Local Food: Unstacking the Hay

Sep 25th

Growing up on the farm, I bailed a lot of hay. And hay, like a lot of things, has to be stacked a certain way.  When it’s not, it becomes unstable.  Of course, not at first. The first few layers are fine. It’s when you get to the end that the errors at the foundation become apparent.  And there’s only one way to fix them.  Unstack and stack it again.  Nobody wants to do it, but you may as well get started because it’s bound to happen – either when the stack falls, or now, you choose.

Building local food systems like we are at Husk is not much different.  We aren’t building something new.  We’re rebuilding something right.  And, like hay, we have to do a lot of unstacking first.

I met with our warehouse managers today to discuss distribution.  At every turn, the challenges of building up our local food system run contrary to the way the hay has been stacked for the industrialized food complex over the past several decades.

Distributors don’t want to offer a variety of foods to grocers, they prefer having as few SKU’s as possible.  We have to restack the distribution model.

Warehouses are most efficient at unloading rail cars full of food.  The box truck that a small plant like ours can fill each day is, well, small and therefore inconvenient.  We have to restack the warehouse docks.

Grocers–even the local, independent grocers–are addicted to the efficiency and ease of ordering through just one conglomerate supplier.  We have to restack the retail strategy.

And at some point, faced with all the unstacking and restacking that we are doing, you have to stop and ask: why?  And then the answer is so clear.  Because the stacks, as they are right now, are unstable.  The taller we stack without proper cross-braced layers, the more susceptible the hay stack becomes to a crash.  Complex food systems can crash and fail, leaving quite a path of destruction, just as easily as a stack of hay bales can crumble in the loft.  And, just as in the loft, the time to restack is now.  Not later.

So here we are, unstacking the hay.  It’s a slow process, and we need your help.  As new stores across the Midwest start to carry Husk products, we need you to show them how much it matters to you. If you would like to support Husk at your local grocer, click here to let us know.

When the hay stack gets to your area, you’ll be the first to know.

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