Wednesday, July 30, 2008

More Followup From Monday's Post...

Okay, here is the second part of my thoughts on Monday's blog post. I think some good discussion has come out of this and it truly makes me thankful for all the help I receive from the readers of this blog. Today's part includes some of the things that popped into my head after reading through those great and well thought out comments and a couple of closing thoughts.
  • "I feel that America in a whole has fallen into the trap that everything must be convenient and everything priced that way. I feel that is what has gotten us here, lets let govt control our foods, subsidize them, and keep everything on a level playing field. I feel that if uneducated consumers, would take the time to go and visit their local farm, maybe even work for a bit with them, that they would quickly see and be more than willing to pay the premium price for their premium foods." This quote comes from Kramer and I think he is totally right! The things he said about the government and how we got to where we are have been stated on this blog by myself and other commenters ten times over. But, how do we get Joe Blow to come to the farm and educate themselves? I think that may be one of the most serious questions a direct marketing farmer has to answer. It is easy to get the people to the farm that have already figured it out, but how do you get the guy who grew up on a conventional farm (and then left it) in the middle of an Iowa cornfield to come out to your farm and see why they should be willing to pay more? Of course like a total loser I'm not offering up any answers ... just posing the question, but I will say that it is a similar question to the one that I seek to answer everyday at my job (youth pastor).
  • "...it gets frustrating when you hear that your premium cared for products should be priced closer to factory farmed products." Again from Kramer (not picking on him ... he just had a lot of good stuff to say). I hope that I didn't come across with that type of viewpoint, because I wholeheartedly agree you should receive what you deserve for your work. Also, I just wanted to throw out how I have been surprisingly encouraged by the responses I have had from within my own community and from readers (and the staff) of Epicurious. Of course it is frustrating, and I'm sure it happens in every line of work (sometimes it feels like I'm paying these contractors too much ... but then I realize how much better they are at their job than I would be), but this is where education comes in again. As you can tell education keeps popping up ... more on that later.
  • "If your customers are drawn to your product because of the combination of quality, uniqueness, and a "decent" price (but not cheap), they will be more likely to pay more and less likely to seek a cheaper alternative (as long as the price doesn't become outlandish)." I love this summary from Rich because I think he nailed what I would like to say on the head. It has to be a combination of all of those things (and education) in order to remain sustainable in every sense of the word.
Now for a couple of last thoughts...
  • If you read Joel Salatin (and a few others) you get the idea that if our agricultural system trended more towards what it was in the past (grass-based and local farms) that we would be better off. Is that true or will we always need large agri-businesses that ship their products all over the country? Is it true that we will need a system that is based on growing in one place and finishing in another and then processing in yet another? Just some questions...
  • Also, the word "education" popped up a lot in my ramblings today (and that is really what they are) and in the comments yesterday. How do we go about educating people of the different choices that are out there? And I think more importantly how to handle their money. Because if these articles and blog posts are to be believed and people aren't buying organic/natural because they are running out of money then the problem is fundamentally that we are bad with money as a nation (yeah, yeah, I know ... no news flash there). Being a good steward of your money is something my wife and I are ultra-passionate about because if we weren't there is no way we would be building a house on 40 acres ... just wouldn't be possible with a youth pastors salary and a stay-at-home mom. It is possible with stewardship. Remember, you always have money for what you want to have money for ... now we just need to help people realize they need to spend money on healthy food.
**Just in case you were wondering I chose these pictures of people talking over the fence because I like that image of the conversation on the blog ... and in this picture I want to be the guy holding his pipe down from his mouth because I like his hat :)

4 comments:

Rich said...

"...It is easy to get the people to the farm that have already figured it out, but how do you get the guy who grew up on a conventional farm (and then left it) in the middle of an Iowa cornfield to come out to your farm and see why they should be willing to pay more?..."

You don't necessarily need to educate or expose each and every potential customer to your products. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool, one satisfied customer will hopefully speak favorably about your products to many other potential customers.

In addition to the health benefits and wholesomeness of the food you produce, if you can tell an interesting story about each area of your farm that will be memorable to your customers they will be more likely to spread your story to other potential customers.

It is one thing for a satisfied customer to talk about the "great deal" they got on the ribeyes they are grilling for their friends, but it is much better if they can also talk about how it was raised on a farm that also raises heritage pork fed with homegrown corn, sells fresh eggs and roaster chickens, and reminds them of their grandparents' farm.

Make your farm and yourself unique and memorable and people will talk about your farm (hopefully favorably), then after they are talking about your farm and its products, the education part will be easier.

Walter Jeffries said...

Is it true that we will need a system that is based on growing in one place and finishing in another and then processing in yet another?

No, we don't need it. Will it continue to exist? Likely if it is efficient for some reason. Subsidization of oil make it efficient to move things over long distances. If the price of oil were to climb to it's true cost we would see a massive cut back on shipping as the real costs appeared in the final consumer prices.

Mellifera said...

"Is it true that we will need a system that is based on growing in one place and finishing in another and then processing in yet another?"

(Or otherwise long-distance food.)

Nah. Here's a story from Mr. Mellifera's history grad school project. Remember beet sugar? .... France had enormous sugar cane plantations on Haiti (Haiti used to be the richest colony in the Caribbean. Hard to believe now). Then the Napoleonic wars happened, and Britain took to capturing any French boat they found in the Atlantic. Britain had a big navy... all the sudden France found that the cost of their long-distance sugar had skyrocketed, what with lost ships and equipping the remaining ones with cannons. That's when beet sugar got invented- it was something they could grow back at home.

Long-distance food just can't happen without very cheap transportation. When the cost of shipping things goes up (whether due to gas prices or the British fleet), you can count on things moving right back close to home. No matter how entrenched the old way was- remember, Haiti *used* to be the richest colony....

(There were a few other things that happened to Haiti, but that's a different story altogether.)

Kim said...

I think that folks are beginning to realize that the SAD (standard American diet) is the cause of much disease and are coming to understand that eating wholesome and local will prevent much medical expense which in the end is much less expensive than what corporate farms produce.

I'm beginning to wonder if a few years from now, there will be any food at all available. Hope I'm just being paranoid.

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