BusinessWeek Article: Entrepreneurs Keep the Local Food Movement Hot

Local food businesses play a much more critical role in economic development than commonly thought, a new report shows

By John Tozzi

Entrepreneurs are flocking to local food, starting businesses devoted to producing and delivering food within their communities. Just as consumers focus new attention on what we eat and where it comes from, farmers, foodmakers, restaurateurs, retailers, distributors, and processors are rethinking the business models behind it. They want to create enterprises that will succeed in the long run for local food to be more than just a fad or a luxury for wealthy Western consumers.

A report, “Community Food Enterprise: Local Success in a Global Marketplace,” spotlights 24 ventures around the world that are pioneering models for local food.They range from the sprawling Organic Valley farmer co-operative, which ships more than $500 million in dairy and other products annually, to a caterer in Zambia that has branched out to selling processed food and equipment. The examples include private companies, co-ops, and nonprofits. Whatever the form, all the enterprises are locally controlled and aim to be sustainable business operations, not dependent on grants or government subsidies.

The 190-page report, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, highlights the role local food businesses play in economic development—creating jobs and bringing money into a community.Michael Shuman, an economist at the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies and co-author of the report, sees economic development intertwined with developing local food systems.For example, the Appalachian Harvest Network in the Appalachian region of Virginia and Tennessee helps mostly poor former tobacco farmers switch to growing organic fruits and vegetables for specialty stores and grocers, replacing a shrinking market with a growing one.Likewise, researchers found that the majority of the small farms that sell their crops at New York City’s green markets could not survive without the access to the city’s customers that the program provides.

To read the full article go to BusinessWeek Online at: http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/dec2009/sb20091217_914398.htm

To see the Community Food Enterprise Report go to: http://www.communityfoodenterprise.org/

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