Dear Friends at Modern Farmer Magazine,
Rachel and I read your publication with enthusiasm. From stunning photography to witty prose, each issue is an encouragement to our agricultural ventures.
With that in mind, may I humbly share a concern in your September 2015 issue?
We couldn’t find the old-fashioned “letter to the editor” box, so we will share it here instead, and tag you on Twitter. This is, after all, Modern Farmer Magazine. =)
On page 47, David Zuckerman writes about his experience running CSAs. As a fellow direct-to-consumer farmer, I’m not so sure about his recommendations on pricing:
“See what other area CSAs charge and study the price of seasonal produce at…and supermarkets. Then try to undercut them all.”
That strategy may grow a customer list, but it defies the laws of microeconomics to expect that a small-scale producer can compete with supermarkets on price, and still make a decent living. Supermarkets, and the corporate farms that supply them, are designed to be efficient and price competitive. They are machines built for volume over profit margin, and it isn’t possible for a small farmer, taking all costs into account, to get properly compensated for her work while fighting them in a price war. That would be like asking a one-man, hand-made furniture producer to compete with prices at IKEA. He simply can’t do it.
A small farmer provides a completely different customer experience. She replaces the soulless supermarket with a transparent production system, a smiling face and a compelling brand. On that playing field, she is untouchable. She should talk up the clean and safe production practices, show pictures of happy grazing animals, and then let customers draw conclusions about those “other” producers. Fortunately for her, a growing crowd of customers are figuring out that food decisions are too important to be left up to price.