David Cohlmeyer Sustainable Good Foods Consultant

Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)

While attending Purdue University in the 1960’s, I volunteered for a project to study supermarket efficiencies. The goal was to identify ways to more effectively market the high margin processed and packaged foods. The most effective layout was to relegate unprofitable perishables to the perimeter; then to promote the profitable colourfully packaged foods in more spacious centre aisles. This soon became the new norm that we continue to see today.

In 2014 Big Food (the multinational corporations that fill the centre aisles of the world’s supermarkets) lost $4-billion of their market share. This was not a fluke. They have lost $15-billion of market share since 2009! Clearly, they have not been listening to their consumers who have been asking for more flavour, transparency, organic, vegan, GMO-free, and gluten-free products. Consumers want fewer of the preservatives and pesticides that so effectively bring down Big Food’s costs of production. Sales of fresh foods (produce, dairy, and meat) around the perimeter of the stores have been rising by 5%; while packaged and processed foods in the aisles are declining by 1% per year.

There are huge new opportunities for both small and large producers. Big Food has been reacting by aggressively acquiring medium-sized Natural Foods businesses and smaller Sustainable Foods enterprises. Since these companies typically have lower margins than the multinationals are accustomed to, they are predisposed to reduce quality in order to maintain their customary profits. So we have even fewer of the products we desire and need. Please read this fascinating article in Fortune magazine.

These are the same multinational corporations that have been secretly negotiating a trade pact to provide themselves with another lucrative way to deliver us products that we do not need or even want. True free trade benefits everyone, then in turn leads to a more healthful and peaceful world. But allowing Big Food to set the rules behind closed doors is entirely the wrong direction to go.

Until Small Food can afford a lobby to attract the ear of Big Government, we will likely become subject to the new TPP rules – and also the upcoming European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement CETA rules. Significant changes are coming! But there will still be places to continue my work in helping Sustainable Foods enterprises identify niches in which to thrive.

Sunny Days with Justin Trudeau?
Sunny Days with Justin Trudeau?

Funding Opportunities

For the past decade the Harper government steadily reduced economic supports that could help the Canadian Sustainable food community compete with other country’s producers that continued to receive more and more supports. But late in the election campaign (likely after the Conservatives tracked a decline in support) came announcements of two new supports:

  1. Weather risk mitigation strategies and practices will have 35% cost-share funds up to $31,500 for edible horticultural and perennial producers. This covers professional, purchase and installation costs of new cold weather mitigation equipment. For more details scroll down to page 31 of this page in the Growing Forward 2 (GF2) website.
  2. Community economic growth and employment initiatives will have 20% cost-share up to $1-million. This could be for a shared food processing facility or food hub. Rural Economic Development (RED) is making this available for communities of fewer than 100,000 population. Applications are due by January 15.

These are valuable (though not newly announced) supports:

  1. Farm Viability Workshops is a new series of training sessions being delivered by FarmStart. The Agriculture Management Institute (AMI) contracted me to develop a curriculum to help farmers track and understand their Costs of Production, Cash Flow Budgets, and important Financial Statement Ratios. Workshops start on November 28 in Chatham and December 12 in Guelph.
  2. The final intake for GF2 Capacity Building Projects is due by December 3. I can help you prepare and word your application(s). And of course I remain available to provide approved and experienced consulting that will be 50% cost-shared. Winter is the ideal season to work on the many available and worthwhile projects.
  3. The Big Carrot’s Nature’s Finest Fund is once again available for local farms and businesses that could benefit from some financial assistance. Applications are due by December 7.

New Technology

2015 Investments in new Agtech Start-ups has already exceeded $2-billion. Investors are envisioning tremendous growth potential in agricultural businesses. However, all this is not be as big as it appears. Dot-commers like to throw lots of money at potential projects; then see what takes off in a huge way. Nevertheless, keep a lookout for the app that could change your life. This New York Times article explains more.

Growing lettuce for food on the International Space Station is a new technology. But this experiment intrigued me because the lettuce variety used is Outredgeous. This is my favourite earth-garden red romaine that was developed by my favourite traditional breeder, Wild Garden Seed’s Frank Morton.

FYI: I have finally joined LinkedIn. So if you wish to connect with me on this network, please send a request.

Upcoming Events

Restaurants for Change is an annual fundraising event to create change in our food system by empowering food programs in low-income communities across Canada. Make a reservation at your favourite nearby participant for dinner on October 21.

Reel Asian Cinema is showing Changing Season, a film about David Masumoto’s California peach farm on November 7 at Toronto’s AGO. I enjoyed meeting “Mas” at the first Slow Food Terra Madre Conference in 2004 soon after reading his very eloquent book, Four Seasons in Five Senses: Things Worth Savoring.

Bring Food Home is a large annual conference organized by Sustain Ontario. This year’s conference is on November 20-22 in Sudbury (which is now much easier to drive to on the nearly completed Highway 400 extension). Check out the extensive program then register for an enlightening weekend.

Our Living Soils is the second annual Ecological Farmers Association Of Ontario (EFAO) Conference. This year’s conference will be held December 3-5 in London, Ontario. Please take a look at this Draft Program, and then register for this enlightening program for farmers, by farmers.

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Contact David Cohlmeyer

David Cohlmeyer smiling with his farm in the background
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6556 Line 9, RR #3
Thornton, On, LOL 2N0