Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Hypocrisy of Local--Prologue



The business of marketing and advertising usually includes the rampant overuse of buzzwords when telling a “story” if it ensures gaining a little more “shelf space” in the minds of consumers. Not such a bad thing if we can take our businesses from basic survival to thrival. More often than not though these buzzwords are little more than self-important aggrandizements used by producers for their products. All in all they are intended to reshape the minds of the average consumer, because, as we all know, reality is perception. And, if we can create the perception in the minds of consumers that something is healthier, more luxurious, cheaper, or simply more like the real thing, then it most certainly must be.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I will publish a number of blogs that address the misuse and abuse of select buzzwords in the agricultural world where I live and run a business. Locally Grown, Value Added, and Organic are the first three to be taken on. I’ll start with Locally-grown because I have begun to take a particular dislike at how this seemingly innocuous term is being abused by everyone from farmers, some of which are my neighbors, to Wal-Mart, my not-so-neighbor. Questions to ponder as I go through this are: when is local no longer local? When is value-added a dirty word? Is organic certification more important than that over-the-fencepost chat you can’t have with that 1000-acre industrial farmer in central California?

In the end this business of marketing and advertising is all about adding value to the crops and products we produce no matter our size, sales geography, or ownership. It is about our particular story and what is ultimately inside the business shell we operate within. How we define and convey the terminology we use as we grow (literally and figuratively) and market our crops is everything to our success.

Blue Marble Farms’ story is about who we are, what we do, and how we grow our crops. It is about giving our customers the tools they need to discern and understand the difference between buying California organic and ecologically grown New York apples. It gives our customers the opportunity, should they take it, to come up to that fencepost and find out that this is not the land of Oz, but just another farm utilizing new, innovative tools and approaches to help grow and market ourselves and our products, and ultimately survive, in a world where small farms have suffered at the hands of failed US farm policy. Where getting larger is not an option because land costs far exceed a farmer’s ability to recoup any investment, much less come up with the cash to run a larger farm. We have to look at our businesses from the other end.

But let’s be truthful. These buzzwords have value only if we utilize them properly and retain their integrity. We need to add value to what we do in a way that keeps us from becoming just another fizzy, over-priced, over-caffeinated “energy” drink. I invite everyone to look inside Blue Marble Farms and see us for what we are: growers and purveyors of local, gourmet, and ecologically grown food. I’ll be at the fencepost.

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