I guess it would be more accurate to say that I have failed. Now that I have a clear plan of how I will move forward, I thought it important to outline why I think the farm and I failed, primarily for myself. It is nice to think that someone would see this and even benefit from the log, but I will dismiss that idea as vanity.
- The small business landscape today changes so fast that there can be no academic understanding of it. There are few rules that you can apply that will guide you to success.
- Limited success can kill you. If you are lucky, say doing some coding that attracts the attention of a mega company, you can sell out quickly and make money. Otherwise, any small success will be copied by so many and so fast that you may never innovate again. Predators are ruthless.
- Business diversity is not the friend of the small business owner/operator. The idea of diversification just made sense to me. When one thing doesn’t sell, the other will. More people will be looking at you because you have more to offer. It is a sound principle for Walmart but for my small farm it meant spreading limited resources so thin that everything suffered, mostly me. Did everyone else already know that?
- The small business is not the future of America, it is a lie. If it is touted as a partial solution for the dwindling job market it is only done so to protect those powers that are now harvesting the wealth of the middle class. I also employ tricks to distract my sheep when I need to catch them for….
- Self-deception is the drug that keeps us going. While I was standing next to other small farmers, competing with them in the friendly atmosphere of the farmers market, I believed I did things better, my produce was superior, my meats more unique. When they stopped showing up at market it was because they were not as good as me. What other reason could there be?
- My hard work and sacrifice would ultimately be rewarded. This is a tough one. This idea is at the center of everything American and to even attempt to disagree with it would only invite ridicule and scorn. I don’t need any more of that.
- The ability of the large produces to control not just prices but the infrastructure, like insurance or certification, required to bring a product to market, is a tool they us to squash even the very smallest competitor. I use to think that such a tiny vendor as myself would not be noticed much less worthy of attack. Again my own vanity led me astray. It wasn’t about me, but all those like me added together. As the economy winds down and the last remaining profits are snorted up, even the 2% market share is gone after.
- Likewise, the niche markets are no longer a good bet. It’s a niche market for a reason. If there is any money to be made there a corporation has already financed a spinoff to go after it. The small number of sales I could generate by selling, say wool blankets or tanned hides, did not support my costs and I could not simply keep increasing the price.
- Cheap imports, including food, cannot be competed with. Yes, the Chinese imported talpia or shrimp my not be as wholesome as a locally grown variety, but as people are forced to take jobs paying less they will compromise.
- What you sold to people last year you can’t count on selling to them the next. All of us are victims of the dying economy and we fall away from sight to become poorer and sometimes homeless. We survive by spending less money on good food and other items so that we can keep what we have come to believe is more important.
We will survive by having less so that we can keep what we believe is more important. Cota Farms was as much an idea as it was a farm and the two never did quite come together. It would be easy to say sour grapes, but it is not true. I look back and recognize my failures and mistakes but I also acknowledge that I did not possess what was needed to bring that idea into this world.
Of course there are many examples one could point to and say, “see, that person was able to do this or that with just a handful of beans.” I salute them. This is not a blog about how to become successful with just a handful of beans. That alone is refreshing, it is my diary.