Archive for January, 2010
I am busy working on The Chicago Farmers Farmland Investment Fair because it’s coming up next Saturday Feb 6, 2010 www.chicagofarmers.org. This event is devoted to farmland investing and definitely has some sessions of interest for local and regional food people. I have to wonder, what farmland use in the Midwest would look like if the region really put some muscle behind local food production and distribution. I think the past is prologue here. One of the big clues is The Wagner Farm in Glenview. http://www.wagnerfarm.org/. The Wagner Farm now sits on about 19 acres of prime North shore Real Estate, and the farm has dairy cows there. Yes, you read that right, there really are Holsteins living in Glenview.. The Farm has been reincarnated as a living history museum. However, in its prime, in the 20s, the Farm was about a 100 acres. In the 20,s there were 5,000 of these kind of farms in Cook County, Illinois. Farms like the Wagner’s supplied much of Chicago’s milk and vegetables, and the Wagner’s really were true Chicago Farmers. They farmed near and for Chicago, and if local food is truly going to happen, the future may look like the past.
If the tie between new media/social media and local food and agriculture did not already exist, it would have to be invented. Just as farmers’ markets allow producers to sell to consumers without a brick and mortar grocery store, new media/social media channels allow people to create their own platforms to communicate directly through the internet with their own content. The vehicles are increasingly familiar: Blogs, YouTube, Podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, and Email Newsletters.
For local food producers, selling directly to consumers could be familiar territory. What’s new and exciting in this picture is that social media gives growers a platform to reach consumers directly and easily. Websites in the beginning were expensive and hard for non technical people to update; blogs on the other hand are cheap, fast and easy. Putting new content on websites required someone who knew html, but if you can send an email, you can put content on your blog. For example, I blog at www.schellacres.com. The blog allows me to reach readers without a magazine or newspaper and lets me post audio clips without an interview done at a radio station. Another example is the publication I wrote on selling food directly, A Legal Guide to Illinois Laws Governing Direct Farm Marketing. It used to be only available in print but, now it’s available as a pdf from a couple of sources including: http://www.nationalaglawcenter.org/asse … market.pdf
In 2007, I posted a commentary about Chuck Zimmerman’s site Agwired (www.agwired.com) on my blog at www.schellacres.com. Chuck was one of the first people in agriculture who went into social media in a big way. He was a pioneer in using podcasting, videocasting and offering blogging services to the farm community.
When I talked with him we both focused on the book The Long Tail Why Selling More Of Less Is The Future by Chris Anderson. The book title refers to the small part of a bell curve distribution. This is the thin part at the furthest edges. The fat part of the curve is where 90 percent of the product usually is sold— as the book illustrates, think of buying CDs at Wal-Mart vs. Amazon. Wal-Mart stocks the top 10 CDs and counts on selling a lot of them. Amazon stocks almost every CD and sells less of a lot more categories. Amazon, of course, could not exist without the internet. The internet and their low cost storage facilities make it possible for Amazon to hold inventory until it is sold. The local food parallels are similar—a website/blog makes it possible to give the market the detail on how to buy local food—cheaply and relatively easily. This applies even if most of the food by volume still goes through supermarket channels.
But, the change is a lot more than just a way of getting the word out, the internet also allows local food providers to be able to build a community around their food. Facebook, Twitter, and email newsletters all can help local producers build a following. The good news is that local food purchasers seem to want to connect in virtual and real communities. These people like to get to know each other and their local food producers. For more info on social media and where it fits into farming, see my interview with Chuck Zimmerman at http://agwired.com/2009/12/30/chicago-f … ial-media/.
You are currently browsing the Food Industry MarketMaker Blog blog archives for January, 2010.