An Infrastructure for Sustainable & Regenerative Food Producers
Half of RARE's programs are solely dedicated to 'Farmer Support' Activities, with the other half dedicated to promoting education about regenerative & sustainable agriculture. Click on the icons below to learn more about:
To learn more about how the RARE Box directly supports real food producers, read below.
The RARE Box
We want to help low-income* real farmers** in as many ways as we can, and the best solution we have found for farmers to efficiently, fairly and intelligently generate more revenue is via the 'RARE Box'.
Here's a brief overview on what RARE has experienced as the main sales-channel obstacles facing regenerative agriculture food producers. The problems with each sales outlet are described below:
(1) Farmer's Markets: Dependent on the weather and local community activities, can become oversaturated with farmers and lower all farmer's prices, require a lot of preparation and transportation
= Inconsistent and low frequency Sales, Lower prices at 'good' Farmer's Markets, Lots of Prep/Transport Time
(2) CSA's: Large amounts of organization required, low retention rate of customers, difficult for farmers in low-income, rural areas to sell to local population
= High Organizational Skill Req, Lack of Consistent Money, Dependent on Good Location
(3) High-end Restaurants: Price per unit drops due to high volume requirements, monthly/weekly changing menu doesn't always match what is growing on farm, requires good relationship with chef so he/she will consistently prefer purchasing from one farmer over another, dependent on restaurant industry fluctuations
= Lower Prices for All Produce, Frequently Changing Demand, Requires Preference by Chef, Dependent on Restaurant Industry
Another huge factor that affects consumer demand is the modern expectation for, value of and necessity of convenience. Most folks don't have time to cook a meal from scratch every day, even if they are able to source high quality ingredient from a real farmer. Additionally, many adults in the US have never had need to acquire culinary skill sets to prepare food, and wouldn't know where to start for preparing a meal.
The Majority of Sustainable Agriculture Business Models Don't Seem to Be That Sustainable for the Farmer
So we've created a way for food producers to plan in advance to sell the food they produce at premium, retail prices, with guaranteed quantities and dates of purchase. It's called the 'RARE Box'. The RARE Box allows the farmer to:
Save money on initial costs and better be able to more efficiently plan his/her food elements or rotations
Generate consistent, monthly revenue by selling to RARE May through December
Sell the agreed upon food at guaranteed fair prices. No more last-minute restaurant sales calls, begging the restaurant to purchase your high-quality product for pennies on the dollar. The RARE Box pays the farmer the true value for his/her food.
Sell each food product for individual, retail pricing*, disregarding bulk purchase discounts (*excludes meat purchases for 2023-2024, as we currently cannot afford to forgo bulk purchasing discounts for this category)
Be introduced to RARE Box customers, living anywhere from Northeast GA to Downtown Atlanta. Each month a different farmer is featured in the monthly RARE Box write-up.
Receive an End-of-Year Bonus, which consists of 5% of RARE Box total revenue for the year, split evenly among all the real farmers that sold RARE food to produce those Boxes.
*Low-income = According to the USDA, the median income for a conventional farm household was $76,581 in 2020. And from our experience, most sustainable/regenerative food producers end up putting most of their year's profit back into their farm for expensive repairs, infrastructure, or equipment purchases. We define 'low-income' food producers, then, as those that earn an income of $40,000 or less per year, and that are in need of $10,000 or more in repairs/infrastructure/equipment for the operation.
**A real farmer = RARE defines a 'real farmer' as an individual(s) that run agricultural operation that don’t use synthetic chemicals, practice holistic animal management, source on-site materials as much as possible, use methods that emphasize the quality of crop yields over the quantity, and who prioritize the health of the environment by producing with standards far above the EPA’s agricultural regulations. A real farm (defined by RARE) includes all farms, ranches, apiaries, livestock managers/processors, dairies, orchards, and any other food production operation that practices chemical-free, sustainable & regenerative agriculture.
Food Ingredients purchased from local, RARE Producers & real farmers, along with with additional organic, high-quality ingredients
RARE uses seasonal ingredients from real farms to prepare a Box of diverse meals covering the full spectrum of nutrition
The RARE Box: A Solution to Support Real Farmers
This section breaks down how it works for a food producer, and if you are a food producer, you'll first want to learn what the RARE Box is before reading the remainder of this section. (Note, this is only an example for vegetable producers, but we work with all other food producers including livestock managers/processors, apiaries, dairies, fruit orchards/farms, wild edible foragers, occasionally flower farmers and will consider any other local food producer that qualifies as a RARE real farmer).
1) The FFD (Food and Farm Director) of RARE approaches the farmer between December to March and asks what she/he is planning to produce for the upcoming growing season, and roughly which month it will be ready to harvest. We know true food production doesn't operate like clockwork depending on an infinite number of factors, but we ask the farmer to try his/her best. Example;
FFD: Will you be growing Vegetable 'X' in the Spring, Vegetable 'Y' in the Summer or Vegetable 'Z' in the Fall? And based on your crop plan for the year, what month would X Y or Z be ready?
Farmer: I think I might have some 'X' in the Spring, and I can plant some 'Z' for the Fall if you're agreeing to buy it. The 'X' should be ready by mid-May, and the 'Z' might be ready in October.
2) RARE and the farmer discuss quantity, price and pick up/delivery arrangements.
FFD: I need 50 of the Vegetable 'X' by May 22nd, and 30 of the Vegetable 'Z' on October 19th. What is a fair ,retail price (like at a Farmer's Market) you can give more for those two purchases?
Farmer: I'll sell you 50 of Vegetable 'X' for $2 a piece because those always do well here and are easy to harvest. But Vegetable 'Z' is a lot of work and packaging, so I'll sell 30 of those for $5 a piece. But only if you come pick it up on the day you need it.
RARE: It's a deal! I'll text you two weeks before each pick-up date for confirmation, as well as they day before pick-up.
3) The FFD and farmer discuss payments, and sign a 'Purchase Agreement' noting the terms they agreed upon,.
FFD: We pay for each purchase after receiving it the day of, or day after (depending on banks/holidays/etc..) each purchase order's pick up or delivery. We pay using cash, CC (for farmer-owned online or retail/// location CC processors), Venmo or CashApp . A receipt is sent via email for all forms of payment. Which of the ones I mentioned do you prefer?
Farmer: I'd prefer it if you Venmo'd me the money.
FFD: Great. So I'll be picking up 50 of the Vegetable 'X' on May 22nd for $2 a piece, which totals to $100. And I'll be picking up 30 of Vegetable 'Z' on October 19th for $5 a piece, which totals to $150. Both pickups will be here on your farm, and payments will be made through Venmo. Is that right?
Farmer: Yup. Now I'll sign the 'Purchase Agreement'.
Note. the 'Purchase Agreement' is NOT a legal document, and is more like a formal handshake. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, RARE has no incentive or even ability to profit at the farmer's expense by purchasing the agreed upon 'X' and 'Z' produce at a cheaper price from another farmer. RARE employees are salaried, so they make the same amount of money whether they sell 10 or 1000 RARE Boxes. The party that benefits the most from higher RARE Box sales, is the farmer. And that's exactly how it should be.
4) The RARE FFD has written down the agreed upon quantities, prices, delivery/pick up arrangements, and pick up date for each purchase order item (X & Z). After both the FFD & farmer sign it, a copy of the 'Purchase Agreement' is emailed to the farmer. Additionally, a confirmation text for each order with the scheduled pick up date, quantity and price is sent 8 weeks before harvest (to ensure seed planted & stock for meat/honey/etc...), 2 weeks before harvest, and 1 day before pick up/delivery.
***RARE Producer = Real farmers that sell food to RARE (via the Purchase Agreements) for use in the RARE Boxes May through December will be considered 'RARE Producers'. The majority of these RARE Producers will be within a 100 mile radius of Rabun County, GA, (unless we open another location), and adhere to the 'Real Farming Standards' as defined by RARE.
Additional Farmer Support Activities
Below are some of the additional Farmer Support activities we have in mind for all real farmers (in our region) to begin in 2024-2025, and are currently planning and fundraising for:
-Food Producer Marketing
-Grant Writing Assistance
-Comprehensive Soil and Food Product analysis (free)
-Discounts for general inputs via Bulk Purchasing
-Financial awards to real farmers in need of an expensive (or emergency) item or service that they can reasonably demonstrate will improve the future success of his/her operation
-Free labor pool volunteer organization (and training)
-Free compost (when available)
-Free Sustainable Ag Expert Consultations and/or Conferences
-Shared Tool Shed & Scheduled Tractor or Skid Steer Use
-Discounts on or free earthworks/landscaping/utilities services donated by local providers (one day only)
-WE JAMMIN' : Farmer-only jam (strawberry) and 'jam' (music) sessions. A musical potluck once every 2-3 months so we can attempt to socialize:) The musically-gifted and permanently tone-deaf are equally welcome.
-And more...(See the page to get more details)
Let’s Work Together
If you are a chemical-free, sustainable or regenerative food producer within 100 miles of Rabun Gap Nacoochee School and would like to become a RARE Producer, please fill the information below out and identify what food you produce and your operation's address in the 'Message' section. If you are a real farmer from anywhere in the world, and would like to contribute helpful ideas to add to our 'Farmer Support' Activities, please message us with your suggestions.