For farmers to link with markets, they need to learn not only to produce, but to "produce for the market" and a key starting point is for them to learn to view their farm as a business enterprise that needs to be managed for profit.
This is just as true for Australian farmers as it is for smallholder farmers in the developing world.
This was the message of Dr Dindo Campilan, a social scientist from the International Potato Center (CIP) who has worked in developing countries to introduce innovations for improving on-farm productivity, postharvest value addition and market development.
He was speaking at the Crawford Fund 2011 international conference titled "The Supermarket Revolution: Good, Bad, Ugly for the World's Farmers, Consumers and Retailers?" in Parliament House, Canberra from 14 to 16 August.
Experiences both in Australia and the developing world show that successful farm business requires the capacity not only for technological change but also for nurturing relationships among market chain actors based on trust, collaboration and coordination.
"Everyday decisions by farmers involve a constant balancing act between preserving and growing their limited assets, between immediate benefits and longer-term returns, and between concrete economic rewards and less tangible values for building social capital."