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Good News For Community Food Systems




        Integrity Systems has just completed a year-long economic
feasibility study of sustainable community food systems under a Western
Regional SARE program contract.

        The purpose of the study was to test the conventional wisdom to the
effect that "Everyone knows the cost to consumers of food grown, processed,
distributed and consumed locally is so much higher than current grocery
store prices that consumers would not buy it." 

        Thanks to the generous contribution of time and information by many,
many participants in the sustainable agriculture and food systems worlds,
strong evidence was assembled which indicates that sustainable community
food systems can, in many instances, be cost competitive with current global
industrial alternatives, and in almost every case, can provide greater
service and convenience to the consumer.

        The Executive Summary of the feasibility study Final Report is
attached as an .html file "execsum.htm" which may be opened and read with
the web browser of your choice. Please forward it on to other individuals,
institutions or list serves you feel might be interested.

        We would very much like to see an expanded dialogue on the
stratagies and practical steps involved in shifting to a food system based
in sustainable production, community interdependent self-reliance, and,
contrary to the official position of the U.S. government, the concept that
food is a basic human right. 

        Any suggestions?

       
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<FONT  SIZE=+3><STRONG>A</STRONG>dding <STRONG>V</STRONG>alues to <STRONG>O</STRONG>ur <STRONG>F</STRONG>ood <STRONG>S</STRONG>ystem:<BR>
<EM><STRONG>A</STRONG>n <STRONG>E</STRONG>conomic <STRONG>A</STRONG>nalysis of<BR>
<STRONG>S</STRONG>ustainable <STRONG>C</STRONG>ommunity <STRONG>F</STRONG>ood <STRONG>S</STRONG>ystems</EM></FONT><P>

<CENTER><A HREF="#toc"><STRONG>Table of Contents</STRONG></A></CENTER><BR>

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<STRONG>Prepared for</STRONG><P>
<FONT  SIZE=+1><STRONG>United States Department of Agriculture<BR>
Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program</STRONG></FONT><P>
Utah  State University<BR>
Logan, Utah<BR>
USA<P>

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<STRONG>Prepared by</STRONG><P>
<FONT  SIZE=+1><STRONG>Integrity Systems Cooperative Co.</STRONG></FONT><P>
7101 Goodwin Road<BR>
Everson, Washington<BR>
USA 98247<BR>
phone: 360-966-2504<BR>
fax: (360) 966-7037<P>

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<STRONG>In association with</STRONG><P>
<FONT  SIZE=+1><STRONG>Sustainability Ventures Group</STRONG></FONT><P>
2686 Nelson Ave.<BR>
West Vancouver, B.C. V7V2R7<BR>
Canada<BR>
phone: (604) 878-1090<P>


&copy February, 1997<P>

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<A NAME="toc"></A>
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<TR><TD><STRONG><A HREF="#ack"> Acknowledgments</A></STRONG></TD><TD ALIGN=right><STRONG>iii</STRONG></TD></TR>

<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=VERTICAL SIZE=10></TD></TR>

<TR><TD><STRONG><A HREF="#preface"> Preface</A></STRONG></TD><TD ALIGN=right><STRONG>iv</STRONG></TD></TR>

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<TR><TD><STRONG><A HREF="#summary"> Executive Summary</A></STRONG></TD><TD ALIGN=right><STRONG>v</STRONG></TD></TR>

<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>A.  <A HREF="#summaryA"> Introduction</A></TD><TD ALIGN=right>v</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>B.  <A HREF="#summaryB"> Establishing a context for sustainable community food systems</A></TD><TD ALIGN=right>v</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>C.  <A HREF="#summaryC"> The economics of sustainable on-farm food production</A></TD><TD ALIGN=right>v</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>D.  <A HREF="#summaryD"> The economics of sustainable community food processing</A></TD><TD ALIGN=right>vii</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>E.  <A HREF="#summaryE"> The economics of sustainable community food distribution</A></TD><TD ALIGN=right>viii</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>F.  <A HREF="#summaryF"> Conclusions and future research needs</A></TD><TD ALIGN=right>ix</TD></TR>

<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=VERTICAL SIZE=10></TD></TR>

<TR><TD><STRONG>I. Introduction</STRONG></TD><TD ALIGN=right><STRONG>1</STRONG></TD></TR>

<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>A.  Background</TD><TD ALIGN=right>1</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>B.  Purpose and objectives</TD><TD ALIGN=right>1</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>C.  Study methods</TD><TD ALIGN=right>2</TD></TR>

<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=VERTICAL SIZE=10></TD></TR>

<TR><TD><STRONG>II. Establishing a Context for Community Food Systems</STRONG></TD><TD ALIGN=right><STRONG>3</STRONG></TD></TR>

<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>A.  Food production is becoming increasingly industrialized</TD><TD ALIGN=right>3</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>B.  An alternative food system approach is emerging</TD><TD ALIGN=right>3</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>C.  Industrial food systems and sustainable community foods systems are based on fundamentally different world views</TD><TD ALIGN=right>5</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>D.  Sustainable community food systems offer many benefits</TD><TD ALIGN=right>7</TD></TR>

<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=VERTICAL SIZE=10></TD></TR>

<TR><TD><STRONG>III. The Economics of Sustainable On-Farm Food Production</STRONG></TD><TD ALIGN=right><STRONG>10</STRONG></TD></TR>

<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>A.  Introduction</TD><TD ALIGN=right>10</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>B.  Characteristics of sustainable agriculture farms and farmers</TD><TD ALIGN=right>11</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>C.  Crop production yields</TD><TD ALIGN=right>12</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>D.  Crop production costs and net income</TD><TD ALIGN=right>17</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>E.  Food animal production and net income</TD><TD ALIGN=right>20</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>F.  Wholesale and retail selling prices</TD><TD ALIGN=right>23</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>G.  Summary and conclusions</TD><TD ALIGN=right>24</TD></TR>

<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=VERTICAL SIZE=10></TD></TR>

<TR><TD><STRONG>IV. The Economics of Sustainable Community Food Processing</STRONG></TD><TD ALIGN=right><STRONG>25</STRONG></TD></TR>

<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>A.  Introduction</TD><TD ALIGN=right>25</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>B.  Food processing options</TD><TD ALIGN=right>26</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>C.  Farmer controlled processing</TD><TD ALIGN=right>29</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>D.  Economies of scale</TD><TD ALIGN=right>31</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>E.  Significance of income patching</TD><TD ALIGN=right>35</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>F.  Wholesale and retail prices and profit margins</TD><TD ALIGN=right>37</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>G.  Summary and conclusions</TD><TD ALIGN=right>40</TD></TR>

<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=VERTICAL SIZE=10></TD></TR>

<TR><TD><STRONG>V. The Economics of Sustainable Community Food Distribution</STRONG></TD><TD ALIGN=right><STRONG>42</STRONG></TD></TR>

<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>A.  Introduction</TD><TD ALIGN=right>42</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>B.  Sustainable community food distribution options</TD><TD ALIGN=right>42</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>C.  Primary types of sustainable community food distribution</TD><TD ALIGN=right>43</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>D.  Economic performance</TD><TD ALIGN=right>56</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>E.  Summary and conclusions</TD><TD ALIGN=right>57</TD></TR>

<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=VERTICAL SIZE=10></TD></TR>

<TR><TD><STRONG>VI. Conclusions</STRONG></TD><TD ALIGN=right><STRONG>60</STRONG></TD></TR>

<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>A.  Can a sustainable community food system be cost competitive with the existing global industrial food system?</TD><TD ALIGN=right>60</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>B.  Do the benefits warrant the development efforts?</TD><TD ALIGN=right>61</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>C.  The market for sustainably produced foods is growing</TD><TD ALIGN=right>63</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>D.  Consumer attitudes and beliefs are very important</TD><TD ALIGN=right>63</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>E.  A number of key barriers need to be overcome</TD><TD ALIGN=right>68</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>F.  Making the shift to a sustainable community food system</TD><TD ALIGN=right>69</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>G.  Future research needs</TD><TD ALIGN=right>70</TD></TR>

<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=VERTICAL SIZE=10></TD></TR>

<TR><TD><STRONG>References</STRONG></TD><TD ALIGN=right><STRONG>73</STRONG></TD></TR>

<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>A.  Personal communications</TD><TD ALIGN=right>73</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>B.   Bibliography</TD><TD ALIGN=right>75</TD></TR>

<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=VERTICAL SIZE=10></TD></TR>

<TR><TD><STRONG>Appendices</STRONG></TD><TD ALIGN=right><STRONG>86</STRONG></TD></TR>

<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>A.  Background information on food production</TD><TD ALIGN=right>A-1</TD></TR>
<TR><TD><SPACER TYPE=horizontal SIZE=30>B.  Success factors in on-farm value added processing</TD><TD ALIGN=right>B-1</TD></TR>

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<TR><TD><STRONG><A HREF="#praise"> Praise For the Report</A></STRONG></TD></TR>

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<TR><TD><STRONG><A HREF="#order"> Order Form</A></STRONG></TD></TR>

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<A NAME="ack"></A>

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<TR><TD><STRONG>Adding Values to Our Food System: <EM>An Economic Analysis of Sustainable Community Food Systems</EM></STRONG><BR></TD></TR>
<TR BGCOLOR="#6DBCA3"><TD><FONT  SIZE=+2><STRONG><CENTER>Acknowledgments</CENTER></STRONG></FONT></TD></TR>
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<P>

First and foremost we would like to thank the review committee of the USDA Western Regional Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program in Utah for providing funding for this important research effort.  Analyzing sustainable community food systems is a very new area of study and we are grateful for their willingness to participate in this kind of leading edge research.<P>

We would also like to thank the following individuals who reviewed the draft report:<P>

<BLOCKQUOTE>
<LI> <STRONG>Peter Arcus</STRONG>, Arcus Consultants Ltd. (Formerly a professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.).<P>

<LI>	<STRONG>Sonia Banga</STRONG>, Small Business Development Center, Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington.<P>

<LI>	<STRONG>Katherine Clancy</STRONG>, Wallace Institute of Alternative Agriculture, Greenbelt, Maryland.<P>

<LI>	<STRONG>Collette Dephelps</STRONG>, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington.<P>

<LI>	<STRONG>Gail Feenstra</STRONG>, University of California, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, Davis, California.<P>

<LI>	<STRONG>Steven Garrett</STRONG>, Washington State University, Cooperative Extension, Tacoma, Washington.<P>

<LI>	<STRONG>John Hendrickson</STRONG>, Center for Integrated Agriculture Systems, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin.<P>

<LI>	<STRONG>Duncan Hilchey</STRONG>, Farming Alternatives Program, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.<P>

<LI>	<STRONG>Caroline Van Bers</STRONG>, Consultant, Dovetail Consulting Ltd., Vancouver B.C..<P>

<LI> <STRONG>Mark Winnie</STRONG>, Hartford Food System, Hartford, Connecticut.<P>
</BLOCKQUOTE>

In addition to the reviewers, we spoke with over 125 individuals during the course of the project, some of whom are not referenced in the report for confidentiality reasons.  These individuals gave generously of their time and knowledge.  While they are too numerous to mention individually, we wish to express our sincere gratitude for their support and interest in our work.  <P>

This report was co-authored by Fenton Wilkinson, President of Integrity Systems Cooperative Co. in Everson, Washington and David Van Seters, President of The Sustainability Ventures Group Inc. in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Jennifer Banowetz, Nancy Lee Bentley,  Steve Sahlin, and Janet Wadham provided research support at key stages of the project.<P>

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<A NAME="preface"></A>

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<TR><TD><STRONG>Adding Values to Our Food System: <EM>An Economic Analysis of Sustainable Community Food Systems</EM></STRONG><BR></TD></TR>
<TR BGCOLOR="#6DBCA3"><TD><FONT  SIZE=+2><STRONG><CENTER>Preface</CENTER></STRONG></FONT></TD></TR>
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<P>

The study of sustainable community food systems and, in particular, the study of their economic viability is very new.  As a result, very little rigorously tested research is available on this subject.  This study should therefore be viewed as an early effort that provides anecdotal information and general insights in a new field.<P>
  
For the most part, the study provides individual examples that are not necessarily statistically valid but which nonetheless indicate areas in which sustainable community food systems can be profitable and even competitive with industrial food systems.<P>

This research was designed to provide some useful baseline information on the economics of sustainable community foods systems, which future researchers can build upon.<P>

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<A NAME="summary"></A>

<TABLE WIDTH=100% CELLPADDING=5 BORDER=2>
<TR><TD><STRONG>Adding Values to Our Food System: <EM>An Economic Analysis of Sustainable Community Food Systems</EM></STRONG><BR></TD></TR>
<TR BGCOLOR="#6DBCA3"><TD><FONT  SIZE=+2><STRONG><CENTER>Executive Summary</CENTER></STRONG></FONT></TD></TR>
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<P>

<A NAME="summaryA"></A>
<FONT  SIZE=+1><STRONG>A.	Introduction</STRONG></FONT><P>

A growing number of people believe that sustainable community food systems (where food is grown, processed, and distributed locally with strong emphasis on environmental and social values) provide a viable economic alternative to the industrial food system.  The purpose of this study is therefore to determine if sustainable community food systems can be cost competitive with industrial food systems and under what conditions.<P>

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<A NAME="summaryB"></A>
<FONT  SIZE=+1><STRONG>B.	Establishing a context for sustainable community food systems</STRONG></FONT><P>

In the past several decades farms have become larger and more industrialized.  A mass production processing and distribution infrastructure has also developed to support these large farms.  Meanwhile, many small scale, local producers and processors have been bought up or have gone out of business because they could not compete with the large, agri-business food producers.<P>

Despite the ability of the industrial food system to deliver ample quantities of a diverse range of foods to feed a large population, a growing number of people are raising concerns about its impacts on the environment, farm households, consumers, food safety, and quality of life in rural communities.  Sustainable community food systems are therefore being suggested as viable alternatives.<P>

The key differences between the industrial food system and the community food system results from the fact that they are based on fundamentally different paradigms or "world views".  The industrial food system is viewed as the commercial production and delivery of food at the least economic cost, to those who can pay for it.  Profitability is achieved by replacing labor with capital; maximizing throughput; controlling nature with technology, fossil fuel and chemicals; and by specializing and routinizing tasks.  Conversely, sustainable community food systems  operate at a human scale with strong attention to environmental integrity, economic self-reliance and social well being.<P>

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<A NAME="summaryC"></A>
<FONT  SIZE=+1><STRONG>C.	The economics of sustainable on-farm food production</STRONG></FONT><P>

Sustainable, community scale food producers have the following characteristics: they are typically small in comparison with industrial producers;their crops are diversified; they use innovative practices to improve soil quality and plant and animal health; and they are often new to farming.<P>

<BLOCKQUOTE>
<STRONG>1.	Crop production yields</STRONG><P>

A common perception about sustainable crop production is that yields are significantly lower than crops produced with industrial methods.  While some research studies confirm this perception, many others show that yields can be the same or higher for a variety of crops under sustainable production.  The most important factor in determining yields seems to be the management skills of the farmer.  Further, most researchers agree that yields tend to decline for three to five years during the conversion from industrial to sustainable growing methods.<P>

<STRONG>2.	Crop production costs and net income</STRONG><P>

Crop production costs are difficult to compare between sustainable and industrial approaches because industrial production is usually evaluated on an individual crop enterprise budget basis whereas sustainable production is best suited to a whole farm analysis.  As with yields, some research studies show that crop production costs are higher under sustainable production while others show that they are lower.  However, on a total farm income basis, there is considerable evidence to suggest that sustainable food producers can generate similar and even better financial returns than comparable industrial food producers.<P>

<STRONG>3.	Food animal production costs and net income</STRONG><P>

One of the fastest growing, small scale animal enterprises is homestead chicken production.  Many farmers have found that they can earn good supplemental income even on relatively small annual production levels (300 to 1,000 birds).  While homestead chicken production generates less net income than industrial chicken production (which has higher throughput), the profit per bird under homestead production is much higher. <P>

Concerning homestead beef and pork production, evidence is growing that pasture raising and finishing of cattle and pigs can result in higher net income to farmers than industrial confinement feeding alternatives.  Further, there is growing evidence that small herd dairies, managed on an intensive rotational grazing method, provide greater profitability per unit of production than large, high technology confinement operations.  One Ontario study demonstrated that total farm income was 24% higher under sustainable dairy production.<P>
</BLOCKQUOTE>

For both sustainable crop and animal production it appears that grower profitability improves the longer that they use sustainable food production practices.  Further community scale food production has the benefit of putting underutilized farm equipment and facilities into productive use at minimal cost.
Small scale, organic food producers typically receive a significant price premium for their products (many receive average premiums of 30%) when selling through conventional distribution channels.  They face the same distributor and retailer markups as industrial farmers.<P>

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<A NAME="summaryD"></A>
<FONT  SIZE=+1><STRONG>D.	The economics of sustainable community food processing</STRONG></FONT><P>

Very little published information is available on sustainable community food processing.  This is because there is not currently much activity in this area and where there is, it is conducted by private sector firms who are very reluctant to release their competitive financial information.<P>

A number of processing options have strong applicability to sustainable community scale processors.  These include "ready made" (i.e. ready-to-cook or ready-to-eat) processed foods, canning and bottling, and custom-packing meat processing.  Ready-made processed foods are well suited to local markets, typically involve less capital equipment to produce than other processed foods, and command premium prices.  There is good potential to can and/or bottle high acid foods although the best opportunities appear to be for ready-made canned or bottled goods such as soups, stews, and sauces.  On-farm or off-farm custom processing of small quantities of chickens also has strong potential.<P>

<BLOCKQUOTE>
<STRONG>1.	Farmer controlled processing</STRONG><P>

Traditionally, farmers receive their lowest returns from the commodity processing market.  This is because processors need to acquire their farm inputs for as low a price as possible to compete in the very low margin processed food market.  One strategy to address this is farmer controlled processing.  <P>

A growing number of farmers have established successful grower owned, processing cooperatives to obtain secure markets and better prices.  Some of these processing cooperatives are very large.  Other farmers have resorted to small scale on-farm processing.  In some cases, individual farmers have joined together to jointly purchase processing equipment and storage, washing, and grading facilities.<P>

<STRONG>2.	Economies of scale</STRONG><P>

In general, the profitability of industrial food processing firms increases in a linear fashion with firm size.  This is why there is a high degree of consolidation and vertical integration in the food processing sector.  Nonetheless, there is evidence that small quantity, on-farm processing can be economically viable because the processors are able to keep their costs low by using farm family labor and on-farm kitchen facilities.  However, small scale processors that wish to increase their sales of value added products face unexpected difficulties.  This is because they are too large to use hand processed, low overhead production methods but not large enough to capture economies of scale.  The primary exception to this is processors of "ready-made" food products, which can be quite profitable at a medium scale.<P>

<STRONG>3.	Significance of income patching</STRONG><P>

A key characteristic common to community level food processing activities is "income patching," where the processing activity is one of several sources of income rather than the processor's sole source of support.  A number of opportunities exist for farmers to significantly increase their cash returns on a portion of their crop from small-scale on-farm value added processing.   For example, an apple sauce processor generated the equivalent of 6 months of a retail sales clerkís salary in only 16 days of processing.  Similarly, a homestead chicken processor earned 5.5 months retail sales clerk pay in 19 days of labor.  As with food growers, strong management skills are needed to be successful.<P>
</BLOCKQUOTE>

Unlike fresh products, the costs to produce organic and non-organic processed foods are very similar.  Nonetheless, organic processed foods are generally much higher priced.  The net margins for processors that distribute through industrial channels are typically less than 5%.  It appears that the path to profitability for community scale processors is to achieve a high margin on small production quantities as opposed to the industrial strategy of producing high quantities of low margin products.<P>

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<A NAME="summaryE"></A>
<FONT  SIZE=+1><STRONG>E.	The economics of sustainable community food distribution</STRONG></FONT><P>

The three primary options for distributing fresh and processed foods include: sale to large wholesalers/distributors, sale to local, independent retail outlets, and sale direct to consumer.  While sale to wholesalers/distributors makes up the lionís share of the food distribution market, the best opportunities for sustainable community food systems appear to be sale to retail outlets and sale direct to consumer.<P>

Producer/processor wholesale marketing cooperatives are a good example of selling to retail outlets (as well as institutions like schools and hospitals).  These cooperatives give micro and small growers access to markets that would not otherwise be available to them.<P>

Direct to consumer distribution avenues typically include road side stands, farmerís markets, direct home delivery, community supported agriculture (CSA), and food buying clubs.  However, there are many different combinations of direct to consumer food distribution approaches that can produce profitable results.  Further, these distribution methods not only provide economic benefits, they also provide social benefits by enhancing community relationships and educating people about the benefits of buying local, sustainably produced foods.<P>

Roadside stands can be a very direct to consumer retail food distribution approach because the distribution cost is eliminated by the consumer coming to the farm (or near the farm).  Farmer's markets are typically less capital intensive than roadside stands because buildings and equipment are shared and they are more conveniently located for the consumer.  However, these costs savings are often offset by the higher transportation and sales labor costs.  The gross returns from farmers' market sales are typically 200% to 250% higher than from wholesale fresh market sales and can be much more.<P>

Direct home delivery was once quite popular but has declined in popularity over the past few years (e.g. home milk delivery).  However, recent consumer lifestyle and attitude changes are signaling a reversal of this declining trend.  The strongest reason for the resurgence in the popularity of home delivery is convenience.  In spite of this  strong consumer demand, each home delivery firm tries, and is generally successful at keeping prices competitive with comparable retail grocery store prices.<P>

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a partnership between farmers and consumers to create a fresh food supply without waste or pollution.  While some CSAs operate in a typical commerce relationship, most involve much closer relationships between the customers and the food providers.  Shareholders are encouraged to visit the farms, not only for festivals but also to help with farm tasks such as weeding and harvesting. There are over 500 CSAs in North America and the number of CSAs is growing at 12% per year.  While the end consumer price of a CSA can be competitive with regular grocery store prices, prices vary widely from one farm to another.<P>

Food Buying Clubs are the reverse of grower cooperatives. Typically groups of consumers come together to pool their food purchases to generate large enough orders to deal directly with distributors or even growers.  A consumer survey in Hartford showed that food buying clubs saved 20% on their groceries.<P>

In general, the fewer middle-agents that food products pass through on their way to the consumer, the more money the farmers or processors receive.  Therefore, farmers and processors maximize revenues when they can sell direct to the retail consumer, followed by wholesale sales direct to retailers, then wholesale sales to distributors, with sales to processors typically bringing in the least revenue.  Food producers can receive 50% to 80% more by selling direct to the consumer.  As with the growers and processors, the economic success of community scale distributors depends on excellent management.<P>

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<A NAME="summaryF"></A>
<FONT  SIZE=+1><STRONG>F.	Conclusions and future research needs</STRONG></FONT><P>

Based on the above, there appear to be a number of niche areas of production, processing, and distribution where sustainable community food systems can be competitive with the industrial food system.  This finding helps to dispel the belief that costs under a sustainable community food system are so much higher than existing alternatives that they would be uncompetitive.  It also provides strong justification for communities to explore the development of local food systems as a key component of a community  economic development (CED) strategy.  For example, assuming that a sustainable community food system could capture 5% of the total food market, it would generate $13.5 million in annual sales for a community of 150,000 people.<P>

An expansion of the sustainable community food system gives farmers the chance to bring home a greater share of the consumer food dollar.  At present, farmers receive only $22 for every $100 that consumers spend on food.  However, under a sustainable community food system it is possible for the farm value to increase to $30 because such a system has lower marketing costs.  It also returns more cash to post farm labor, which improves community prosperity.  This 37% increase in revenues would represent a significant improvement in the economic viability of the average American farm.<P>

While this report represents an initial effort to determine the economics of sustainable community food systems, more research is greatly needed.  Key research needs include: a detailed analysis of the costs to shift from industrial to organic production for particular food products; a detailed economic analysis of processed food products that could be viable at a community scale production level; and a detailed analysis of the costs and revenues associated with particular direct to consumer food distribution techniques.<P>

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<TR BGCOLOR="#6DBCA3"><TD><FONT  SIZE=+2><STRONG><CENTER>What They're Saying About</CENTER></STRONG></FONT></TD></TR>
<TR><TD><STRONG>Adding Values to Our Food System: <EM>An Economic Analysis of Sustainable Community Food Systems</EM></STRONG><BR></TD></TR>
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Your paper of <EM>An Economic Analysis of Sustainable Community Food Systems</EM> is an excellent, comprehensive background paper. It pulls together many resources, making a helpful contribution to what we know about the economic viability of sustainable community food systems. <FONT  SIZE=+1><STRONG><EM>Gail Feenstra.</EM> University of California SAREP. Davis, California.</STRONG></FONT><P>

Nice work. Congratulations! I found this interesting and educational. I really like your writing style; very clear and clean. <FONT  SIZE=+1><STRONG><EM>Duncan Hilchey.</EM> Farming Alternatives Program. Cornell University, Ithaca,  N.Y.</STRONG></FONT><P>

I think that a lot of people will appreciate the effort that you put into the report; and that it will be a very useful jumping off point for various research and action projects. <FONT  SIZE=+1><STRONG><EM>Katherine L. Clancy.</EM> Wallace Institute Alternative Agriculture. Green Belt, Maryland.</STRONG></FONT> <P>

This is a tremendously useful document. I know that I will use it in my work, both as a practitioner of community food systems and in translating this important work to others. It is well laid out and easy to read. The tables are quite helpful and aid the general flow of information and look of the document. <FONT  SIZE=+1><STRONG><EM>Steven Garrett.</EM> WSU Cooperative Extension. Tacoma, WA.</STRONG></FONT><P>

Congratulations on putting together a unique, useful and thoughtful document. I look forward to using and sharing  the final version of the report. I believe your report will be very useful to a wide variety of people working in this area - both researchers and practitioners. Thanks! <FONT  SIZE=+1><STRONG><EM>John Hendrickson.</EM> Center for Integrated Agriculture Systems. University of Wisconsin. Madison,Wisconsin.</STRONG></FONT><P>

On the whole I thought the report was quite good, an excellent starting point for anyone trying to analyze the economic viability of small to medium scale sustainable food production and processing. I found the information about marketing and consumer segments particularly interesting as it suggests the kind of larger scale marketing effort we'll need to move sustainable closer to the mainstream.   <FONT  SIZE=+1><STRONG><EM>Mark Winnie.</EM> Hartford Food System. Hartford, Conn.</STRONG></FONT><P>

Many people have opinions as to the economic niche that small community based food production fills.  This is the first and only study that I have found that addresses this question, with valid economic analysis.  The methods are sound, the process detailed, and the treatment complete.<P>

This study establishes that, under competent management, long term sustainable production of crops and livestock produces higher profits for the farmer.  The report analyzes the characteristics of successful farms and compares the sustainable practices to those of conventional farms to
establish the extent of the organic advantage, both in yield and in profit.<P>

This report shows that sustainable production of crops is not always more profitable, but that profits can range from 75% to 471% of a conventional farm.  The average range lies between 113% to 135%.  In livestock production, profits per chicken are over 200% of those of confinement operations while dairy profits are up 25% over conventional farms.  There is little data for beef and swine production, but evidence suggests that similar profits could be realized.<P>

This analysis recognizes the value of sustainable organic production only in terms of an added bonus to the economic returns.  Thus clearly establishing that organic production is capable of producing a better quality product, with less environmental damage, at the same price or less than conventional farming methods.<P>

Perhaps the most interesting and useful information in the report deals with the market channels and value-added products that can boost farm prices higher and increase the economic impact on the community.  These attributes are in addition to the higher quality of the food being produced.  Detailed information about economy of scale processing, profit margins from different marketing aspects including Community Supported Agriculture is clearly presented.<P>

This report has carefully covered the ground from organic production through community food distribution, while carefully detailing the key factors for successful development of each stage.  The statistics in the report are backed up by detailed appendices of production and price data as well as a complete bibliography.  Another key item in this report is the 'Future Research Needs' section.  The author has objectively addressed this complex issue so well, that this section should be taken as the laundry list of research needs.<P>

This report should be required reading for all farmers, rural economists, extension agents, community food activists, county commissioners, agriculture college faculty and administrators.  The quiet power of this neatly packaged information could bring on a revolution in agriculture, but only if we the readers present it to others.  <FONT  SIZE=+1><STRONG><EM>Dr. Richard Knaub.</EM> Former extension agent, former agriculture research center manager and presently Director of Natural Resources for CNCC</STRONG></FONT><P>


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