What is the “appropriate scale” for producers and processors committed to advancing Collaborative Regional Value Chains?
No facet of a producer's (or processor's) business model is more important than- "What is the appropriate scale for me?" It is the life or death question.
Unfortunately, no decision that the producer must face has more complexity than this 7-word question. The Valley of Death between being too small and being too big is enormous, and it is treacherous.
It ain't comforting when a life-or-death question is horribly complex.
This is because all of the following considerations must be explored:
- Local Economy - be in the right zip code.
- Local Ecosystem - know what Nature wants done where you are farming.
- Producers Expertise - you will not be able to read enough “How-to-Farm” books.
- Available Capital - there is never enough.
- Cash Flow - it will take a lot longer than you thought.
- Administration functions - all of the painful office stuff has got to get done.
The producer must also consider the Series of 4 Hills that must be climbed, remembering that he cannot see the next hill from the foot of the most immediate hill.
Hill 1 - Learn how to produce without dependence on industrial agriculture's tools of technology. (This is the fun part).
Hill 2 - Figure out how to make his production monetizable. Consumers don't buy hogs and cows and sheep. (They buy pork and beef and lamb).
Hill 3 - Find market access. How to find the customer. They are not likely to be your friends and neighbors.
Hill 4 - How to get the product to the customer.
Getting 3 out of the 4 ain't good enough. And for God's Sake, sell directly to the consumer and not through a wholesaler!
Stay flexible. What makes sense today is not necessarily the right thing to do next year. If you ain't humble when you start, you will be.
- Will Harris