Feeding the World From Our Backyards

Without people, you don’t have anything.

That, in a nutshell, is demographics. Defined as the study of human population, it’s become a dominant factor in marketing, enabled first by government census surveys, later by professional data gatherers and now by technologies that reach into every part of more people’s lives. It’s also become a factor in SPIN farmers’ marketing. Here’s why: Scale and mobility.

Over the years, we have seen demand for what we produce grow far beyond the locavore/foodie crowd. Once a market demand becomes big enough, it starts to include different segments of people who can be defined by their tastes, preferences and budgets. Increasingly this includes nationality.

There are also lots of reasons prompting people to move between countries. Based on the U.S. Census, projections are that the majority of the country will be made up of many different minorities by 2044. What’s important to note is that it is not solely an urban phenomena. Suburbs are becoming much more diverse, too. “Multicultural” will be a dominant force for years to come.

The US has long been viewed as a melting pot. Now it’s more like a quilt stitched together by a common thread. It comprises many different groups, each seeking to preserve what makes them unique. Food is a big part of that.

“Feeding the world” has a whole new meaning. For SPIN farmers it means more cultural niches are right outside our front doors. In all of our startup coaching sessions and training, demographics and cultural niches have become as important to talk through as production and startup costs because they’re useful in targeting customers and planning crop repertoires.

The shift to a more global product mix can already be seen in some of the larger food stores which are offering exotic imported fruits and vegetables like breadfruit and cactus leaves. The opportunity for SPIN farmers is to identify what they can grow to meet this new demand.

For those who have already been experimenting with heirlooms and other unfamiliar crops, it won’t be much of a leap. Sometimes it just means growing a different variety of bean, green, pepper, potato or squash. Or leaving the greens on turnips, or selling pumpkin as a staple vegetable, not just a season pie ingredient.

As with any niche crop, we don’t need to make money on every one. We need to attract a new customer. The customer becomes profitable as they buy more from you. So it becomes “basket-size” profit. There may also be spillover demand among native-born customers looking to try the latest foodie recipe, or revisit a taste they experienced while traveling abroad.

Here’s the bottom line: In an increasingly mobile world, SPIN farmers are using their small, nimble businesses to serve new community clusters, and adding multicultural to their product mix. In addition to keeping them well-fed and healthy, they are also helping their customers express who they are.