Local food goes mainstream

Local food goes mainstream!
Local food goes mainstream!

Local food is no longer just for “foodies” at the fringe of the food system. Local food is now part of the traditional food system. This is a good thing! This is where the next wave of growth will happen in local food over the next 10 years.

This point was brought home to me in the last few weeks at the Farm to Table conference in Pittsburgh which joined forces with the Home and Garden show this year. The Home and Garden show brings in 100s of thousands of people from across the region to see 1800 exhibits in 10 acres of tradeshow space. It is a spectacle to see! And the Farm to Table conference is now simply part of it: we are rubbing shoulders with mattress salesmen, roofers, and European massage chairs.

Local food is for everyone now.

Local food is at Wal-mart and it is in our schools.

We are no longer an alternative to the existing food system. We are now the food system.

This is aspirational, of course. We are just entering the mainstream and there is so much work left to do, but I believe we need to act like we belong.

To continue to grow, we need to innovate. We need to think about convenience, price, and the offer we are putting in front of consumers. We need technology. We need farmers who are ready to take the calculated risk to scale up their operation. We need to spend more money and energy on marketing.

What worked for the “true believers” (0.5-1% of the population that has supported local farms) will not work as we aim towards 5-10%. This next slice of the market has different expectations and needs.

Harvie is my contribution to this effort, but it is going to take a multitude of innovations to make local food an every day part of our food system.

What are you doing at your farm, in your business, or in your organization to take local food mainstream?

Your friend in innovative farming and marketing,
Simon.

-Simon Huntley
CEO/Founder – Harvie
http://harvie.farm

FarmFan is shutting down Jan 4th, 2019

Dear FarmFan Customer,

As of January 4th, 2019, we are going to discontinue the FarmFan service.

Thank you for coming on this journey with me and my team. Since we launched in 2014, FarmFan has sent over 2,500,000 text messages to farmer’s market customers.

In five growing seasons, I’m proud of what we accomplished with FarmFan, but it never achieved the critical mass of farms and markets to make it a viable long-term business. It is time for us to say good bye the FarmFan.

We will take some of learning from FarmFan and apply it to our Harvie platform and allow farms to send text message reminders to their members when farm shares are delivered to a site.

In the intervening years, there have been a variety of text message reminding programs that have come on the market for more general use so if you want to keep doing text messages for your market customers, you should be able to find a service to do that.

Creating new products is messy work and some things work and some things don’t. That is the nature of the work I do. After 12 years in this business, that is one hard lesson that I have learned. I’m proud to say that we will keep innovating and working along side you.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Best and thank you!

-Simon Huntley
Founder and CEO, Harvie & FarmFan

A Vision for 5 Million CSA Members by 2030

By Simon Huntley

Originally published on the Small Farm Central blog on 02/17/2017 

I have been doing a lot of thinking about the future of CSA farms over the past few years. With CSA Day 2017 upon us, I wanted to take time to reflect on where we are, where we are going, and why we are doing this.

I am passionate about CSA farming because I see the special connection between farmers and eaters, but also see a path to an economically sustainable small-to-medium scale farm. I believe that economic sustainability is tied extricably to agricultural sustainability and that CSA is an important part of that puzzle because it allows a farmer to control his or her market with a degree of certainty and margin that no other marketing channel allow.

In addition, CSA is the most direct connection that an eater can have with his or her farmer and is a connection to the land that an eater can’t get in any other way. Through CSA, we imbue food with meaning, story, and connection. In a world of intractable problems, being a CSA farmer or CSA member is an act we can take to make life better for our land, economy, and community as a whole.

The CSA Market Right Now

However, CSA only touches a tiny minority of households. I was focused on this fact through the Local Food Marketing Practice Survey that was released in December by the USDA (hat tip to Elizabeth Henderson for emailing the data to me). This data is for the United States only, but I think the lessons can be applied anywhere in the world.

They list the total sales of all 7,398 CSA farms at $226,000,000 in 2015. In a lot of ways, I look at that data and think CSA has been a huge success in 30 seasons in the United States. This is a concept that has resonated with the public without any corporate, governmental, or moneyed interests behind it.

On the other hand, let’s look at that data in terms of the overall food marketplace.

If we take the average share price data from our CSA Farming Report of $450, then we get the number of approximately 500,000 CSA shares sold in 2015.

There are 124.6 million households in the U.S., so that means approximately 0.4% of US households purchase a CSA share each year.

So, despite the huge success of the CSA concept, it is still very niche. Looking at these numbers, I can’t believe that 0.4% is the ceiling of CSA.

I think CSA farming is so important for farmers and eaters, so I am setting a goal of growing the overall CSA market by 10x, to 5 million households, by 2030.

Even with this exponential growth of CSA, we will still be serving only 1 in 25 households in the United States. That is still a small slice of the population and I believe that is possible for us to get there.

However, what got us to 500,000 CSA members, will not get us to 5 million. We need to reimagine what CSA is to appeal to a much wider demographic and we need to get better at articulating the values of CSA. Your customers and potential customers work hard for their money too, so we must appeal to their values and their interests as we plot a way forward.

While we reimagine CSA, we can’t lose sight of what has made CSA such an impactful concept. I believe that if we simply compete with the grocery stores or the Blue Aprons of the world, we lose. CSA must be about more than a simple box of food.

What will this growth of the CSA market mean for your farm? What will this growth mean for the overall local food market? How do we get there?

I ask these questions, but I don’t have the answers. I have some guesses. However, I believe that reaching this goal it is possible if we all work together on the local, regional, national, and international scale. I want to start the conversation with you because I believe that this growth is essential for a thriving local food economy and, I worry that if don’t radically grow CSA, it will become more niche and eventually wither on the vine.

I firmly believe that when we all do better, we all do better. Your success is my success.

I would love to hear from you: how do you feel about this goal? Is it reasonable? Do you have ideas on how we can get there?

I can be reached at simon@smallfarmcentral.com. We can continue the discussion on the CSA Farmer Discussion group on Facebook (request access here), at winter conferences, and in the fields.

I look forward to growing with you over the next 13 years!

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