We are thrilled to introduce Mike Koch, a recognized change maker and local food innovator, as our new Executive Director. We asked Mike to share his vision for FRESHFARM Markets that takes on the economics of our food system and puts the farmer at the core of its mission. Here’s Mike in his own words.
A MISSION: IN THREE ACTS
I am thrilled by the opportunity to continue to serve FRESHFARM Markets mission as Executive Director, and humbled to follow in the footsteps of Co-Founders Ann Harvey Yonkers and Bernadine Prince. Their vision and leadership over the past 19 years has altered the landscape of agribusiness and local food in our region, creating the environment necessary for a thriving group of viable food businesses and brands, including my very own FireFly Farms. I am committed to continuing their work, committed to ensuring that our regional and national food systems are diverse and sustainable.
And, I am invigorated by what lies ahead: a future dedicated to realizing the mission of FRESHFARM Markets. In my view, ours is a singular mission thanks to the vision of Ann and Bernie. It is a mission that dares to take on the underlying economics of our food system, and to support and give voice to those who raise, make, or otherwise produce the food we eat.
It is an important mission, one that has as much meaning in Washington, DC as in Atlanta; as much relevance in London or Madrid or Bangladesh. It is a mission in three acts:
Act One: Supply-side
Global population is rapidly increasing and is likely to reach between 7.5 and 10.5 billion by 2050. Feeding that growing population is ? and will continue to be ? challenging under the best of circumstances; already today in many places around the planet, strained food systems have lead to food shortages and food unrest.
Macroeconomics suggest that when large increases in food demand occur, there will be commensurate ? if lagging ? increases in food prices, unless and until the supply of food increases.
A broad and diverse set of food producers is needed, globally.
Act Two: Food (Security)
Whatever your convictions, investing in a community?s ability to feed itself from its own regional ?foodshed? is becoming a point of galvanizing consensus. A rather primitive consensus like that only developed through generations of inherited experience. The alternative might lead to some Soylent Green reality of mass-produced, synthetically manufactured food, goodness forbid.
Draw the radius as far as you like, feeding the estimated 40 million people who call the region home requires an active and vibrant community of farmers, food producers, and food entrepreneurs. To survive, these local businesses must be profitable, well-managed, and have access to the resources and services they need. It is also in our interest that these local food-producing businesses not just survive but thrive, and that they produce a diverse and locally indigenous group of foods and food products.
Act Three: Investing in your Garden
It has been reported widely that the overwhelming majority of American farmers are operating at a loss ? the median farm income was negative $1,453 in 2012. Many of these farm families require additional non-farm related income to make ends meet.
Global food production and distribution has become a business that advantages scale, and food systems in the US economy have accommodated that advantage well over the past decades. Some innovative food businesses and entrepreneurs have invested in changing their sourcing models to ensure the viability of smaller, sustainably scaled local farming, some have not.
Our regional food distribution system needs to accommodate such smaller scale partners ? and the very different economics that govern their success.
Over the past two decades, FRESHFARM Markets has served as a catalyst, spark, and incubator fueling change in our regional agricultural landscape. I am committed to continuing this work, and honored to steward this ground-breaking, innovative organization that has the farmer at the heart of its mission.
~~ Mike Koch, FRESHFARM Markets Executive Director