Excellent, highly relevant, provocative set of questions there! Thanks.
IMO a major concept that needs to come into play here is value-added. The
sustainable farmer/gardener who hopes to compete in the wholesale market
is in a difficult position. One of the best ways to reward labor is to
sell retail, adding value to the produce by the direct way it's presented
to the consumer in, say, a farmers' market or a CSA; one of the great
values to be added is *freshness*. Some other ways to add value:
* Add beauty or decorative utility to the item, e.g., garlic braids, gift
packs, chili ristras, herbal wreaths;
* Add *quality*, e.g., Salatin's grass fed beef, pastured poultry;
nutrition-rich Bio-Dynamic produce;
* Add education/entertainment relevance to the farmer-consumer
relationship; hayrides, Solstice or Equinox festivals, let kids gather
eggs or see the cows milked, or pick their own pumpkin.
* Add processing or packaging, e.g., minced garlic in olive oil, packed
in nice (recycled?) jars; honey in squeeze bears; cider; sun-dried
* Add *involvement* by starting a consumer-driven CSA with much two-way
communication between producer and member.
* Add educational value by taking on interns/apprentices.
"There is no scarcity abiding in Nature;
any scarcity we see is our own doing."