Is your food or farming business as resilient as a prairie?
Does your business have the assets it needs to survive the COVID-19 pandemic?
During this COVID-19 pandemic, many food and farming operations have transformed the way they conduct business. They have quickly adapted to their new environment. Adaptability is one of the key principles of sustainability. Sustainable businesses embrace a triple bottom line, meaning they measure their financial performance, as well as their impact on the community and the environment.
According to the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development, one of the most common sustainable business practices is turning what was once thought of as “waste” into viable product. Waste can be defined in a variety of ways. It might mean, wasted time, wasted talent, or material waste produced during a manufacturing process. In most cases, reducing waste increases profitability and causes less damage to the environment.
Food and farming businesses have the opportunity during this COVID-19 pandemic to examine all of their costs – costs of ingredients, seeds, land, equipment, and labor to determine where waste exists. Is your restaurant kitchen going unused for hours at night? Maybe you can rent space to a local baker. Are some of your tomatoes going bad before you can pick them? Perhaps you can turn them into a sauce, soup, or salsa.
Another principle of sustainable business is looking to nature for solutions. How does nature respond to a disaster? In nature, fire has served as a partner in both the creation and maintenance of healthy prairie systems. Lightning strikes can burn hundreds of acres of prairie lands in just a few short hours. Everything is scorched and seems burned beyond repair. But life soon begins again with bright green seedlings emerging from the soil, because native prairie grasses have deep roots that can survive the wildfires. It is the non-native species that are burned and are slow to grow again. Before the fire, non-native species can overwhelm a prairie and create an imbalance in the natural system. Fire cleanses the prairie and makes prairies stronger.
Does your business have deep roots in the community so it can withstand this COVID-19 pandemic? Do you have people and partnerships you can depend on? The Michigan State University Extension and MSU Product Center have food and farming business counselors stationed throughout the state who can support your business and connect you to resources. The MSU Product Center specializes in helping food business owners navigate regulations, sourcing packaging and ingredients, pricing, marketing and sales, nutrition facts labeling, and process authority review.
The MSU Product Center and Michigan State University Extension are here to support people, families and businesses during this challenging time. MSU Extension offers a wide variety of online resources on many topics. For more information, visit https://www.canr.msu.edu/rlr/.