In a message dated 10/06/1999 3:47:17 AM US Eastern Standard Time,
> >Organic food costs more to the consumer largely because of price
> >hikes at the retail end. Organic is still a small player, unable
> >to consistently occupy shelf space year-around, look
> >"just-picked" 7 days a week, and various other scale concerns
> >that occupy the minds of retailers.
> if you were an organic grower (let's assume vegetables or fruit)
> and you know, you can't compete - meaning you have nothing to
> sell during the winter months - with supermarkets: how would you
> react ?
Part of the answer is that the consumer needs to be educated about what to
eat in the winter - their may be real benefits to health from eating the
"local" foods - certainly the fresher the better.
Part of the answer to this is educating the growers about what they can grow
that is storable. Squash, cabbage, beets, carrots, onions, potatoes, apples,
pears, celery, to name a few. By increasing their product line, they do hold
onto customers, as well as increasing their income.
Also there are a variety of things that can be grown in the winter (even in
mid-Michigan) in relatively inexpensive hoophouses. Lettuce, bok choi,
carrots, beets, onions, endive and even everbearing strawberries.
> a) it's not worth driving to the market with nothing but celery
> or cabbage in winter, you do not sell enough to pay for the
> b) consumers usually are used to buy most of their food from ONE
> farmer (a certain market stand from someone they have trust
> in). if you quit the market for a "winter time-out", they
> might go to the supermarket AND (that's the dangerous thing)
> might decide to stay supermarket shoppers even in the next
This is even more of a problem if the grower is selling to restaurants or
grocery stores. The stores want the same quality year round. If the local
grower is providing a high quality product, the grocer has to settle for 3
day old stuff in the winter, then the grocer sees a decrease in his business
in the winter. He will opt to have the same quality, variety all the time,
and not give the local farmer a chance the next spring.
> so the farmer has two options:
> a) stay in the market with a (maybe extremely reduced
> assortment) and very likely losing money or having an hourly
> income not worth the time spent
> b) switch to sell non-organic food from southern countries and
> (that's important for the confidence) to clearly tell your
> clients, that this is conventional food
> i know organic growers, who changed to option b), because they
> think it very important not to loose contact with their usual
> clients. and immediately some other organic growers accuse them
> to negate the "spirit" of organic farming.
> how would you react and what would be wiser in your opinion ?
Forming cooperatives of small growers that can increase their own and each
others' product mix is another alternative.
Forming cooperatives of small growers to process some of their own products
> > As the volume of organic produce grows, and as
> > retailers cope with the notion that year-around strawberries are
> > not essential, this will be less of an issue.
> do you really see any trend, that consumers, once they have
> "tasted blood", are willing to reduce their desires (which, as
> can be seen in every supermarket, can very well be fulfilled
> without EVIDENT social and environmental costs) ??
> i have strong doubts, but that certainly does not mean, that it
> really can't be achieved with better information and with more
> and more negative environmental consequences, people have to deal
Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance
PO Box 95
Mulliken MI 48861-0095
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