The Business of Local Foods

By working together, local investors and sustainable growers can compete with the big regional and national food companies. This website offers basic management and financing tools designed to increase the variety, quality and availability of sustainably produced foods.

After more than 50 years in organic agriculture, we understand that our nation’s long-term food security depends on ready access to affordable and interesting proteins, fruits and vegetables. We can reduce our food security risks if local growers, investors and landowners form new business partnerships that include:

  1. Increasingly longer land leases tied in part to local sales
  2. Farmer-owned food brands with local marketing and processing
  3. Capital and operating plans with the full costs of: a) Humane animal care, b) Planned wildlife habitat, c) Fair wages and safe working conditions, and d) Planned soil and water conservation programs

Partnerships

We are developing our first partnership around our Bennington farm. This new company is supported by professional agronomists and experienced marketers. Rural and urban communities in Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa can learn more about local food partnerships by scheduling a no-cost educational program. These programs introduce Slow Money principals to residents, farmers, landowners and investors.

Sustainability

Sustainability in agriculture certainly requires that we adopt organic, Biodynamic and other holistic methds. However, food system sustainability also requires local growers to increase sales in measurable ways in order to attract local investors. More sales and better financing are essential because restaurants, CSA’s and farmers markets do not provide the free cash needed to expand our local food systems.  

Given this reality, our mission is to develop practical farm management, marketing and financing tools for sustainable growers. Although the path to local food security starts at farmers markets and on the back steps of locally owned restaurants, we (farmers, community members, landowners and investors) need and want commercial-scale sustainable food ventures that can supply area retail markets.

However, before we can earn our retail shelf space, we must learn to compete with Earth Bound Farms, Organic Valley and the many other non-local companies that have the size and marketing power to dominate the retail space in the Omaha area. If we do not learn to compete for retail customers in our own trade area, we will never develop the economic strength to create living wage jobs and reclaim our soils, water and wildlife habitat.

History

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 jim@massenafarms.com or 402-317-2639 to learn more about sustainable food systems.

Thank you.

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

Updated 05-18-2015