Florida Organic Growers & The Future of Food
The Florida Organic Growers symposium in Fort Pierce last Friday was about the future of food. There is no better starting point to think about the future than reflecting on the history of agriculture.
For millennia, agriculture was small scale. No chemicals, no pesticides. A greater share of society participated in agriculture than they do now.
But the interstate motor transportation took off in the 1920s, and dominated with the Interstate Highway Transportation Act of 1956. Around this period of time, the number of community farms declined. Faceless farms supplanted community farms. While the total number of farms declined around this period of time, the average size of farms increased. Industrial farms rely on limited resources, like phosphate.
If and when the phosphate runs out, potential yields may decrease by 50%. This could happen as early as a decade or two. Chris John talked about this issue at the Florida Organic Growers symposium at Fort Pierce. Local, sustainable food systems will be critical. Our local food systems are an important investment to help insure the future of food.
This is what community supported agriculture is about, as I have blogged about before. It has also been the subjects of my talks at Florida Organic Grower symposiums held in Tampa and Fort Pierce. To build an effective community supported agriculture program, consider the following steps:
- Educate. Educate the community about agricultural work, and the risks of crop failure. Educate consumers about what is needed to support local, sustainable food. Offer recipes and samples featuring produce that the community investor may not be accustomed to. The more information you can provide about your farm, the better. Consider sharing financial information, hours worked, and price comparisons to build consumer confidence.
- Put it in writing. Written agreements can keep lawyers away. A written agreement is an important tool to educate the community, to memorialize information, and to build community relationships. At a minimum, a written agreement should reflect the price, explain the risk of crop failure, the potential bounty from bumper crops. The agreement should indicate potential risks and rewards will be shared with the community investor, so indicate the finality of sales, and include other relevant information (e.g. pickup procedures).
- Choose your business structure. Business structure is also an opportunity to engage with the community, especially if the business structure involves a board of directors or voting.
Business structure also has consequences on tax liability, legal liability, and employment obligations. Strategies to build strong communities involve several different considerations. If you need help, please contact me for a complimentary call.