15 Minutes With… Rita Felder, CEO of Field Farms Marketing
By Michelle Pelletier Marshall, Unconventional Ag Media
FFM is an organic pioneer and a global commodity trading house with over 30 years of experience in organic, non-GMO, and specialty commodities. FFM conducts business with numerous farmers around the world and has its own unique vertically integrated, traceable, supply chain. An in-house logistics department manages all movement of product from farm to customer.
As the founder and CEO, Rita Felder, who established the business in 2005, is involved in all of the company’s day-to-day operations. She was born and raised on a Swiss Dairy farm, and has experience in organic and livestock farming, having been very involved in working on her family farm in Ontario with her husband, Tony. WIA Today caught up with Felder at her office in Petrolia, Ontario.
1). Please tell us more about Field Farms Marketing… its mission and reach in the global agricultural industry.
FFM’s mission is to grow organic, regenerative, sustainable, fair, agriculture until every child has access to healthy food, and sustainable practices are the majority, not the minority, of farming practices.
2). The company has a strong focus on organics and guaranteeing traceability. Please explain the infrastructure that supports this, and your message to “Eat True Organics, Save the Planet”?
FFM has local representatives in Europe, India, Argentina, U.S., and Canada to verify the quality of the goods and the integrity of the organic status. FFM has a unique system to track all goods from farm to customer.
Eat True Organics, Save the Planet: organic farming practices keep toxic chemicals out of soil, air, and water. The organic soil is healthier and can absorb more carbon. Antibiotics in livestock and crude oil-based fertilizers in crops are eliminated through organic farming. Additionally, organic farming is the basis of regenerative farming, allowing our farmland to be viable for our children and generations to come.
3). You service Ukraine with your products. What is the scope of this and how has the war changed it?
Business and logistics in Ukraine were shock-suspended after the start of Russian aggression at the end of February and in March 2022.
After the Russians were forced out of Kyiv, many companies, including those in agribusiness and logistics, tried to resume their activities. The containers blocked in the Black Sea ports were moved to the ports of Romania and Poland.
Many organic raw materials were left in the warehouses of the growers. FFM has to solve complex logistical problems for the export of these organic products by road and rail transport while facing transport shortages, lack of fuel, damage to roads and railways, and constant rocket attacks on grain elevators and transport infrastructure.
Nevertheless, FFM was able to arrange the supply of Ukrainian organic raw materials by trucks and railway cars. It took several reloads of organic cargo to avoid congestion on various transport routes. For example, in order to ensure the delivery of organic soybeans from the Chernihiv region bordering Russia, it is planned to deliver tote bags from farmers’ warehouses to the nearest railway station for reloading into covered railway wagons. Then these wagons go to the border of Ukraine, where the bags must be reloaded into containers for further transportation to the Polish port by rail. From the Polish port, the containers will be exported to destination.
The supply of organic raw materials is slowed down due to transport problems, however, the demand for organic raw materials has increased, and we plan to deliver as much organic grains as possible out of Ukraine.
The goal of the FFM in Europe/Ukraine is to use all its competencies in helping Ukrainian organic growers export past and future crops, enable them to receive money for their products in these difficult times, and reduce the threat of food scarcity.
4). Have you found that demand for Canadian commodities has increased due to lack of product from Ukraine? Additionally, have you seen that certain commodities are easier to move through Ukraine than others?
The demand for Canadian crops has not particularly increased due to the war in the Ukraine. Generally, the demand for specialty commodities is at an all-time high globally. The effects of the pandemic and its issues shortened the supply chains months before the war in Ukraine began, and it [the pandemic] is still having a big impact on supply chains.
The freight interruptions, labor shortages, and inflation we see globally have been caused by the pandemic. For energy, fertilizer, and conventional crops, the war in Ukraine has had some effects on prices. Freight rates have increased by 1,000 percent during the pandemic. Moving any commodity – whether from Ukraine or elsewhere – is very challenging and expensive right now.
5). What goals lie ahead for Field Farms Marketing?
FFM always has and will continue servicing the specialty commodity industry. FFM’s goal is to find the best market for each crop and find the best crop for each customer. The niche segments are expanding from organic and non-GMO to many other areas for new food items. It is more exciting than ever to be in the organic, non-GMO, and specialty commodity space. FFM has some new innovative products and plans to grow in the plant-based protein, regenerative, and health food sectors.
ABOUT RITA FELDER
Rita Felder is founder and CEO of Field Farms Marketing (FFM), a company she established in 2005. She is actively involved in all of FFM’s trading activities and day-to-day operations.
Prior to FFM, Felder and her husband established an operational organic farm in South Western Ontario. Felder grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada with her family in October 1998 to begin her family farm life in Petrolia, Ontario.