PEI is near the Tipping Point where a new system breaks out. For many years the farmer's market was where the Granola fold met. It was a club of the converted. It was the Innovators who are this group. Innovators are:
Innovators are daring, rash and risky. They are able to cope with a high level of uncertainty. Rogers says, "While an innovator may not be respected by the other members of a local system, the innovator plays an important role in the diffusion process; that of launching the new idea in the system by importing the innovation from outside of the system's boundaries. Thus the innovator plays a gate-keeping role in the flow of new ideas into a system."
My dear friend Raymond Loo was such a patient Innovator.
But now it has moved up the curve. Farmer's Markets all over North America are booming into the next level of acceptance. They are growing at 17% a year. Now the next stage of people, the Early Adopters are moving in.
Opinion leadership is an important aspect of the Early Adopter. They often serve as a role model for other people. They are more integrated into society than the innovators. "The early adopter is respected by his or her peers, and is the embodiment of successful, discrete use of new ideas. The early adopter knows that to continue to earn this esteem of colleagues and to maintain a central position in the communication networks of the system, he or she must make judicious innovation-decisions. The early adopter decreases uncertainty about a new idea by adopting it, and then conveying a subjective evaluation of the innovation to near-peers through interpersonal networks," Rogers said.
This part of the Adoption Cycle is all about gaining credibility and in building infrastructure. It starts with more supply.
Such as people like Amy and Verena of Heart Bet Organics They find that they can buy good land that is relatively cheap compared to Ontario or close to Montreal. Low capital cost and a good market have been the key to people like them setting up shop. They also use a very innovative model of super high ntensity greenhousing that allows them to produce and sell for 10 months of the year.
It starts with new kinds of relationships that drive credit. Such as Raymond's Indiegogo campaign and all those that use CSA such as Jen and Derek. And who also use small acres and greenhouses.
It starts importantly with Chefs. On PEI Chefs have made local food their trade mark. Started by Chef Michael Smith, now most chefs on PEI lead the way. They are a key taste shifter - they are the ideal Early Adopter with credibility.
For even more credibility, we see the Culinary Institute. Boot Camps and local sourcing add their weight.
The Beef and the Pork industry are there. They now see that what they have to sell is QUALITY.
All that is left to take PEI to the edge is now for the government to make sourcing local food the key to all the institutions that it supports. That means UPEI, the Manors and Hospitals. It is madness that the worst food you get today is while a patient in hospital. In other places this trend is well under way. At Dalhousie, more than 40% of the food serrved to students is local. It is possible. The Culinary are close to this level. It's a matter of will.
Once this is done, then the supporting systems needed to take this into the Early Majority will be in place.
So all of this is bubbling up and leading us to the edge of the Tipping Point. What will tip PEI over? What will get the Early Majority convinced. These people are:
The early majority adopts new ideas just before the average member of a system. The early majority is the most numerous adopter categories, making up one-third of the members of a system. Rogers says, "The early majority may deliberate for some time before completely adopting a new idea. Their innovation-decision period is relatively longer than that of the innovator and the early adopter. They follow with deliberate willingness in adopting innovations, but seldom lead."
I think 4 factors.
The new understanding about health. Over the last 5 years more and more people have started to get the information that they need to take charge of their own health. Central to this is the new knowledge about what foods are good and not good for us. Highly processed food is rapidly being seen as the cause of the epidemic of chronic illness. In 5 years this knowledge will be well into the Early Majority. The Health care system already know this and will start to push hard on diet and lifestyle. They do not have the money to give us pills that don't work.
Long term structural unemployment. The old jobs are not coming back. What will people do for work? Some are going back to the land, where most people worked 100 years ago. They are going back not as subsistence hippies but as "New Farmers". They will be pasturing animals, using greenhouses, using permaculture. They will finance using their community. They will train the next layer. They will seek low cost land and a ready market.
PEI has the least expensive good farmland close to a ready market. Where else can you get 100 acres and a house for less than $100,000? You don't need this either. 15 acres and a farm house is all you need. You cannot get this in Ontario or Quebec. I am seeing couples in their mid thirties giving up their urban lfe and looking for places such as PEI to make a new life. If we pay attention to this trend, we can also make a difference to PEI's skewed population.
Much of the rest of Agricultural Canada is tied into the old grain model. PEI does not make grain is central plank. This keeps land prices too high for people that wish to be the new farmers. It also holds the whole system back. This reluctance will give PEI an export market.