By Nessa Richman, Research & Evaluation Director

Posted June 6, 2017


New FINE Report Reveals Farmer Practices & Attitudes About Selling to Institutions

Producer Perspectives: The New England Farm-to-Institution Market


Farm to Institution New England (FINE) is pleased to announce a report that highlights data collected from farmers in the region. This is the third report in FINE's new series designed to help food system stakeholders understand the impact of institutional markets on New England's food system.

“Producer Perspectives: The New England Farm-to-Institution Market” presents in-depth findings and makes specific, data-driven recommendations for farmers, producer service providers, government officials, funders, and institutions. 

This report examines the differences in characteristics between producers who sell direct-to-institution and those who do not. It delves deeper into the practices of producers that sell direct-to-institution. It also explores sales to institutions through intermediaries like food distributors, food hubs, and food service management companies. 

In total, 223 farmers responded to the survey. Small, medium and large farms are represented in the findings. Together, these farms had more than 15,000 acres in production in 2015.

Of the respondents, 26% reported selling products directly to institutions. Another 25% reported that they are interested in selling their products direct-to-institution in the future, and nearly 20% said that they may be interested. 

"The majority of producers who answered our survey are interested in entering or expanding into institutional markets including K-12 public and private schools, hospitals, and institutions of higher education,” said Nessa Richman, FINE’s metrics and development manager.

“Among our survey respondents, those who were already selling directly to institutions were more likely to have higher gross sales, and to have increased their acreage in the past five years, than those who were not currently selling direct-to-institutions but were interested in doing so," she added.

K-12 Schools Represent the Biggest Farm-to-Institution Market for New England Farms

The responding producers selling food directly to institutions reported making 49.3% of their institutional sales to K-12 schools, and 30.7% to colleges and universities. Hospitals (10.2%) and other institutions (9.9%) made up about the remainder.

Institutions Provide Farmers with a Stable, High-Volume Market 

The majority of responding farmers agreed they sell to institutions because it provides an additional market for their products and builds a relationship with the community. Over half also reported that institutions provide a stable price, provide large volume orders, and reduce marketing costs.

The full report provides a more detailed analysis of the differences in responses between farmers who currently sell directly to institutions and those who are interested in doing so but aren't currently. 

About the Survey

To gain a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges for New England producers, both those currently and interested in selling to institutions, FINE carried out a survey of producers in the six New England states in early 2016. 

The report is based on an original survey answered by 223 farmers. The survey questions were designed to collect data regarding:

  • Farm operation and agricultural producer demographics (e.g., gross sales, years farming, size of operation, products sold and marketing outlets used) 
  • Types of institutional markets sold to
  • Products sold to institutions
  • Perceptions about the benefits and barriers of selling to institutions
  • Perceptions and planned direction of future growth of farm to institution sales

The Producer Report

To dive deeper into this analysis of FINE's 2016 survey of New England farmers, download our full report:


You can also read the report right here:

Producer Survey Report Webinar

Tuesday, July 25th | 11 am - noon ET

Join us to learn more about our key findings; hear from producers about their experience selling food to schools, colleges and hospitals; and find out how you can apply this research to your world-changing work! 


Other Reports

This series of research reports is designed to inform key decision-makers in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors about how they can help move regional farm to institution work forward. In August 2016, we published our first in-depth research report, "Getting It There: Understanding the Role of New England Food Distributors in Providing Local Food to Institutions." In March 2017, we published our second report, Campus Dining 101: A Benchmark Study on Farm to College in New England.

The purpose of FINE's metrics project is to measure the impact of the farm to institution sector across the marketing chain. The project covers all facets of the supply chain, from production to distribution and consumption, with a focus on three institutional sectors: schools, colleges, and hospitals.