This circa 1951 photo is a courtesy of the Boys Town Hall of History.
We own two farms in the Omaha area. Our 80-acre certified organic farm just west of Omaha was recently planted to pasture for a neighbor’s organic beef herd. We also rent 320 acres of permanent pasture near Massena, Iowa to a local cow/calf producer.
Both of these farms are too small to be profitable as free-standing operations. Although cash rent pays the taxes and some (but certainly not all) of the upkeep, our farmers cannot make enough money to justify owning either place. We share this dilemma with thousands of other landowners and producers across the country who struggle to supply organic and specialty commodities to national and international buyers.
We need a regional, producer-controlled marketing organization to maximize profits from specialty and organic commodities for hundreds of producers in the same region. Further, these producers should plan to enter nearby grocery and food service markets under a farmer-owned banner.
Our regional marketing effort is focused on building Raised Free as a retail organic food brand for Omaha, Des Monies, Kansas City and surrounding rural communities. This brand will be very different from other brands.
Our brand will integrate production, processing and marketing operations under a single management program controlled by Raised Free farmers. These operations will be financed by local investors, managed by professionals and governed by farmers.
We need this level of organization in order to enlist thousands of nearby retail customers as full partners in rebuilding our region’s farm and food economy, along with our soil, water and wildlife resources. Clearly, this high level of consumer involvement requires more than competitive prices for a few products. It will require a full range of healthy and affordable foods along with reasonable farm profits, safe working conditions and living wages across the food chain.
To learn more about our business model, please read on and then contact me with your comments and questions.
Qualifications and History
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, my parents moved to a small farm near Bennington, Nebraska where Dad raised Biodynamic grain for specialty millers and fresh produce for local restaurants in Omaha. Mom and Dad also rented their Massena, Iowa pasture to neighbors for their cow-calf operations.
Dad introduced me to many holistic thinkers, including E.F. Shumacher, Wendell Berry and Alan Savory. More recently, my reading on the economic potential of local food systems include Woody Tasch (Slow Money) and Michael Shuman (Local Dollars, Local Sense).
My current interests are in attracting qualified investors to farmer and worker-owned food brands. We need strong retail brands that support diversified organic farms, ranches and modern food processing facilities.
Our greatest challenge today 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.
JPosted 03-31-2020, revised 10-19-2020