Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bring Local Food to Consumers with a Real Farmers’ Market

My sister is rich enough to shop where she wants and to buy what she wants in the way of food. I guess most of us are that rich but most of us won’t shop and buy what we want. She does. I’ve seen her cook a $10 steak for her little boy’s bedtime munchies. She says vegetables straight from the garden are best but she thinks Harris Teeter is almost as good. I really wouldn’t know since I don’t shop there, but their use of the term “farmers market” does bother me most every time I hear it. In my mind a real farmers market has to have farmers.
If one of the other chains would like to compete with Harris Teeter, here is an idea.
Let a local farmer set up in the parking lot of each store. Then advertise that you have real farmers. The customers would come to buy something in season then wander in the store to get what they can’t get from the farmer. The customer traffic would pick up enough to pay for the advertisement plus give you an increase in sales. The farmer can’t be there all the time, but the customers will still come. (Such is the nature of variable rewards). Limit what the farmers sell to what they can grow themselves. This will keep the volume low enough so there isn’t a chance they will hurt your inside business. Just the increase in customer traffic will make this strategy worthwhile, but go ahead and charge the farmer about 10% on his total sales. If you have no stocking cost, no product loses and no overhead cost, you can almost make money on 10%. Like I said, it doesn't really matter since you have improved your bottom line already. The final point is that with the number of farmers in our area, the first chain store in will be the only chain store in. There are not enough farmers to go around.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ponds in our landscape

In a world with higher energy cost and more frequent water restrictions ornamental pond design needs to change. Ponds designed so they have to be topped off to maintain aesthetics require more water than a similar size lawn or vegetable garden. Ponds designed where large pumps have to run continuously use quite a bit of energy. Neither of these features will suit a certain clientele in the future. These environmentally conscious consumers might be interested in water features that could double as rainwater storage and fluctuate in depth to comply with water restrictions without compromising aesthetics. But those criteria are not the best practices of the current water gardening industry. I’m not sure how to make these clients happy, but there will be opportunity.
These clientele will be born after 1962. The first earth day occured before they were ten years old. 10 years old is the time when people look around and say "This is what the world is like". Everybody wasn't affected by the environmental movement but the ones that were have a totally different mind set than people born a few years before 1962.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Peak fall color for Cabarrus County

Peak fall color for Cabarrus County for 2007 was on November 14. A rain fell overnight and knocked many leaves off, however there is still plenty of color. Some plants that partly died from the drought had excellent color in the rest of the plant. Wonderful year for sweet gums. Dogwoods are still hanging on. Often they drop their leaves early. Poplars and maples are still providing good color although the leaves dropped during the drought would have improved them. Blueberries have colored earlier than normal. Oaks still haven't colored. Black Walnuts still have leaves. Often, their leaves are diseased and gone by the middle of September.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Strenghtening Our Local Food System.

This morning I set in on a meeting about our local food system. There are three proposals on the table for strengthening our local food system. They include a small farm incubator. This is a facility to help young people interested in farming overcome two major barriers. The first is the capital expense and the second is the knowledge of how to run a farm. Prospective farmers lease a portion of the property to farm. The only one I know in NC is called Raft Swamp Farm. Another idea is developing a local facility for killing livestock. Right now a farmer would have to haul a cow to a different county for slaughter and then go back in a separate truck to haul the animal back. The extra expense increases the cost and makes it less profitable for farmers. Concurrently, we are looking at developing institutional markets for the cheaper cuts of meat. One of the problems with growing local beef in the past has been selling the cheaper cuts. Solving these two problems should create more money for the 7 million dollar livestock industry here in Cabarrus County. Finally, improved management for our local farmers market would strengthen our fruit and vegetable industry.