Small family-run farms are facing tough economic times. For many of the families, staying on the farm often means taking another job in town. In 1979, three of these small farmers came up with a better idea. They arranged to have their products delivered directly to urban dwellers. They contracted with other small farmers to provide a variety of specialty items such as creamy Brie, luscious berries, and sweet, juicy grapefruit.
The marketing tool (or gimmick if you will) in this case is that the customer leases a goat for chevre or a tree for maple syrup, and so on. In return for a premium price, the lessee is assured that the farmers have free-ranging livestock and make minimal use of pesticides. The lessee also is guaranteed fresh, natural, and delicious foods. For example, if you go for the wild rice lease you are guaranteed a minimum of three pounds of canoe-harvested rice from the pristine lakes of the Ojibwe people of Minnesota.
Rent Mother Nature (www.rentmothernature.com) also delivers a leasing agreement suitable for framing along with the goods. For an extra $5, it will send an action photo of your cow, blueberry patch, or tree.
Over the years the company has expanded its offerings from cheese and syrup to complete clambakes, lobster dinners and Yankee blueberry breakfasts. Prices start at about $40 and climb above $200. Some might consider the prices a bit stiff for three wheels of Brie, but it is a pleasant, even amusing, way to support small farms while also eating well.
The company has been in business for more than 20 years, so it seems to have a good thing going for all concerned-the farmers, the contented cows, and the urbanite looking for a taste of farm-fresh goodness.