Friday, January 01, 2010

Welcome to 2010! Entrepreneurship opportunities in regional foods

A friend sent me to a good Business Week article ("Entrepreneurs Keep the Local Food Movement Hot", by John Tozzi, Dec. 18, 2009) discussing a new study called "Community Food Enterprise: Local Success in a Global Marketplace". The study created multiple case studies focusing on the economic and community benefits of local and regional food enterprises.

I like that this study includes a focus on local ownership of food businesses. Developing local ownership of local food infrastructure is at the core of the Driftless project.

Here's what Woody Tasch from Slow Money has to say on the subject: "Advocates for local food say success depends on nurturing an interlocking network of small companies that produce, process, distribute, and sell food." Tasch continues," "We as a society and as an economy need to start optimizing for a large number of small things, not just relying on a small number of large things."

The study was a project of the Wallace Foundation, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Here is an overview: "The local food movement is now spreading globally, yet is not well understood. To many, local food is exclusively about proximity, with discriminating consumers demanding higher quality food grown, caught, processed, cooked, and sold by people they know and trust. But an equally important part of local food is local ownership of food businesses. This report is about the full range of locally owned businesses involved in food, whether they are small or big, whether they are primary producers or manufacturers or retailers, whether their focus is local or global markets. We call these businesses community food enterprises (CFEs)."

"This report provides a detailed field report on the performance of 24 CFEs, half inside the United States and half international. We show that CFEs represent a huge diversity of legal forms, scales, activities, and designs."

They found 15 strategies for creating success consistent with their community character:

-Hard Work
-Local Delivery
-Vertical Integration
-Shareholder Loyalty
-Better Access
-Better Taste
-Better Story
-Better Stewardship
-Better Service
-Revitalizing Local Economies
-More Community Spirit
-More Social Change

As almost 5 years of posts on this blog will attest, this list above matches sustainable work practices I know to work.

I have not finished the full report, but this looks to be a wonderful effort toward identifying measurable economic and social benefit that arises from the development of Community Food Enterprises (CFEs). The individual case study I've been paying close attention to and highly recommend is their "Zingerman Community of Businesses".

As we work on our CFEs in the Iowa County area in the coming year, - especially the Driftless project - this kind of empirical support will be highly valuable.

There is a strong demand for local and regional foods and not enough infrastructure to help suppliers meet that demand.

Local foods and regional food systems are emerging as one of the hottest of all topics in economic development. What a time to be a local foods entrepreneur, investor, or - best of all - consumer!

Happy New Year 2010!

Community Food Enterprise report

Business Week Article, Entrepreneurs Keep the Local Food Movement Hot.

Slow Money Alliance

Thanks for the Business Week article tip to Neil Lerner, a friend and Director of the Madison area Small Business Development Center.


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