>...What do sustainable agriculture farmers need that they don't now have?
>Specifically, can you think of a niche for a business or a group that would
>support farmers? or make essential partners? I have been looking into
>farming co-ops, food processing plants, distribution firms,
>education/training, business incubators, and information systems companies
>for sustainable agriculture, ...
These all sound like good ideas, especially if they help farmers get a
larger percentage of what consumers spend on food and there is incentive for
farmers to think and act for the long-term.
We must exercise care that these new marketing channels don't pick up some
of the bad havits of the old system. For example, just because there is a
great market for organic soybeans, farmers should resist the temptation to
plant more than their farming system can handle. (Beans aren't great for
erosion-prone soils.) Middlemen must resist the temptation to skim off too
much profit at the expense of farmgate prices.
The ultimate partnership that must be forged is between farmers and
consumers. If you survey sustainable farmers, you'll find one of the big
needs that they express is to educate more consumers to value what they
produce and be willing to pay what it's worth. (I don't have a citation for
this. But I think if you check out the surveys done by the Organic Farming
Research Foundation, you'll find something like this.)
I don't want to speak for Greg Gunthorp (a frequent sanet contributor), but
I think that's what he's trying to do. He's got hogs raised in a way that
is kind to the environment (as well as low cost). Now he's trying to find a
way to get them to consumers who think what he's doing is a good idea.
Sustainable farmers need a bigger pool of consumers willing to go out of
their way to do this, and they need help with the logistics of getting these
products to those consumers. In this age of fast food, mega-supermarkets
with slotting fees, and consumers who are too busy to cook very much, this
is no small task.
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