Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Food Enterprise

"From web-based cooperatives to public shareholding corporation, processing plants to restaurants, sustainable fisheries to union organic berry farms - our case studies make clear that there is no one pathway to local food success."

Michael Shuman (lead author), Community Food Enterprise! Local Success in a Global Marketplace., Wallace Center at Winrock International

Funded by the Gates and Kellogg Foundations and sponsored by the Wallace Center, this project identifies ten innovative local food enterprises in the U.S. Michael Shuman, author of Going Local is lead researcher and author. More cases are forthcoming.

These great examples from around the country show many variations on how to combine local food, communal ownership, joint marketing, social enterprise, and social mission. Many of these enterprises have been around for 20-30 years, thrive in university environments, and rely upon extraordinary entrepreneurs and partners, who draw inspiration from multiple sources, some familiar, some not. Don't we have any more recent examples that show promise?

Shuman says, "These enterprises have much to teach us about replicating what works and identifying untapped opportunities that can strengthen the local food movement."

I look forward to the full write ups and synthesis of these cases because I'm a bit puzzled about what they teach. Of course, co-ops make a lot of sense, social entrepreneurs are magical, long-term commitment is key, viable market niches exist for local, healthy products. We may want to think more about design replications of values, principles, ownership, and entrepreneurship than any one specific example in all its wonderful uniqueness, although a terrific example is what might provide initial inspiration.

A couple of worries: Some of the case businesses seem to be more about boutique products for larger than local markets. And only a couple of the examples really address social and economic justice issues upfront -- including location in big cities.

1 comment:

Colin Austin said...

We live in a college town, complete with a farmer's market and downtown coop. We even get a box of produce every week from a local CSA farmer - an incredible young woman who has kept her small farm going through various entrepreneurial strategies. She was a grad student in public policy before she decided to go back to the land. Down the road a bit are two large poultry processing plants employing approximately 2,000 people, mostly immgrant workers from Mexico and Central America. Is there some kind of middle ground?