“Socially responsible investors” are financing more farms, ranches and food businesses that offer local health, environmental and economic benefits. The market opportunities are very real for producers, investors and investment professionals. For example, the residents of Omaha, Des Moines, Kansas City and surrounding areas spend at least 350 million dollars annually on organic brands from outside of our trade area (USDA, OTA and Census data).
This website is about increasing farm and ranch profits near these cities by organizing cooperative marketing, production and processing for retail food brands – brands owned by farmers and ranchers. Although Raised Free is used to explain our ideas, one brand is not enough. Farmers and ranchers near Omaha, Des Moines and Kansas City are invited to help develop our cooperative services and use these services to build producer-owned retail food brands.
We also invite investment professionals, farm organizations and government agencies to discuss our business model.
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.