Keith Agoada: Why I Started Producers Market
Farming Is Hard Work!
The days I’ve spent on farms and getting my hands into the soil has helped me to understand that farming is a job that requires consistency, discipline, and physical labor. Where do farmers’ profit margins fit into the hard work they do?
Outdoor farmers take on the most significant risk of everyone on the supply chain. They have to rely on the cooperation of mother earth: sunlight, rain, storms, pests, and disease. As a farmer, even if you can do everything right, it is still possible to lose your harvest for reasons outside of your control.
Small Farmers and Profit Margins
So what about when a farmer does make it to the finish line and harvests a perfectly good crop? How is it possible that the farmer can still lose? A big part of the job actually begins post harvest.
Most farmers don’t have options for where to sell their outputs. Price is determined by markets, or in some cases, the buyer, and the farmers have to survive as price takers. When there is oversupply of raw materials (which can be the case in seasonal produce) and/or when the product is highly perishable, small farmers take what they can get.
Being profitable is essential for business. This is clear. When we speak about pricing to most people on the supply chain–the corporate buyers, distributors, brands, and retailers, everyone talks about the need to “hit their margin.” And rightfully so, because this is business. However, when I speak about profit margins to small farmers, most don’t even know what theirs is. Sometimes they don’t know what it means.
This is a broken model.
Farmers are doing arguably the most important job for society. With this critical work, they take the highest risk on the supply chain, and often lose their money–even when they do great work.
Producers Market has a lot of big visions. At our core, we are passionate about uniting farmers on one platform. Farmers should never see other farmers as competition. We want to see farmers at the top of the pyramid where we all work in service to their needs. Together, farmers can build post harvest infrastructure, add-value to outputs, go further down the supply chain, acquire insurance and financial resources at competitive prices, thereby flipping the pyramid.
This situation is what motivates me everyday. It is the main reason why we started Producers Market. We want to see farmers lowering their risks and making more money. Farmers aren’t interested in lip service and cheap words, they are interested in getting paid fairly and on time. It’s that simple.