SUPERMARKET ALTERNATIVES

I'm on my way back from New York City today after talking with GTS financial services in Manhattan last evening as part of an in-house enrichment series, similar to when I talked at Google headquarters following publication of Folks, This Ain't Normal.

 This investment house handles 5 percent of all the trading volume on Wall Street, doing nearly a billion trades PER DAY.  These are sharp, savvy young people in the pressure cooker of trading.  It's like a day trader . . . on steroids.  The ultimate Tyrannosaurus Rex of day trading.

 At Q&A, the dominant thread was when Polyface food would be available in a supermarket or even Whole Foods or whatever.  Like most urban folks, these bright young people could not wrap their heads around a food system that circumvented the local supermarket.

 It led us to discuss the hurdles of getting into those kinds of venues.  The number of hurdles for innovators to get in are serious.  And they pay slow--120 days is common.  Many folks don't realize that supermarkets finance themselves by selling their inventory prior to paying for it.  Their vendors actually finance the venture.

 The bottom line is that all innovation starts small.  Known in business circles as the lunatic fringe, the most innovative edge of change is necessarily embryonic and prototypical.  It takes awhile to develop the infrastructure and protocols to bring a new idea to functionality, to disperse it throughout the marketplace.

 I do lots of podcasts and media interviews, and the pushback is always "what about the big cities?"  At this stage of the game, where only 1 percent of the food produced is worth eating, I don't have all the answers to these questions.  But I know that the current orthodoxy developed over time, incrementally.  And the substitute will also develop incrementally.  We didn't even have a supermarket until 1946.

 What's exciting is that our Polyface customer from heaven that I introduced you to yesterday and who was responsible for this invite is looking at 3,000 pounds of food coming directly from our farm into NYC this month.  Neither he nor I knows yet what vehicle or method we'll use to transport it, but the fact that in a few short months the demand has gone from some sample packages to this is nothing short of astounding.  Goodness, if the trend continues within another year we'll be needing a tractor trailer to send it up.

 And therein lies the point--nothing develops spontaneously at full maturity.  So the folks who dismiss the "know your farmer, know your food" as undoable in a city like NYC are simply not allowing themselves to dream, to enjoy a vision of what could be.  As Stephen Covey in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People points out, you have to build it in your mind before you start pouring concrete.  If we're actually going to displace and replace the current factory industrial chemical destructive food system, we have to start with gung-ho pioneers who go where other people aren't going.  The naysayers who say "everybody can't or won't drive down to Polyface like this guy" are missing the point.  The point is that one did.  One pioneer ventured into new territory.

 And he's already seen the demand go from a handful of packages to 3,000 pounds, in just a few months.  That could easily move to 10,000 pounds.  Then you get economies of scale.  Then others can jump on.  The fact is that nobody has to think about all of NYC because all of NYC isn't going to be interested.  All we have to do is provide an option for the lunatic fringe.  In the natural progression of things, that will move into the early adoption phase and then who knows what the final model looks like?  I have no idea.

 But bulk buying, pre-planning, re-investing in home larders and freezers, rediscovering domestic culinary arts--these are all part and parcel of the system where the consumer comes alongside the farmer and they meet halfway.  The problem is the naysayers don't want to change anything about their lives except have authentic integrity food magically appear on the same shelves they currently frequent.  This is the classic symptom of insanity:  doing the same thing and hoping for different results.

 No, consumers must put down People magazine, forget about the Kardashians for awhile, and invest time and money in pioneering a brand new food system, one purchase at a time.

 Are you ready to leave the fort and explore a new frontier?