Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.

Ashley Smith

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Economy of Food (a.k.a. The Wealthy Farmer)

"The Wealthy Farmer"- it seems like an oxymoron these days.  When I Googled an image for the term wealthy farmer, I ended up with a bunch of links to blogs about farm subsidies and "how the U.S. agricultural subsidies system rewards wealthy farmers and tilts the food market in favor of cheap, unhealthy junk food".  I am not sure what I was hoping to find, but this result was slightly depressing. 

I ended up on this thought train today after I read The Hen House blog: Never Ever Apologize for your Price!  It is interesting timing as we have been discussing our recent price increase on eggs (from $2 to $3 per dozen) and the resistance we have gotten on trying to charge a fair price for other food items we have raised.  As I commented on the Hen House blog,

We raise the food because we love to do it, but are both forced to work off-farm to support our "habit". Properly feeding and taking care of animals is not cheap, but some people seem to think we should give away the fruits of our labors for free, or near free.

I deeply appreciate our egg customers.  They allow us to do something we find extremely rewarding (raise food animals) without completely bankrupting ourselves!  The egg business is not what I would call a money maker, but it is almost self sustaining (as long as we don't figure labor costs in).

Chick Wagon
The problems are deeply rooted and multi-faceted.  Our society has been programmed to expect cheap food.  Not necessarily healthy (for us or the environment) but cheap.  We have been disconnected from the earth in such a way that we don't believe that food comes from an animal, or a plant.  Instead we believe that food comes from the super market- neatly wrapped, prettily packaged, synthesized, convenient and produced by "somebody else".  We have been brain washed to believe that raw milk will kill us, but commercial milk with rBGH is the best thing going.  That meat from your neighbor is suspect, but "USDA" inspected meat from a factory farm is A-OK. That a locally produced ear of corn with a little bit of worm damage at the tip is gross, but genetically modified corn products (a.k.a. high fructose corn syrup) should be in almost everything we eat.  How did we end up here?  Personally, I can think of only one answer: Corporate greed.  How else can you explain such a big, unhealthy gap between us and a simple, basic necessity?

Thompson Falls Farmers Market

I encourage you to click the link to the Hen House blog above.  There is a very interesting quote from Joel Salatin there.  Part of it reads:  

"We can never change the food system until the best and brightest find romance and reward in this foundational agrarian vocation. And anyone who thinks farmers don’t deserve to live as well as any urban upper middle class family disrespects the very essence of their dinner and the landscape their children will inherit." 

Think about it- if you were forced to give up everything, every luxury, every non-essential item, you would still have to eat.  Air, water, food.  The three absolute necessities.  We, as a people, will fight for clean air, for clean water.  Are we willing to fight for clean food?

Last Year's corn (and Johnny Jump Ups, of course!)
We recently took something called a "staycation", wherein we took time off work, but actually just stayed at home.  It was kind of by accident, as we had planned to take a horse trip that ended up not working out at the last minute.  I have to say it was one of the most fun and rewarding vacations I have had in a long time.  It made me realize that what I truly love is right here, at home.  What makes me sad, is we can't find a way to make it work financially.  So we will continue to spend about 75% of our time at off farm jobs, making the money to keep our ranch, our real joy, afloat.  Keep in mind, I am not complaining.  So many people work at jobs as much or even more than we do and don't have what we have to come home to. I am overwhelmingly grateful for what we DO have.  My dream is to be able to do it every day.  And keep the bills paid.