What is the 'right size' for regional value chains?

Posted by Will Harris
May 8, 2023 6:46:28 PM


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

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