Omaha and Kansas City residents spend at least 300 million dollars each year on organic food – nearly all from outside of our regional trade area (USDA, OTA and Census data). We can build sustainable farm and ranch profits by organizing large and efficient “pasture-based” food systems that compete in our retail markets with imported (non-local) organic products.
Compared to conventional petroleum-based foods and imported organic foods, our regional approach will use less water and energy to produce and process more nutritious food. Further, efficient local and regional distribution reduces food miles and related costs. Stated differently, local organic producers, processors and distributors can earn consistent profits, cut greenhouse gas and reduce consumer costs for healthy foods.
Healthy Soils for Better Health
Modern corp rotations use livestock on pasture along with composted livestock and poultry manure to rebuild depleted soils. Our rotations will include small amounts of grain for pork and poultry and more permanent pasture and high protein hay for smaller beef and dairy herds. In other words, we intend to use livestock to rebuild soils, while at the same time matching our livestock production to modern dietary recommendations that call for reduced consumption of meat and dairy products.
In time, we can replace year-around confinement feeding with locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables. Again, this means lower costs and better quality compared to imported (non-local) conventional and organic produce. The overall results will be better health for Missouri Valley residents with stronger urban and rural economies.
But who should organize new marketing and investment programs for organic pasture-based food systems?
Farmers and Ranchers
Cow-calf farmers and ranchers are in the best position to lead on sustainable agriculture. As a group, they already support biological diversity in agriculture because they own and lease vital rangeland and pasture along along with cropland that can be converted to permanent pasture.
Production and Marketing Cooperatives
Our business model depends on producer-controlled production cooperatives that supply pasture-raised beef, pork and poultry to near-by retail outlets in major cities. A producer-controlled marketing cooperative will coordinate regional sales, production and processing.
We will start with a market test of grassfed beef raised in the Massena, Iowa area where we own a half-section of permanent pasture. Nearby producers are invited to collaborate on the work plan, budget and schedule for the market test. If there is sufficient interest, we will ask government agencies, foundations and beef industry groups to fund the project.
Please go to the next page for an overview of project work plan.
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. 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. 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.
Please contact me:
Posted 1-30-17, Revised 08-09-2019