I will remember this year (and when a farmer says year, we really mean growing season, fyi) for many reasons, but mainly just for two—the growing season and the expansion of a network.This year’s growing season has been the best that I have yet to see in NM. Granted it is only my 4th one here, but still it is a year that I have been waiting for since March 2003. We have had some good growing years up until now, but no amazing ones. And as I look at the contents of this weeks box, it is hard for me not to smile.For some reason or another the stars have just been in alignment this year for LPO. A large part of me knows that it is just Mother Nature cooperating with us with climactic conditions. But there still is that small part of my hubris that wants to claim that we might actually be learning something throughout our trials and tribulations. Shoot, the two are not mutually exclusive, so maybe both are happening. Hopefully so.Besides all the good that seems to be pouring in from the fields, our network is expanding. Well, maybe that sounds misleading. When I think of something expanding, I think of expanding ones distance. But we are actually shrinking our network’s distance, so maybe we are in essence contracting our network.We are attracting the eyes of more local growers as viable way for them to easily and effectively distribute their Organic produce. And by we, I really am referring to you, the members. I have very little to do with it, but it is through your support that allows us to move (eat) large amounts of produce, which entices local growers to team up.You see, as a mid scale grower (maybe 10-100 acres) you run into a marketing dilemma. And that is this, you are too big to effectively sell through Farmers’ Markets. Those markets alone cannot sustain the financial burden or move enough product for a farm that size.So that leaves the grower with having to wholesale their produce through what is called a clearing house. And many times, the clearing house will not sell it to the final consumer, but to a retailer or possibly yet to another wholesaler. What ends up happening (as we all know) is that there is then constant pressure for the grower to drop their prices. A very pride swallowing act for any grower to have to do. And a terrible cycle that needs to be relieved of its duties whenever possible. And through a tight local network of growers and ranchers, everyone wins.So why then is it different when LPO becomes the wholesaler, you might be asking? And it is a good question. The first important point to look at is that we are not a trucking company. We act merely as a distribution hub for local growers. They bring it to our cooler, we pack boxes right there, and then you get it that week. Simple and tight. It is almost a straight line from the farm to your casa...more or less. But you get the point.The other important factor to look at is the overhead issue. The larger the wholesaler, the larger the overhead, which in turns leads to increasing prices for consumers, and decreasing profits for the grower. There is Food Industry Economics 101 in one sentence. And I honestly do not know if our overhead could be any leaner than it is right now. Not without losing sanity.And being a grower I know how it feels to haggle with someone over price, so we do not do it. We ask the grower what price they would like to see, and 9 times out of 10 it is totally reasonable. For growers know that it is through that “reasonable” price where they can sell the most product. The free market is a beautiful thing at times, and actually can promote a win-win situation for all the parties involved. Very sweet.
Enjoy, Farmer Monte