> Hello Anita, Mark and Emily,
> Experience indicates, quality of product, consistency of grade and pack,
> continuity of supply, diversity of supply, on time delivery and competitive
> price are the bases of successful produce marketing. Small farmers marketing
> individually or in coops must in the long haul meet these marketing standards
> to sell to wholesalers or stores. With the exception of specific "smaller"
> organic farmers, who really are not "small," few small organic farmers have
> chosen to meet all these conditions. A lot of the willingness to buy from
> smaller farmers is based completely on the individual buyer's decision
> making. Most chain organic produce buyers have a dedication to the freshest
> product and a few to buying locally offering an advantage to local/regional
> produce farmers.
> So, the question must be always asked: can local/regional farmers meet the
> retail marketers required conditions to provide quality product and maintain
> shelf life until sold to the customer. On the other hand, many produce
> buyers are only interested in the simplest way to buy produce--beyond a doubt
> that is through established distribution firms. Overall the US, Whole Foods
> and Wild Oats do not appear to have a consistent chain produce buying policy.
> Over the years, what I found worse about chain store produce buyers was their
> willingness to buy high quality non-organic product rather than quality local
> certified organic product. The stores market the high quality non-organic
> product at the same price as "organically produced" product. The profits are
> larger selling the non-organic product. Organic is the lead, but the bulk at
> various times of the year has been non-organically produced.
> Chains continue to pit organic farmers price structure against conventional
> high quality product (as well as small organic growers pricing against larger
> organic growers). A single organic farming consortium produces about 30% of
> all US organic produce and of the other 70%, 4 other growers supply 40%; in
> my estimation, what are called small growers provide about 5% of the total
> produce sold in chains.
> What has been of more concern to me over the years is that the consumer
> marketing coops of the US do not:
> 1. carry very much or the diversity of organic produce, except for Northeast
> 2. do not have a policy to buy from local produce farmers, except perhaps for
> Northeast Coop
> Consumer coops' memberships, and ownership, for years has placed as their
> number one request fresh organic produce covering the whole spectrum of
> crops. The coop management continues to not fulfil their wishes simply
> because they do not train their employees and establish the refrigeration and
> truck delivery infrastructure to handle perishable produce. Along with
> infrastructure and training, a business must make a commitment to build the
> market among coop clientele. But that would not be very difficult since that
> is what the membership wants.
> My experience over many years, as well as others, is that organic produce
> farmers can more easily break into local/regional store marketing if they
> lead with high quality, graded and packed highly perishables (sweet corn,
> spinach, lettuce, herbs, etc.) and/or fruit products. With these products,
> the shipped in products cannot really compete.
> On the other hand, the produce farm that is not efficient in biological,
> mechanical, labor and marketing management just cannot compete with the large
> producers regarding cost of production and quality of the product. Because
> of the high capitalization, the many skills one must acquire, the long work
> hours and the reality of marketing, we have seen very few people go into
> organic produce farming and I predict will even see less. In the business
> world, we call it consolidation of business into smaller numbers of producers
> who grow larger yearly--such is happening in organic produce. To reverse the
> trend there must be effective, efficient cooperative marketing, which I
> discuss further on.
> So, major chains, nationwide, generally do not buy from small organic
> farmers. But the reasons vary; some are related to the farmer production and
> post harvest handling systems, some are related to the produce buyers
> strategy and decision making.
> One more point: organic farmers marketing coops have experimented with
> solving diversity, quality, continuity of supply. There are a couple of
> organic produce farmer coops in the multimillion-dollar sales range and and a
> few more selling less than a million. However, in the context of organic
> produce marketing there are a number of shortcomings making most of them
> "spot" marketers, i.e. marketers for specific products at certain times of
> the year.
> Most coops are in climatic regions lacking year round farm production which
> makes them "spot" marketers, not full line, year round suppliers. These
> problems could be solved by cooperation between certified farmers across
> North America. Although, the Organic Farmers Marketing Association has
> extended this idea for a number of years, no action has been taken. It is my
> conclusion that for certified organic farmers to successfully market produce
> in the chain store system; an organic produce marketing agency in common must
> come into existence. With high-speed telecommunications, cooperative
> marketing of organic produce from growers to buyers across the US is now
> Any takers?
> Best regards,
> Eric Kindberg
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