This circa 1951 photo is a courtesy of the Boys Town Hall of History.
A Regional Organic Farm and Market Development Association
Without strong producer-owned retail brands, farm and ranch profits for most small and medium-income organic operations will not keep pace with costs. But these brands cannot be developed without affordable financing for increased production and modern processing operations. As a result, most organic producers will not pass their land to the next generation.
High-income producers and their investors can afford professional advice on markets, taxes, finance, weather and technology. Smaller producers need this same the information, along with affordable financing for expanded production and new processing facilities.
To date, there are no organizations in the Missouri Valley that can bring qualified local investors and licensed financial advisors together with organic producers and production experts to scale up for grocery and food service markets in nearby cities. To make these services available to a large number of transitional and organic producers, I am inviting food industry professionals and their organizations to incorporate a Regional Organic Farm and Market Development Association.
I suggest that this association be organized as a non-profit charged with integrating legal, financial and production services that support producer-owned retail food brands. Starting in the region that includes Omaha, Des Moines and Kansas City, I propose that professional services be delivered through locally-controlled entities, including:
- Non-profit land trusts led by landowners and local investors
- Producer-led organic production cooperatives
- A regional marketing cooperative headed by producers
- Planning is under way to demonstrate how local organic land trusts and production cooperatives can work together. This project will be conducted near Massena, Iowa where my family owns a half-section of permanent pasture.
Page 2 on this website explains financing, page 3 is on marketing and page 4 addresses the need for pasture-based organic food systems.
Please contact me for more information and to arrange a video conference.
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.
Posted 03-31-2020, revised 11-24-2020