Aug 24, 2022
Creating a brighter future for generations of farmers and consumers alike

As the business of farming continues to change, growers are faced with a number of challenges such as succession planning and product sales.

During the 2022 Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO, growers will get a chance to learn more about these issues in two different presentations.

Founder and president of AgriStrategies LLC, Steve Kluemper, helps people communicate their company’s vision, manage their business and finances and facilitate discussions with customers, vendors, lenders and investors.

During Kluemper’s presentation at the Great Lakes EXPO, “Transitioning your Business,” attendees will gain insight and direction to help make positive business changes. Kluemper discusses business goals, key stakeholders, commitments and how to measure success.

Among Kluemper’s expertise includes his vast knowledge of farm succession. In order to have successful farm succession planning, businesses must map out their plan from start to finish and be proactive.

Steve Kluemper

“Successful farm succession plans start with a successful business. Successful businesses have short, medium and long-range business plans, robust decision-making processes and data that is used to make decisions and monitor results,” Kluemper said.

Kluemper has seen many challenges within farm succession such as rushing plans, not understanding the needs and desires of stakeholders and not having a sufficient plan to balance competing interests. Giving farm succession planning the time and energy it deserves is crucial to the long-term survival of the business, according to Kluemper.

Kluemper’s tips for farmers who are in the process of farm succession planning is to be transparent and clearly define all expectations. He also advises to “use third-party advisers to help address items such as the viability of the business, fair vs. equal distributions, personality conflicts and more,” Kluemper said.

Kluemper’s Farm Succession session will be held in the morning on Thursday, Dec. 8.

Farm to School

Colleen Matts, director of Farm to Institution Programs and coordinator for Michigan Farm to Institution Network helps institutions such as schools, hospitals and universities with more Michigan-grown foods and foods that fit people’s values. She also helps farmers and other food vendors connect with institutional food buyers.

Matts also works for the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems, working to engage not only Michigan — but the entire United States and the world – through applied research, education and outreach to develop regionally integrated, sustainable food systems.

Matts will be working at the 2022 Great Lakes Expo alongside teammates from Michigan Farm to School, the 10 Cents Program and the Michigan Farm to Institution Network delivering training to producers about how to access and sell to school markets.

Using a curriculum developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Bringing the Farm to the School, Matts and her team will use their Michigan experience to deliver an interactive and helpful experience.

Learning from practitioners and various programs in Michigan, Matts and her team successfully make local food purchasing work for both buyers and sellers while taking advantage of the diverse agricultural products Michigan has to offer.

Matts offers some advice and best practices to growers looking to get involved with selling produce to local school districts.

 “If growers are new to school sales, starting small is a good idea,” Matts said. “Start the conversation with a few products that you could sell in decent volume, ideally products you enjoy growing, that might work well in school meals. You could also start by working with a smaller school district or even an early childhood site before you grow into larger school districts that will require greater quantities of products.”

Colleen Matts

According to Matts, Farm to School programs are becoming more integrated into Michigan school districts as many schools are actively seeking programs that fit their needs.

“Farm to school is becoming the norm, rather than the exception, here in Michigan,” Matts said. “Growers will likely find that many schools are not just receptive to purchasing local foods, but are actively seeking more of them, including minimally processed options such as chopped, frozen, or dried local foods.”

Programs like Farm to School are important for local economies – more local food procurement by school districts means more money funded toward local communities and the Michigan economy.

Matts mentions the 10 Cents program and how it provides extra funding for schools to purchase Michigan-grown foods from local farmers and food vendors.

“The Michigan Legislature has been steadily increasing funding for (the 10 Cents Program), which started out as a pilot in just a couple of regions of the state but is now statewide, because of the impact it can have on kids and their healthy eating habits and on local agriculture and the related food business economy,” Matts said. 

These programs are helpful for not only farmers but children too. While schools may not be able to pay a high price for some food products, they can offer farmers a stable, steady market, according to Matts.

When farmers supply schools with local foods, it can influence the tastes of school children and introduce them to new foods.

“By implementing these programs in school districts, it may have longer-term impacts on the eating habits – and also the buying habits – of schoolchildren as they grow up,” Matts said.

The Farm to School session will be held all day on Thursday, Dec. 8.

Learn more about these sessions and others at The 2022 Great Lakes EXPO will be held Dec. 6-8 at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


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