Monday, February 16, 2009

The Supply vs Demand Bowl

Nearly everyone is aware of the basic concepts of supply and demand.

But, the question here is - which one drives the other? Of course, I'm looking at it from the perspective of a vegetable farmer - so that can give us some context. And, it is ONLY a blog post - so don't expect to read this and pass your econ test tomorrow.

Demand takes an early lead.

I've had many growers indicate that they simply respond to what the market tells them to grow. If the newest thing showing up in food shows, etc is kohlrabi, they will increase production of that crop. Others are a bit more pragmatic and simply grow based on direct requests for new items and/or prior sales of things they already grow. But, in these cases, the producer will tell you that their crop decisions are largely based on an interpretation of demand.

What does this mean?

Positive take:
It means that every person who consumes food has a say in what gets grown, how it gets grown and where it is grown. If the producer base consists of a broad base that is waiting for market pressure - then the market pressure needs to be increased with demand for a quality product grown in a sustainable fashion.

Negative take:
Producers often are not willing to spend the time to promote things that are new and different - even if they could potentially do well with them. In fact, both producer becomes complacent and simply works to maintain or increase demand while they try to increase the supply of a less diverse set of crops. The consumer becomes complacent as they spend less time considering their options.

But, Supply makes a come back!

On the other hand, suppliers/producers have a responsibility that includes the education of those who make up potential demand for a product. Who else is more aware of the nuances of the product than the producer? We have to walk the fine line between education and propaganda to do this. But, a better informed consumer should be able to alter the demand to include a more diverse set of crops grown in more sustainable fashions.

In short - we all need to care enough to consider our options.

As a supplier of food - we need to take the time to continue to learn our job of growing food and educate the consumer as to their food choices. We need to be willing to innovate and take risks even if it means that we will not see immediate success in our first growing season with that new trial.

As a consumer of food - we need to take the time to learn how food is grown and who grows it - then make it clear that we want GOOD food. We need to be willing to take the time to put a little effort into getting our food and perhaps.....stop considering convenience to be the number 1 requirement?!

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