November 23, 2006

Coopetition

Katie and Casey have a great post that covers a lot of ground, but I wanted to touch briefly on Katie's mention of 'coopetition' among small farmers.

Small-scale farming is a pretty intense line of work...there's little opportunity for chatting around the water cooler on a coffee break, and you tend to work where you live, making it hard to 'leave work behind' at the end of a day. Of course, the fact that there are so many more small farmers starting out makes me think that I'm not the only one out there who likes that lifestyle.

There have been times during the heavy farmer's market days that the arrival of another egg vendor to the market would really bum us out...the fact that the demand for eggs is pretty much finite, and more growers splits that pie smaller and smaller.

Usually, what we found, though, is that a regular presence at the market, a well-tended display, and high-quality product ensured us regular customers who would walk past other people's products to buy from us. They're not just paying for eggs, but they're paying for a relationship with a farm that they know.

Rambling along to Katie's point, though. As a community begins to discover it's small farms, word of mouth spreads. When someone can say 'our farmer grew these' at a holiday potluck, other folks want to get in on the action. Demand for the product rises, and the opportunities increase for all of the local farmers in the area.

We hosted a gathering of local farmers in June (sadly, no pictures...), and there were many great connections made. While competition is a reality in the business world, there was much more talk of opportunities than there was concern over market share.

Perhaps, when farms are an integral & ubiquitous part of neighborhoods and towns, competition will override cooperation. But because everyone has to eat, we're a long way from hitting that point.

Happy thanksgiving, and make sure you remain thankful for the farms that grew your holiday dinner.

Posted by rich at November 23, 2006 08:08 AM
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