The Procurement spectrum assesses the proximity between a brand and the farmers growing its raw ingredients. This two-pronged analysis examines both the relationship between a food manufacturer and its farmers and the relationship between those farmers and their land, as assessed by operation size.
HowGood rewards direct connections between manufacturers and producers, in which companies buy directly from small- to medium-scale farms and farmer cooperatives. These direct ongoing relationships are mechanisms of constructive social control that support better treatment and compensation of individual farmers, in turn encouraging better employment and stewardship practices on-farm.
The interaction between farmer and land is likewise an important ongoing relationship, ideally characterized by a sense of stewardship. The size of a farm is an important indicator in HowGood’s research process, because the larger an operation the more likely it is to be subject to downward cost pressures that prioritize short-term productivity over long-term custodianship of the land. The majority of ingredients used in the US food system are purchased through large-scale markets, which are in turn supplied by large-scale industrialized farming operations. Through these massive networks, goods may be bought and traded dozens of times before arriving at a factory for processing. Each degree of separation reduces transparency and accountability. This highly competitive marketplace forces farmers to continually reduce costs and maximize output, effectively requiring land use practices that degrade soil and rely on fossil fuel fertilizers.
In a healthy food system, regional foodsheds would comprise many interconnected, small- to medium-scale, highly diverse farms. A significant amount of value-added processing would happen on-farm or regionally and producers would have access to markets that would reward them based on the quality and specific attributes of their produce or value-added goods. In the interim, regional co-packing and distribution operations are a viable option that can offer transparent traceable supply networks.
In assessing both the relationship between a manufacturer and farmer and farmer and land, we are identifying the underlying priorities that drive decisions and the systems which those decisions perpetuate. Both large marketplaces and large farms are organized to minimize cost and maximize profit, perpetuating the commoditization of food in the United States.