New Farmers Find High Value Markets in Specialty Crops, Environmentally Responsible Production

With the cost of land sky-high, many beginning farmers are looking to get more value from smaller farms. High value products such as fruits and vegetables, pastured meats, and organic items offer a means for small-to-moderate sized farms and ranches to remain economically viable regardless of commodity prices.
Often, high-value businesses build on the resources of existing farms to make more complete use of people, land, and facilities. A young farmer in Minnesota stacked her meat enterprise on her parents’ grazing dairy farm. She earned top dollar for hand-raised animals by marketing direct to customers and minimized costs by sharing facilities and repurposing “waste” from the larger operation.

A nationwide Roper poll recently found that by a 2:1 margin, consumers trust small farms more than large industrial farms to responsibly produce safe food. Farmers in small-scale specialty production cater to these consumer interests.

Selling specialty products outside commodity markets is complicated by low volume, seasonality, shipping costs, and supply interruption. The Center for Rural Affairs’ Beginning Farmer and Rancher Resources (http://www.cfra.org/resources/beginning_farmer/) help farmers overcome these challenges to reach high-value markets.

In many alternative markets, environmental stewardship and humane production are rewarded with higher product values. By relating their stories through innovative marketing, farmers connect to loyal customers and build up marketing and distribution networks.

With these networks in place, specialty items and high value production methods offer an alternative successful path to bring small family farms into the 21st century.

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