Capturing a Value-Added Niche Market: Articulation of Local Organic Grain

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The market for organic and locally-grown products continues to expand as consumer preferences demand them. One category that has been relatively underserved has been the market for local and organic small grains, such as wheat. Small grains provide multiple benefits to organic farms, but are underutilized because of their relatively low economic value compared to other organic crops. Small- and medium-scale producers in the northeastern region of the United States have faced challenges to produce and profitably market small grains for a whole host of reasons. Policy initiatives by New York State and GrowNYC's Greenmarket have expanded the market for local and organic grains and fueled the revival of small grain production in the Northeast. To meet demand, it was necessary to create the full value chain including the necessary infrastructure to handle relatively small amounts of a crop ordinarily sold as a commodity and processed at an industrial scale. This case study examines the articulation of a value chain with independent—but interdependent—enterprises connected by innovative agreements and strategic partnerships. The value chain includes the owner-operator of a farm located in the Finger Lakes region of New York, a milling enterprise started as a partnership with another farmer, and a community-supported bakery, where the farmer is also a partner. The case study also demonstrates how institutions and policies can help establish new markets to meet consumer demand, how farmers and entrepreneurs can identify market opportunities, and shows the articulation of a value chain on a micro-scale.

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