It is well known that the structure of the conventional food system works against farm profits, farmland succession, the environment and living wages throughout the industry. Further, without significant private-sector investments and new organizational structures, small farms, food hubs and local food businesses cannot compete with the established food system for market share in major cities. And without market share, young farmers and ranchers will continue to leave the land.
As noted on page 2 of this website, the Council of Development Finance Agencies believes that food systems can be organized to attract much needed public and private investments. We agree.
We invite individuals, advisers, financial firms and farm organizations to discuss a new, producer-controlled organic food system for Omaha, Des Moines and Kansas City.
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 an around organic farming, my current interests are in attracting qualified investors to farmer-controlled food brands. These brands must 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 “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.