Chris Newman I March 18, 2023
There is great interest in our community to work more collectively with other producers and stakeholders along the ag supply chain, but little guidance on how to get started. Over the next month, Skywoman will be diving into how to be an aggregator or work collaboratively with one. In addition to this journal piece, we are putting together a workshop and panel on cooperative marketing that is set to debut in April.
Skywoman is thinking about aggregators across the following four categories, each of which possesses various strengths and purposes:
Let's dive into each:
Network aggregators put together products from existing independent farms on either a purchase or consignment basis, usually to supplement the offerings of the aggregating entity, which is typically another farm. The purpose here is to round out the offerings available through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
Market-makers provide a guaranteed buyer for farms purchasing products under certain conditions for quality, practices, etc., and are effectively a market of last resort. Their purpose is, in particular, to ensure that product in the food system circulates continuously and that cash isn’t locked up at producers in the form of spoiled product.
Incubator/franchise aggregators put together products from new farms (or new operations on existing farms) they build or help build themselves. Incubees/franchisees get the benefit of tenured land access, a guaranteed market, and technical assistance within the franchise network; the aggregator gets a guaranteed source of product and a semi-autonomous production supply chain. The purpose here is to build a market by building farms and farmers.
Incubator aggregators, furthermore, effectively serve as land trusts, and are of particular importance to getting tenured land access to marginalized people to allow us the ability to refactor food supply chains with the needs of ecological and human communities placed front and center. In a food sovereignty context, incubees/franchisees are onboarded with a path to ownership of the aggregating entity, to secure their derivation of benefits (and control) from value-addition/marketing, as well as land tenure, in perpetuity.
Hybrid aggregators take on the characteristics of more than one of the above models.
Workshop and Panel
Now that we've defined the four categories of food system aggregators we will lean on farmers in our community to share their experiences working collaboratively with other producers in their regions. We hope to discuss topics such as relationship building, setting and negotiating prices, and how to go about establishing a localized, farmer-led supply chain. As of now, we will be joined by panelists Cheyenne Sundance of Sundance Harvest, Tianna Kennedy of The 607 CSA and Chris Newman of Sylvanaqua Farms. Date and time to be announced soon!
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