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Why Local Roots wants you to grow your own food

Economic uncertainty and the need for community resilience are major driving factors to developing the Local Roots marketplace.

Hi friends.  As we prepare to launch Local Roots again, I wanted to spend a couple minutes and share the primary motivation that keeps me driving forward with the Local Roots concept.  Specifically, I’d love for you all to understand why it is so critical to me that we begin growing and making food ourselves.

When I was running my previous company, Argo Systems, I was fortunate to be a member of Vistage, the world’s largest CEO mentoring organization with 20,000 members worldwide.  One of the great benefits of Vistage was access to the Institute for Trend Research.  ITR is incredible at forecasting business cycles, both short-term and long-term.  As CEOs, we could understand when we should staff up, when we should acquire companies, and when we tough times were coming by looking at the upcoming business cycles.  I was an economics major in college, so I eat up things like business cycle forecasting.

In the depths of the 2008-2009 recession, Alan Beaulieu of ITR, visited several Vistage groups in Atlanta.  While trying to keep all of us CEOs from jumping off the ledge (“you will survive this”), he spent a good bit of time talking to us about where we should be really concerned.  Their models were all pointing towards a Global Depression beginning in 2030.  From 2008 until now (I saw them again 2 months ago), their models have not deviated.  They are still predicting a 10 year depression beginning in 2030.  (aside, one of their oddest tips is to buy a big house in 2029 because all of your kids and grandkids are going to come live with you).

For me, I could never get the thoughts of the 2030 Depression out of my head.  It haunted me.  What was my responsibility?  To take care of my family?  To go deep and help a small number of people?  To try to go broad and help as many people as possible, if only lightly?

I began to think, if a Great Depression did happen, what would people need most?  For me it was the basics of food, water, and shelter.  Ultimately, I settled on tackling food.  Specifically, if food supply chains broke down or food became prohibitively expensive for most, where could people get food?  Ultimately, my hypothesis is that they would have to grow it and make it themselves.

So now the really challenge began.  How do we start to change consumer behavior so that people will begin growing food?  The growth of the sharing economy began to show a potential path.  What if we could create economic incentives for people to start growing food or to grow more food?  Like crafty people suddenly selling on Etsy.  Like regular people becoming Uber drivers.  I’m not talking creating real farmers, but turning backyard gardeners into the new suppliers of the food chain.  What sort of economic incentives can we put in place to convince people to grow more?  The Local Roots marketplace is our current best thinking to making this all happen.

We don’t have all of the answers, yet.  Over the next 13-14 years, our goal is to create 10 million new food suppliers.  People who can help supply their own neighborhood.  We have already had bumps in the road and we will continue to have more.  But we can’t give up – I won’t give up.  This is too important.  If you have advice for us or would like to help us, we would love your assistance.

Thank you,

Doug Calahan

Founder, CEO, Local Roots

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