It is well known that concentration in the food industry, combined with COVID-19 has created major food security issues.
In response, we are developing a network of organic production cooperatives with modern food processing plants for Omaha, Des Moines, Kansas City and surrounding communities. Our business goals include measurable profits for our farm and ranch members, along with living wages and safe working conditions for Raised Free farm, ranch and packing house workers.
Our Raised Free brand will be owned by our farmers, ranchers, field and packing house workers. As we build relationships with local investors, we will deliver more healthy and affordable foods to the customers of our grocery, restaurant and institutional partners. This means that urban investors, residents and retailers are the three essential partners in building a truly sustainable food system for Omaha, Des Moines, Kansas City and surrounding communities.
Page 2 on this website explains the market research that will underpin our production and marketing cooperatives. Page 3 introduces regional financing and farmland succession. Cooperative marketing is summarized on Page 4. Page 5 covers pasture-based organic farming.
A core group of experienced farmers and ranchers will oversee the market research project. These leaders will be supported by financial, legal and marketing professionals along with specialists in high-value beef production.
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.
Posted 03-31-2020, revised 08-05-2020
Photo circa 1951, courtesy of the Boys Town Hall of History.