The Business of Local Foods

This website lays out our strategy for building large scale sustainable food systems, including key concepts and business practices required to attract serious local investors. 

Investors

With all due respect to E.F. Shumacher, small is not beautiful if it is not profitable. Building profitable and sustainable food systems requires millions in new local investments. These funds must come almost exclusively from active private investors because government agencies and foundations are not in a position to lead on financing new commercial-scale natural and organic farms, ranches and gardens. In fact, privately funded local farms and food companies are becoming the new normal in sustainable agriculture. 

Doubters should check out Slow Money. Although angel investors and donors still dominate the Slow Money movement, thousands of local investors and their supporters have organized investment groups and clubs to help finance new farms and food ventures in and near their home communities. The Let’s Eat Investment Group, LLC of Omaha and Slow Money of Northeast Kansas are among these new community leaders. 

History

With more than 50 years in organic agriculture and a long family history in diversified farming, we understand that our long-term food security depends on locally owned farms and food businesses that pay living wages and take good care of our soils, water, wildlife and farm animals. We own farms near Bennington, Nebraska and Massena, Iowa. 

We are influenced by E.F. Shumacher, Wendell Berry, Woody Tasch and many others, including my late father, Bob Steffen.

 Bob Steffen, circa 1975

Dad was the farm manager for Father Flanagan at Boys Town for thirty years and a leader in developing large scale natural and organic farming methods for the Midwest. Our challenge now is to find the economies of scale that lie between Small is Beautiful and the realities of the established food system – all without ignoring the real needs of land, labor, capital and management.

Please contact me, Jim Steffen at js@localfoods.org, jim@massenafarms.com or 402-317-2639 to learn more about financing sustainable food systems.

Thank you.

Note: The pictures on this page are courtesy of the Boys Town Hall of History.

Updated 08-27-2015