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The New Artisan Economy

When I was growing up in a row home in Reading, PA there used to be a farmer who would come to our inner city neighborhood every Thursday.  He would park his old beat up pick up truck on our block and then proceed to go door to door in his bib overalls with a basket clutch under his arm.  At each home he would ring the doorbell and then begin announcing  in a strong Pennsylvania Dutch accent what he had for sale that week.  "Corn, Puhtaytuhs, Cabbich, Peas, Beans..."  I remember my grandmother going to the door weekly to buy veggies and talk PA Dutch with him (her native tongue growing up on the farm in PA). 

As a young boy I marveled at this old geezer who took such pains to personally peddle his vegetables.  He seemed like someone from another era to a kid in the early 80s.   Yet here I am, thirty years later, with a wife who peddles her icicle tricycle up and down the street in our neighborhood and an artisan coffee company about to launch a home delivery service in our urban neighborhood.  

This past weekend I cracked open the current issue of Relevant Magazine and discovered my wife and I are a part of a new movement in our nation, the Artisan Economy.  While I have known for quite some time that, as entrepreneurs, we definitely have a value system that is contrary to what we have grown up thinking entrepreneurs thought and acted like, I did not realize that we are a part of a rapidly growing new economy.  

In this new economy, the driving force is a group of capitalists whose passion is to create and place value on much of what we seem to have forgotten or lost during the Industrial Age.  In this new economy there is a deep desire for a connection between the real people who make the things they sell and the real people who buy them.  Purchasers in this new economy are rejecting the "tasteless, homogenous and even soulless products they have grown up on in favor of something unique and distinct."  They have an appreciate for the process and value the knowledge and deeply value the craft of the producers.  

Higher quality, lower volume, and an appreciation for craft and knowledge of the product; these new values have begun to open the door for a shift in the way people perceive what they are buying and ingesting.  

Maybe that old farmer was trying to show us all something back then that we just weren't getting.  At some point the truck stopped showing up and there were no more litanies of vegetables being shouted to the neighborhood housewives.  We thought his kind were gone... that we had gotten rid of them in our advancements of farming, production and slick packaging and advertising.  

Apparently we were wrong, and good thing we were!  Go to Findlay Market, City Flea, OTR or any locavore food scene these days and you'll see the guy I'm talking about (albeit with a few tattoos and some trendy diggs).  He's there, talking passionately about what he has made and how he did it.  And funny thing is... people are starting to care and value him again!


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