Markets with funding from the USDA Federal State Marketing Improvement Program. The Statewide Cooperative Partnership is a group of 40+ organizations that will provide input on the diverse experiences of small- and mid-sized producers across the state.

Why did we start this Partnership?

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

"Outside the large-volume, commodity marketing, there is much need for market information (price and volume) for various supply channels that support farms and food businesses in our state. We are excited for the opportunity to work with the MDA and stakeholder groups to help shape the framework to increase market transparency." -- Brian Buhr, Dean of the UMN College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences

Current Agricultural Data

Every five years the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) collects data about farms through the Census of Agriculture. This data identifies the who, what, where, and how of farming in the U.S. It also informs policymakers on how to allocate resources and support agricultural activities across the country.

Using this information, we generate Minnesota Agricultural Profile reports highlighting aspects of the state’s agricultural economy.

Addressing Data Needs

The Census of Agriculture data is valuable, but not comprehensive enough to report on the nuances of small- and mid-sized producers. Our current profiles focus on export markets, leaving a gap in understanding the sales value, product mix, end-buyers, and year-to-year trends in our local and regional markets.

Also, as we face a generational transition in Minnesota agriculture, we need better data to understand the developing trends in production and market entry of emerging farmers. Not only are emerging farmers the future of agriculture in our state, but they also face barriers in building successful agricultural businesses due to a history of discriminatory practices and injustice in food and ag systems.

The goal of the Statewide Cooperative Partnership is to fill these data gaps, while also enhancing existing programs at the MDA that support all farms in Minnesota.

What will the Partnership do?

The Statewide Cooperative Partnership will:

  • Create an equitable approach for collecting baseline data on local and regional markets not currently represented in the Census of Agriculture
  • Develop data management and sharing practices that protect privacy, improve collaboration, and inform decision-making
  • Re-envision the Minnesota Grown program so that it can strengthen market connections – through producers, supply chain partners, and state decision makers – and build viable and resilient local and regional markets in Minnesota
  • Improve internal MDA collaboration to integrate Produce Safety Rule programming that can support wholesale market development for small and mid-sized farms and build a food safety support system for all produce farms in Minnesota

Project Timeline

2021: Gathering what is known

  • Asset mapping
  • Mini-contracts with stakeholder groups
  • Academic literature review

2022: Baseline survey

  • Develop survey and assessment methods and tools
  • Distribute survey
  • Analyze results

2023: Looking ahead together

  • Review findings
  • Make recommendations to MDA, UMN, and policy makers

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Who are our Partners?

  • Kevin Klair, Center for Farm Financial Management
  • Sai Thao, Compeer Financial
  • Tait Berg, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
  • Katie Cannon, Minnesota Cooks, a program of Minnesota Farmers Union
  • Mike Zastoupil, Minnesota Department of Health
  • Kathy Zeman, Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association
  • Karly Ackerman, Minnesota Grocers Association
  • Jane Jewett, Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture
  • Jan Joannides, Renewing the Countryside
  • Jerry Ford, Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota
  • Greg Schweser, UMN Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships
  • Ron Branch, Berry Ridge Farm
  • Craig Fischer, Minnesota Bison Association
  • Brenda Hartkopf, Minnesota Elk Breeders
  • Jon Horsman, Minnesota Landscape Association
  • John Jacobson, Minnesota Apple Growers Association
  • Gary Pahl, Minnesota Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association
  • Jerry Untiedt, Central Minnesota Vegetable Growers Association
  • Charlie Johnson, Saint Paul Growers Association
  • Tom Wolcyn, Minnesota Christmas Tree Association
  • Tami Bredeson, Carlos Creek Winery
  • Nick Valentine, Russ Davis Wholesale
  • Rachel Sannerud, Pluck Flower Farm
  • Ryan Cox, Minnesota Association of Meat Processors
  • Jenny Ellenbecker, Minnesota Grape Growers Association
  • Sherry Stirling, Minnesota Lamb and Wool Producers Association
  • Ike Strohmayer, Minnesota Honey Producers Association
  • Janssen Hang, Hmong American Farming Association
  • Michael Chaney, Project Sweetie Pie
  • Matt Frank, The Food Group/Big River Farms
  • David Van Eeckhout, The Good Acre
  • Jessie Bavelli & Arlene Jones, Sprout Food Hub
  • Ron Branch, Berry Ridge Farm
  • Noreen Thomas, Doubting Thomas Farm
  • Rodrigo Cala, Latino Economic Development Center and Cala Farms
  • Charlie Johnson, Minnesota Apple Growers
  • Lakisha Witter, Live Organically Farm
  • Chelsea Russell, Minnesota Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association
  • Annalisa Hultberg, University of Minnesota Extension