Springing ahead of the market or strategizing how to extend your season? Spring is quite an exciting time for many of us, whether it is the long preparation of ordering seeds or the possibility of a new cultivar doing well in the market.
The transition period can also bring a mix of emotions. Our emotional and physical state is a critical part of the operation. For small business owners, we don't think of ourselves in our business enough. Are you paying yourself for the amount you are working or are you donating hours to your business? In this week's The Grower and The Economist episode, Peter and Michelle talk about different levels of training for a seasonal business, receptivity of challenges, and logistics of value-added processes.
Michelle is working on an economic and impact analysis of a Vermont program that reimbursed restaurants for providing meals to people who needed food. It required restaurants to purchase 10% of inputs from Vermont farmers. It supported the farmers, the restaurants, and kept labor in the labor force during the pandemic. The survey results showed that the program was most impactful for restaurants in the winter months. On the other side, it would be beneficial for farmers to be receptive of this seasonality challenge and think about extending the season. Peter adds,
"Early and late crop turns are associated with the highest profit, not necessarily the greatest volume production."
Let's not burn out. Let's grow some fall crops! Peter shares the example of selling butternut squash to supermarkets after the new year. There was some shrinkage, but price was double or triple the price in fall months. Michelle notes the impact of water resources in California and Yuma, Arizona on lettuce growth. Could this be an economic driver to grow locally in controlled environments?
The main objective of controlled environment agriculture (CEA) is to produce enough food to eat. There is a lot of value in producing food equally throughout the year. There are also value-adds that can be introduced post-harvest! The Vermont program raised an important point on prepared meals. Systems that lightly process local vegetables can increase accessibility and even out peaks and valleys. This requires labor, but a prepared meal can bring back the premium from any lost in the processing stage.
As humans, we like our predictable schedules. It would be wonderful if we could supply the same food year-round; but, seasonal food is exciting and yields nutritional benefits too.
Stay tuned for the next episode with a hot sauce company that sources from local farms where we will discuss how to find the right channel to turn your crop into a value added product.
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