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Rob Spiro

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A Better Economy Through Empowered Foodmakers

Posted: 07/26/2012 5:00 pm

Local food systems are an antidote to the profound ills of today's international, homogeneous, industrial food system. These networks of independent, founder-owned companies care about the people they employ and the communities they sustain. They provide wholesome and nourishing food that's absent of the chemical byproducts, hormones and antibiotics used by industrial food producers that make people unhealthy. But local food producers still face big challenges as they struggle to compete with grocery store prices and navigate atrophied distribution channels.

Solving this problem would have incredible consequences. A better society starts with local food systems -- the most basic form of production in this world. In the course of our research into the local food movement, we've met farmers and foodmakers who are committed to their creative pursuit and leading the way to a better economy. They're serving a community of customers with dedication, integrity, quality and good old-fashioned entrepreneurship. In the process, they keep customers healthy and improve natural ecosystems with proper stewardship of the land.

Unfortunately, some of today's values-driven food entrepreneurs are barely making ends meet in the best of cases, and are much less able to send their kids to college or think about retirement. If these jobs were more profitable, and thus sustainable, we'd see the creation of many more of them. With more high-integrity farmers and foodmakers, we'd see a healthier food industry in this country.

Companies like Etsy, Kickstarter, and TaskRabbit have created decentralized networks of entrepreneurs to drive incredible changes in their respective industries. The same can happen with food. Farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) lists are using more sophisticated tools to reach their customers. For example, Good Eggs creates tools to help foodmakers sell directly to consumers and get a higher portion of the retail dollar; reduce or eliminate the administrative hassle of sales, so that they can spend more time making great food; attract more customers in their communities; and simplify the logistics of food distribution.

The opportunity is not to invent a movement, but to build software to support one that already exists. In the past year alone over a thousand new farmers' markets were created in this country, a 17-percent increase in one year. By bringing meaningful technology to the thousands of local food entrepreneurs out there, we can accelerate the changes that they're already making and give them power to increase their impact. Ultimately, massive and radical decentralization is necessary and inevitable in the food industry, and it's a phenomenon that internet technologies are perfectly suited to facilitate.

Good Eggs uses a series of neighborhood-specific marketplaces that allow people to buy local food, find farmers' markets and food-events in their communities, and get inspired about local eating. For farmers and foodmakers, we're building tools to plug into these neighborhood marketplaces. This technology is different than other internet marketplaces because it's being launched one location at a time; nothing is shipped, everything is purchased for in-person pickup or home delivery; it places an emphasis on relationships between customers and producers, above and beyond just the transaction itself. A better society starts with local food systems.

Imagine a future in which technology is totally complementary to individuals doing good work that sustains their humanity. On the eve of the computing revolution in the 1970s, the thinker E.F. Schumacher theorized the creation of "a different kind of technology, a technology with a human face, which, instead of making human hands and brains redundant, helps them to become far more productive than they have ever been before." By building that different kind of technology with Good Eggs and similar tools on the web today, we hope to enable the good jobs that will fuel the economic renaissance, jobs in the food industry and beyond.

 
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