Value-based value chain

I’m reading a really interesting book by Sarah Elton called Locavore: From farmer’s fields to rooftop gardens – how Canadians are changing the way we eat. Although I’m less than 50 pages in, I’m finding that I’m nodding along in agreement to what she’s written and I’m seeing things from a new or slightly different perspective. A few weeks ago, I wrote about a conversation I overheard on the bus about a farm dad and the changing landscape of farming from his point of view. Well, this book gives me more context for why the landscape changed in the mid 1900’s (more in-depth than just saying “post-war industrialization” but also another angle at farm dad’s story. A seeminglysimple concise reason: farming as a way of life to farming as a business.

Over the past handful of years (and with increasing interest and enthusiasm), I’ve considered more and more my food choices. What I pick to buy or make and when, why I make the choices that I do, and where I place the highest value (price, quality, aesthetics, ethics, etc.). Less of the mindless picking-things-off-the-shelves-because-they’re-there-or-cheap. I have to admit at this point that I’m very very fortunate (and appreciative) that I have the luxury of being able to think about these things because, although I’m not super wealthy, I don’t live paycheck to paycheck and I can afford to make lifestyle choices that others may not be able to.

Anyways, Sarah writes about an academic expression, the value-based value chain “to describe a food system that is founded on more than profit-making” (p.34 of her book). The context is farming to build community (not as much emphasis on competing with your neighbors in a drive to the bottom), to use environmentally sustainable growing methods, to have customers who understand the beauty and importance of ecologically- and economically-sustainable food sources…. Ah-ha!! This totally makes sense to me! Supermarkets are profit-driven commodity chains; supermarkets focus on profit margins, sucking customers in with cheap prices and “diverse” commodities. My local farmers’ markets, CSAs, and artisan food providers are value-based value chains; we all believe in similar values and we all get value out of being a part of the chain (I get fresh foods that taste delicious and that I know are farmed with love…because I can talk to the person who made it and they have pride in producing such amazing beauty and make money, hopefully a sustainable amount of it).

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