October 24, 2021

Grant to fund study on improving returns for small farms

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Cattle roam Monday at CNY Beef in Homer. A $500,000 federal grant is meant to help Cornell University develop tools to help farmers price and market their products more effectively.

For Joanne Jones, the owner of CNY Beef, a beef farm in Homer, marketing for small farms like hers means using word of mouth and Facebook, she said Monday.

She’s hoping that a grant for a Cornell University professor to study and improve marketing returns for small and medium livestock farms will help change that.

The university announced last week that Todd Schmit, an associate professor in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, and Dyson extension associate Matt LeRoux, will use a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture on research to help improve the marketing returns for small and medium-size livestock farms in New York.

“I’m glad to see some support going towards this type of operation,” Jones said.

The goal of the three-year grant is to develop and deploy data, analysis and feedback tools that give farm managers the ability to make better decisions as they select markets, price meat and market their products with an emphasis on improving farm profitability while invigorating the state’s capacity for meat production.

“With the advent of tablets, smartphones and point-of-sale software, farms that are direct-marketing have an opportunity to capture detailed data easily and use it to improve their sales performance,” LeRoux said.

The project has three objectives:

  • Improve decision-making and net returns related to product pricing through producer education and technical assistance. The project will create a meat-pricing calculator tool to aid producers with developing pricing for meat cuts and carcasses.
  • Increase livestock farm sales at farmers markets through point-of-sale data collection and analysis.
  • Develop an online price reporting platform for meat cuts and carcasses across regions, species and time.

Jones said the big issue on her farm is paying laborers the same amount who go on to sell meat at markets regardless of how much they sell. She said she was “particularly interested” to see how the study may be able to help her farm be more efficient.

Schmitt and LeRoux are accepting applications from New York farms that sell meat by the cut directly to consumers to take part. Participating farms record their sales at farmers markets, farm stores and online using point-of-sale software and, in turn, receive sales data and price analysis as well as one-on-one consultation and assistance with marketing and pricing.

Farms can apply at tinyurl.com/sfa5987s.

“By pairing our new meat pricing calculator with sales data from the farm,” LeRoux said, “we have the opportunity to fine-tune meat cut prices based on customer demand and increase daily sales for farms.”

LeRoux will present the project to interested New York livestock farmers in a webinar at 7 p.m April 22. Access can be found at tinyurl.com/53cpmnsz.

Tom Fleischman is a writer for Cornell Chronicle.