We have a bit of a running joke here: Mark is either networking or farming, depending on who he’s spent the last hour talking to. Last night we got to do both at the same time. The USDA and Michigan Land Use Institute put on the last in a series of meetings about “Finding Local Funding.” It was good to see some familiar faces among the farmers, even though we were in Kalkaska. We also visited with some of the “vendors” who we’ve done business with in one way or another. It was the first time I’d met Evan Smith, who’s the operations manager for Cherry Capital Foods now. He seemed like a very personable, easy to work with fellow who knows what needs to happen and can get it done. We decided it was worth slipping our way up to Kalkaska to “network” with folks about farming topics like chicken processing, value added ag products, pastured poultry, and hogs. Baker’s Green Acres is part of a whole picture of producers, processors, and distributors. It’s neat to see a room full of the whole picture as it is starting to come into focus.
Kudos, too, to all those who are part of it. Two big distributors, SYSCO and Spartan, are becoming interested in buying and distributing local goods, tho they would, of course, need it on a large quantity basis. Need I say we are skeptical? Cherry Capital can deal in quantities, but values the local connectedness between producer and user. They can also be more flexible to deal with “real” goods, recognizing that nature doesn’t always produce the perfect size or shape in her fruits. Can commodity buyers like SYSCO and Spartan do this? That’ll remain to be seen, I guess. It’ll be interesting to see if they can draw from enough small farmers at prices that are fair and sustainable to the farmer to provide for their customers. We’ve speculated that they are getting interested because the small farmers are getting good enough at producing and marketing to be noticable in the bigger scene. Quality and quantity are coming together to feed the people without big business’ involvement. Hmmm….It’s a situation to keep an eye on.