Small Farmers Get a Competitive Edge

How U.S. small farmers are finding creative ways to compete with agribusiness
Staff Writer

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

How can small farmers make a name for themselves in an industry dominated by agribusiness giants and competitive markets? Through cookbooks, specialty jams, olive oils and lemonades, apparently. 

Lately, farmers like David Mas Masumota from California have realized that their small orchards cannot compete with the giant agribusinesses unless they have an edge that makes consumers prefer their products over those found in the nation’s leading supermarkets. What these small farmers can give consumers that agribusiness can’t is an intimate, personal experience, or what the industry terms “value-added agriculture.” 

Value-added agriculture capitalizes on consumers’ increasing demand for connections with their food’s origins. Thus, Masumota and his family have created a cookbook to “use creative ways to share [their] story” and give people a reason to seek out their peach orchard’s produce.

Other examples include Draper Girls’ Country Farm in Oregon that allows people to pick their own fruit, rent a room, and buy fresh jams and cinnamon-sugar dried apples as a way to boost their farm’s community connections. Similarly, Green Mountain Girls Farm in Vermont offers farm stays, cooking classes, and workshops on how to make dairy products to visitors.

This new value-added agricultural trend relies on the idea of  “story-based farming” that has turned Masumoto’s unprofitable organic peach farm into a “hip, profitable business involving consumers in the farm through stories.”

People seem to be more willing to spend more money on organic, local produce if doing so gives them something extra: a connection to a sense of a place, history, and individualism that they can’t find in their nearby supermarket.     

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