Farmer-Controlled Marketing for Organic Commodities and Branded Foods

We are organizing local, producer-controlled partnerships to manage marketing for organic commodities and branded foods. In return for a negotiated percentage of the net profits, marketing partnerships will be funded by local investors.  Given previous capital and operating investments by experienced farmers and ranchers, investors will serve on partnership boards as minority shareholders. Depending on the needs of the founding members, these local companies will be organized as B corporations, non-profits or LLC’s.  Slow Money investment principles will guide all operations.

Specialty commodities include non-GMO alfalfa and grain as well as antibiotic and hormone-free meat and antibiotic-free poultry.  These commodities will be wholesaled through established packers and food companies. Our current marketing strategy is to organize truckload lots in tight geographic areas, starting around Omaha and Kansas City.

Once our commodity program has been established, we will invite investors to back farmer-controlled specialty and organic food brands. These brands will be developed exclusively for local and regional grocery and food service markets, and for direct sale to consumers.

Accounting and Audit Trail Software

We are also seeking development partners for specialty food accounting and audit trail software. Our goal is an affordable “field-to-fork” data management system for organized groups of small and medium size farmers, ranchers and gardeners.

We need a standard system for all of our partnerships. Key outputs will include origins, costs, income and quality for commodities and branded foods sold at retail. At this point in time, we are seeking input on database design and management.

The Competition

Non-local real-estate investment trusts (REIT’s) and similar investor-funded platforms compete directly with sustainable farmers and landowners in local land markets.  These companies use non-local risk capital to buy up organic farms and ranches and convert conventionally managed land to organic methods.  As as group, they are betting that consumer demand for organic and other specialty foods will drive up the value of their land.

Examples of investor-centered farmland speculation include Gladstone Farms and Sustainable Farm Partners. The National Association of Real Estate Trusts is an industry advocacy group that helps drive organic farmland speculation and non-local ownership.

Rather than turn owners into tenants, our producer-controlled partnerships will return a fair share of commodity and retail profits to locally-owned farms and food businesses.

Additional Information

Our rationale for farmer-controlled partnerships is on this site at Why Marketing Partnerships? Please see the Brand Partnership page on this website details on accounting and audit trails.  For more on land ownership trends, please go to Large Family Farms Continue To Dominate U.S. Agricultural Production.

History

The ideas offered on this website start with my late father, Bob Steffen. Dad was the farm manager for Father Flanagan at Boys Town for thirty years and a leader in developing commercial-scale organic and Biodynamic farming methods in the Midwest. He introduced me to many holistic thinkers, including E.F. Shumacher, Wendell Berry and Alan Savory.

My own interests are in attracting qualified investors to farmer-controlled food brands tied to pasture-based food systems that are big enough to supply upscale grocery stores in near-by cities. Woody Tasch and his Slow Money Movement and Michael Shuman, the author of Local Dollars, Local Sense, have much to say about financing sustainable food systems.

Our challenge now is to find the economies of scale that lie between “to small to make money” and the realities of the established food system – all without ignoring the real needs of land, labor, capital and management.

Please contact me:

Jim Steffen
js@RaisedFree.org
402-317-2639

Note: The photo on this page is a courtesy of the Boys Town Hall of History.

Posted 1-30-17, Revised 04-22-18

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