Family Farmed’s Market Development program kicked off its 2020 season with a farmer-focused Market Readiness Workshop in Niles, the Chicago suburb that is home to co-hosts Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks. Irv Cernauskas and Shelly Herman, his wife and business partner, have been bridging the gap between farmers and buyers for more than 20 years.
The workshop, held on January 29, focused on best practices to help farmers break into wholesale marketing. Irv and Shelly shared their knowledge on everything from harvesting and packaging to transportation and certifications. The attendees made up a professionally diverse group of individuals with experience ranging from farming to law. This is significant, as it shows us that it is not only farmers who have a stake in ensuring that local producers can thrive and break into new markets.
Irv and Shelly are doing something unique with their model. They determined early on that there was a large and growing consumer demand for produce that is free of pesticides, and meat that is free of added hormones and antibiotics — and they knew the farmers who could supply it. Seeing this demand, and knowing a solution that could help to meet it, the couple created Fresh Picks: a year-round home delivery business offering organic, local and seasonal food to Chicagoland consumers.
This arrangement allows farmers to spend more time farming, while Irv and Shelly focus on packaging product, transportation and distribution. Irv and Shelly have helped illustrate that locally and sustainably produced food is not only possible, but profitable.
FamilyFarmed was thrilled that farmers from across Northern Illinois were able to gather and learn from Irv and Shelly about what it takes to sell into wholesale markets.
This workshop is one of many that FamilyFarmed plans to host this year, with the goal to focus on targeted workshops that can benefit the farming community. We also welcome suggestions from the community. If you would like to see a specific workshop take place in 2020, please email your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Co-owner Shelly Herman leads a tour of FamilyFarmed’s Market Readiness Workshop at Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks on January 29. Photos: Anna Crofts/FamilyFarmed