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KC Food Pioneer: ‘Yes You Can!’

Local food supporters hear $10 million success story

July 24, 2008 | By Patty Cantrell
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

  Diana Endicott manages a 100-farm co-op that is transforming the food market in the Kansas City region.

TRAVERSE CITY—This year, the Michigan Land Use Institute celebrated the publication of its fifth annual Taste the Local Difference farm food guide with a special event: A lively gathering around fine local food and drink spiced with an inspirational address about just how successful a local food economy can be, given by someone who should know.

Diana Endicott, manager of the Kansas City area’s Good Natured Family Farms cooperative, told an enthusiastic crowd of about 140 people gathered at the Hagerty Center about the back-story of her co-op, which by 2007 was enjoying $10 million in annual retail sales to 30 supermarkets in Kansas City. Good Natured, with its 100 small- and medium-sized farms, is one of the nation’s best examples of a diverse range of growers, each with their own products and perspectives, coming together under a common brand to forge a new market reality.

Ms. Endicott told those at the festive gathering, called Fresh Fields for Fantastic Foods, about next steps for a local food economy. Co-sponsored by the Institute, the Traverse Bay Economic Development Corporation, and the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, the event attracted a powerful mix of people, including growers, food buyers, and community leaders.

Audience members seemed very focused on learning from the best and doing what they can to grow jobs, build health, and protect land with food that is thousands of miles fresher!

Ms. Endicott explained the fundamental values and practical approaches behind the success of the Good Natured Family Farms brand and cooperative.

In her talk, much of which is captured on the video, the local food pioneer said that her cooperative:

  1. Makes sure it stays on consumers’ minds by placing at least one product in every grocery store department, from meat to mixes.
  2. Blends the price expectations of different types of farms into one that works for all, called "lifestyle pricing."
  3. Operates as a network of producer groups, with one farm as the lead contact and coordinator in each.
  4. Meets processing and distribution needs by partnering, or just biting the bullet and starting up a small meat processing plant, for example, themselves.

Thanks to Joe Mielke for videotaping this presentation.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Patty Cantrell directs the Michigan Land Use Institute’s Entrepreneurial Agriculture Program. Reach her at pattyATmlui.org.

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