Consumer demand for GMO-free foods — those that don’t contain any genetically modified ingredients — seems to be rising, but local farmers sometimes struggle to meet that demand. That’s especially true with poultry and meat, because GMO-free feed can be hard to find and expensive to buy.
Bauman’s Cedar Valley Farms near Garnett, Kan., hopes to change that by building a GMO-free feed hub with funding from Slow Money, a national organization dedicated to investing in local food networks.
It’s no guarantee, though. Slow Money, in what is essentially a crowd funding competition, has nominated 21 food and farm businesses nationwide to be in the running for two zero-interest loans. Supporters vote by buying a $25 Beet Coin in the name of their chosen business. When voting ends Nov. 12, the winning business will receive 80 percent of the money raised. Second place will get 20 percent. And everyone else?
“If you don’t happen to be one of the top two, you don’t get anything,” said Rosanna Bauman, whose parents, John and Yvonne Bauman, founded the farm in 2001. “But hopefully you’ve drummed up supporters and can find another way.”
In the Bauman’s case, winning a Slow Money loan would only accelerate their long-held goal of building a diversified, sustainable farm while creating a valuable regional agricultural asset. Not that her parents envisioned such a thing when they started farming 13 years ago with no experience and six kids to raise, Bauman said.
Their operation grew and evolved as each family member expressed his or her own preferences, and it now includes 15 different enterprises, including pastured poultry, grass fed beef, a USDA inspected on-farm poultry processing plant and production of GMO-free grains and hay.
That last is key, as the Baumans believe it’s essential to the health of their livestock and to retaining customers who buy their products on the farm and at off-farm markets, including the Community Mercantile in Lawrence. They grow enough GMO-free grain and forage to supply their own farm, but lack the fodder and milling equipment needed to process it. Purchasing that first step in the family’s three-stage expansion plan, said Bauman.
Stage two is expanding their storage capacity to meet GMO-free feed demand from backyard and hobby-scale farmers. Stage three takes things a step farther by forming a cooperatively owned feed hub to supply regional producers with their own on-farm feed mills.
The demand is certainly there from consumers, Bauman said, and farmers themselves want the shift, too. The Kansas City Food Circle, which the farm belongs to, will require all members to use only non-GMO feed by 2017.
“This isn’t just a problem from our farm, it’s something we’ve all as farmers been working toward,” Bauman said.