At a time when eating has become a political statement, the government is paying up to $19 billion a year to subsidize commodity crops in a glutted global market. Federal officials say that nearly 40% of all farm income now comes directly from government subsidies, and the farm bill signed by President Bush this year will pay $190 billion over 10 years, which includes $83 billion in new spending. However, there are two market niches that are growing at an amazing rate, the organic market and the simple farmers' market.
The organic market provides less than 2% of the nation's food supply and takes up less than 1% of its cropland. But organic farms are flourishing as never before. Over the past decade the market for organic food has grown by 15 to 20% and every year 40% of U.S. consumers occasionally reach for something labeled organic. Sales for organic foods are expected to top $11 billion this year. Conglomerates as big as Heinz and General Mills are now launching or buying organic lines and selling them in mainstream supermarkets.*
With no subsidies and no middle men, farmers' markets have increased by 79% since 1994, to 3,137 markets in all 50 states, and the number of farmers who sell at them has more than tripled to 67,000, the Agriculture Department has reported. About three million Americans a week now get their fresh food directly from the farmers who grew it. "Right now, green markets are growing faster than anything in agriculture," said Dr. Steven Blank, a farm economist at the University of California at Davis and the author of three books on the subject.
These numbers, of course, represent a very thin slice of the big pie of national food. Farmers' markets reported about $1 billion in sales last year, compared with more than $200 billion in overall farm revenue. Barely 3% of the nation's two million farmers sell some of what they grow directly to consumers.
But in an era of big-box food stores, when 10 major grocery chains control the purchase of 50% of fresh food, the proliferation of open-air markets has come out of nowhere, giving more consumers an option and allowing many small farmers to stay in business.**
With these trends in mind, Farmers Groups will concentrate on:
*Source: Certified Organic Geoffrey Cowley NEWSWEEK September 30, 2000.
**Source: Farmers Markets Booming Across US Timothy Egan New York Times, September 29, 2000.
The target customers include oriental vegetable markets demanding organic and semi-organic green vegetables, vegetable processors, and private individual buyers through direct selling and farmers markets. The company will continue to service the existing customers of the purchased vegetable farms. In its greens production the company will target virtually all main food outlets. The company plans to use the Internet as one of its marketing channels in the future.
The company's target customers will be as follows:
The company will also take over customers from the previous owner of the vegetable facility. Farmers Group has an established list of present customers of Errol Grynthum's vegetable farm, which is a major asset to the sales of the company.
Alabama is one of the premier farming areas of the eastern United States. This creates an intensely competitive environment with a large number of industry participants. Since almost all of the produce is considered to be commodities, and large scale buyers are more consolidated than the farmers themselves, overall margins are small and rivalries for wholesaler contracts are strong. Competitive threats come from three main segments:
Direct competition in the individual buyers market segment comes from three farms in the immediate area including the Anniston farm, Organics-To-You farm, and the Terrance Livingston vegetable farm. Each of these competitors has produce stands as well as selling to local farmers' markets. However, with the exception of Organics-To-You Farm, none of the others focus on a niche market and depend heavily on federal subsidies.
The Market Analysis Pie shown below reflects the total number of potential customers for Farmers Group. The number of Oriental markets and vegetable processors represent national estimates of industry participants, whereas the number of individual buyers represents the estimated annual number of individuals that will be driving by the farm.