This website is about building retail organic food brands owned by farmers and ranchers, not big food companies and grocery chains.
Linking farm profits to nearby urban consumers eliminates the welter of inefficient brokers, dealers, LLC’s and other intermediaries that have made so many established farmers and ranchers into part time owner/operators and farmhands.
Each brand will be designed for a near-by urban market and supplied by local production cooperatives.
Our production cooperatives will be supported by a regional marketing cooperative. This co-op will coordinate all marketing activities including food processing and distribution. Investor relations will be a key part of our marketing program. Our production co-op members will hold a majority of the shares in the marketing cooperative.
The first step toward our first brand is a regional business plan for Omaha, Des Moines, Kansas City and surrounding communities. I have selected these cities because we own small farms near Omaha and I live in the Kansas City area. The plan will address six key issues:
• Farm and ranch profits
• Consumer access to healthy and affordable food
• Wages and working conditions for field and factory workers
• Steady returns to investors
• Farmland succession
• Soil health
Farmers and ranchers who organize local production cooperatives will hold the controlling interest in their local food brands. Active local investors and landowners will join producers in making key marketing, management and financial decisions. These decisions will be supported by contractors who work for our regional marketing cooperatives.
Farmers, ranchers, landowners and investors are invited join us in organizing our first production cooperatives.
Page 2 on this website explains how farmer-controlled food brands can be combined with regional financing, local public/private partnerships and land trusts to improve farm profits and strengthen local tax bases. Page 3 is on essential market research while page 4 covers farming methods and impacts on human health, animal welfare and the environment. The details of cooperative marketing are summarized on page 5.
The ideas offered on this website start with my late father, Bob Steffen. He 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. In later life, Dad sold Biodynamic produce to local restaurants in Omaha. He introduced me to many holistic thinkers, including E.F. Shumacher, Wendell Berry and Alan Savory.
After a lifetime in and around organic farming, my current interests are in attracting qualified investors to farmer-owned food brands. These brands will be tied to pasture-based food systems that are big enough to supply upscale grocery stores and restaurants in near-by cities. On financing, Woody Tasch and his Slow Money Movement along with Michael Shuman, the author of Local Dollars, Local Sense offer excellent information on the economic potential of local food systems.
Our challenge now is to find the economies of scale that lie between “too small to make money” and the realities of the established food system – all without ignoring the real needs of land, labor, capital and management.
Posted 03-31-2020, revised 06-02-2020