In recent years, Iíd say my biggest change has been regarding economies of scale and marketing realities. Twenty years ago my vision for the food system in Virginia was thousands of little mom and pop farms like ours serving their neighbors. I no longer think that is viable for two reasons. First, urban centers would be hard pressed to grow all their own food within their communities. Second, most farmers are marketing Neanderthals. Either they really donít want to be around people, or they donít know how to interact with them. A successful marketer needs to be a bit theatrical; a storyteller, schmoozer, gregarious type. And thatís not typical, especially among John Deere jockeys.
Whatís the answer? I donít know, but what Iíve come up with is what I call food clusters. These require production, processing, marketing, accounting, distribution and customers ó these six components make a whole. The cluster can be farmer-driven, customer-driven, even distribution-driven initially. But once these six components are in place, it can micro-duplicate the industrial on a bio-regional or foodshed scale, which includes urban centers. I think a local integrity food system could supplant the opaque industrial one in Virginia, but realistically it would comprise several hundred or a thousand $5-$10 million food clusters rather than several thousand mom and pop $100,000 fully-integrated enterprises. I certainly never thought our farm would top $1 million in annual sales, but it happened.