Actually, I want to talk about doing business based on trust. Does that sound crazy to you?
Years ago, Kevin and I had an epiphany. We realized that we were growing low value commodity crops, selling them to multinational buyers, who then processed and sold the crops back to us as food at much higher prices. Not only were we exporting crops but also high value, meaningful jobs. The most personal and painful part of it was that we could not make a sustainable living farming that way.
We asked ourselves, if we can grow the best crops and animals in Saskatchewan and have the largest arable land base in Canada, why aren’t we processing and feeding ourselves too? In part, that spawned Pine View Farms All Natural Meats.
Food purchases are one of the biggest dollar leakages out of local economies. Saskatchewan’s self-sufficiency in in-season vegetable production has declined from about 7.0% of in-season demand in 1991 to under 5% in 1999 (read more here). Moreover, we raise a lot of livestock and poultry that are shipped elsewhere, processed and sold back to us at higher prices. That’s crazy.
Now I’m going to stand loud and proud on my soap box. This is pure editorial grounded in our personal experience.
We employ 5 full-time and 20 part-time people, in addition to ourselves, on our little farm. We grow a fraction of the chickens that a commercial producer raises but add approximately 10 times the value per bird. [Note: we have extra processing costs associated with our meat that other conventional farmers do not have. Net income comparisons would be difficult at this point.]
We provide meaningful ongoing employment in our local community. In turn, our staff take their paycheques and spend them at the local grocery store, hardware store, pharmacy, hair studio, massage therapist and more in Warman, Osler and Saskatoon. Those dollars help sustain other local businesses — the economic flywheel starts turning and we see small businesses not only survive, but thrive.
The profits that we earn are reinvested into new equipment, expanded buildings, hiring more employees, investing in marketing and so on. Dollars and our volunteer time also go to community charities, schools and projects.
Now, you might say that chain stores and multinationals employ locals and are active in the community. Plus they offer lower prices. Who can argue with that?
If you want to know what others think about that, click here.
My answer to you is ‘Yes, multinational chains provide employment but the bulk of high value jobs are situated in head offices outside the province, and likely outside Canada. Hence, it’s a brain and dollar drain out of our economy.”
Furthermore, low prices always have a cost, it just might not be readily apparent on the price tag. Where were those low-priced products produced? What are worker conditions like? Are they paid a living wage? What are the environmental and/or food safety standards where they are manufactured?
In our experience, someone or something always pay for low prices — the environment, workers, farmers or our personal health. What are we prepared to sacrifice for lower prices?
I’m not gonna lie. The last year or two haven’t been easy as some of our wholesale accounts have closed and consumers hold their dollars tightly. We’ve had to work harder than ever for each and every sale. Maybe you’re feeling the same in your business or job?
Granted, every entrepreneur must adapt to market demands, listen to the customer and find innovative ways to meet consumer desires in a profitable way whilst delivering excellent value to the customer. One can never rest on her laurels — successful small businesses constantly evolve! I get it.
Amidst the geopolitical turmoil, name calling and general instability that swirls in the news these days, I search for hope. I believe this world could use big dose of hope right now and the best place to start is at home, where my heart is.
BALLE gives me hope. BALLE (Business Alliance for Living Local Economies) is an organization that espouses LOCALISM — choosing local first. Learn more here.
Localism is grounded in the belief that relationships matter most — our relationships with people, animals, land, all of it. And localists recognize the powerful spinoff effects of our everyday decisions.
Oh yes, you can speak with your wallet and shape your world every day! It’s not hard.
By supporting each other, we create vibrant, creative local businesses and an economy that serves us, not the other way around. Doesn’t that sound inspiring?
“At its heart our movement for local living economies is about love.”
– Judy Wicks, BALLE Co-founder
I like that quote. When we love where we live, we make better choices for ourselves and our community.
I believe in Saskatchewan — in the creative, diverse, intelligent and independent people who call it home.
I believe that brave and adventurous entrepreneurs can grow resilient, market responsive businesses that serve the needs of our home community AND create the jobs AND economic stability that we all desire. Small businesses are the heartbeat of imaginative, vibrant economies.
In return, I believe that the people of Saskatchewan will support companies and entrepreneurs that provide excellent value, provenance and care for their community.
I believe that we’re all in this together, and that we are all better off, when we are all better off.
What if more of us took the long view, invested in our local businesses and chose local first whenever possible? What could we create in this beautiful province? Are you a localist?
Let us know what you think.