The Distribution Challenge – June 13, 2012

Hi all -

I had the chance to catch up with several of our producers over the weekend at the Longmont Farmers Market. Aside from the usual production challenges (chicken coops getting too hot, colony collapse concerns, etc.) the whole “distribution” challenge came up again.

Local producers, like Aaron Rice from Jodar Farms, spend equal or greater amounts of time dealing with transportation and distribution logistics than they do on the farm. While it’s getting somewhat easier to produce local foods (check out the Colorado Cottage Foods Act), getting their products to customers is suprisingly difficult.

Unless the producers sell on premises (a limitation for many potential customers who can’t – or don’t make the effort – to get to the farm), they sell at local markets or go through retailers. This raises reseller challenges, paperwork, stiff regulation, and often “…defeats the point” of efforts by producers to keep things local.

The new concept of micro-distribution centers has generated a spate of calls and emails to us, mainly from producers who want to learn the ropes on how to get others set up. Why? It gives them a channel to buyers, even if they can’t get to the farm. Similar to co-ops but even more local, micro-distribution centers meet the requirements in the Cottage Foods Act for an approved venue that producers may use for sales: “ON THE PRODUCER’S PREMISES, AT THE PRODUCER’S ROADSIDE¬†STAND, OR AT A FARMERS’ MARKET, COMMUNITY-SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE¬†ORGANIZATION, OR SIMILAR VENUE WHERE THE PRODUCT IS SOLD DIRECTLY¬†TO CONSUMERS.”

Establishing neighborhood micro-distribution centers helps both parties – consumers and producers. Plus, we’ve found that there is no better way for neighbors to get to know one another. Since we’ve opened up our garage, we’ve met more than 15 families – and we’ve had the same feedback from the folks who come by the garage. It’s an added benefit – or perhaps that is the primary benefit?

See you in the garage,

Nels