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Area cultivating community supported agriculture
The growth of community supported agriculture in the Fredericksburg area, Part 2.

Date published: 11/9/2012

This month's column contiues a discussion of how community supported agriculture developed in the Fredericksburg area.

DOING A community supported agriculture effort has dovetailed into my farming operation better than any single marketing tool I have ever known in my 51 years of retail farming.

There has never been a problem selling all the produce I can grow and pick Thursday through Sunday mornings, retail. Those are the days when the vast majority of retail produce shoppers are shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables at roadside stands and farmers markets. During the '90s a farmer could sell excess produce picked the first part of the week to chain stores at a price at or just above the cost of production.

Around the turn of the 21st century, competition between chain stores and big-box stores began to really heat up. At the same time, out West and around the world, large farms became even larger. From an economies of scale point of view, this became very efficient. Big-box stores could price their "purchases" (with the advent of the Internet and computers located at their warehouses) across the global market.

In other words, they could find the cheapest price for an airplane load or a tractor-trailer load of produce from a mega-farm anywhere in the world, and expect you, as a small local farmer, to match the price they found in Timbuktu. Not likely.

Big-box stores have won out over chain grocery stores and smaller big-box stores. So, now the real goal of big-box stores is no longer to beat competitors on price, but to beat themselves on price.

That means the wholesale price is never cheap enough, so the price farmers receive from the big-box store is always going down. Consequently, the retail price a consumer pays for produce in a big-box store generally has nothing to do with the wholesale price the farmer receives for the produce sold to that store. It's a total disconnect.

That's why farmers need to directly reconnect to consumers. Many thanks to people who are fed up with their produce coming from Timbuktu.


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Emmett Snead operates Snead's Farm along Tidewater Trail in Caroline County.