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“Man, you all are expensive” “This is cheaper at Kroger”
When you shop local, it is not all about being cheaper. You are supporting the farmers directly. Their names and faces are familiar to you. They know you by name and chit chat with you during checkout. A connection is formed, a relationship. These are but a few of the things that cannot be quantified when you rationalize that “it’s cheaper at Wal-Mart.”
Local is that community that our grandparents talked about. Stories from a nostalgic era. Local is our money going to our neighbors and kept in our community, not CEOs in Arkansas and Ohio. Local is being able to go down to the farm and see how your food is grown. Local is transparent, honest, and fresh.
Now I get into the more controversial topics. Not all Local is equal. Here at Passel Hills Farm, we care about how our food is grown. We don’t want to continue to feed our children pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals that are typically found in the produce and meats. So we only grow what we would eat. Though we still go to the supermarket, we are working towards limiting those trips. The infrastructure needs to be built. Hence, why we are doing our part by practicing transparent and honest farming. We are happy to tell you what we use and why we use it on our farm.
Americans have been conditioned to not care about what they eat. Is it cheap? Does it taste good? Feed it to me then!
My wife and I have just started to really do our research and come to these realizations ourselves. Do the research yourself always. Trust but verify.
Why are farmers demonized for trying to make a profit? I am not getting wealthy off these prices. Do I make a profit? Yes, but that gets reinvested into the farm and provides some security for the business and therefore the community. Why do people scoff at the idea that a farmer should be able to make money? Why have we been conditioned to think it is the farmer and not the stock yard, the processor, the warehouse, or the store that is making all the profit? Local farmers who direct market, remove a portion of the market from these middlemen. (Direct Marketing is a farm selling directly to the end user i.e. you).
Take chickens for example: A chicken farmer receives a contract from Tyson or Purdue. This farmer has to be in a certain geographic region from the company’s feed facilities. The farmer signs a contract for certain amount of years. The company provides all the feed and the chickens. The farmer only has to provide the facilities and care for the birds which is financed. Once the contract is up, the company can dictate an improvement of the facilities to renew the contract. This could require the farmer to take out another loan to meet these requirements. The farmer has some security that he will have consistent income; however, he is reliant upon the company. Farmers could not feed the world without this model. However, alternate models could be developed to remove the middlemen, i.e. Tyson and Purdue.
Let’s dig down further into this example. Tyson or Purdue (the company) contracts with a farmer to grow chickens for meat. Chicks are hatched at one farm, transported to another farm where they are grown for meat. The farmer takes out a loan and builds the facilities. The company provides all the feed, and the chickens. Once the chickens reach butcher weight, the company sends a truck to haul the chickens to a processing plant. The chickens are then processed, packaged, and then transported to warehouses for the various distributors. From these distributors, the chickens are then sent to the various supermarkets across the country. Then you, the purchaser, drives to the local supermarket and purchase the chicken.
Now let’s contrast this with a small local farm model which removes a lot of these steps.
The small pasture chicken farmer purchases his chicks from a hatchery. The chicks are shipped to the small farmer. He raises them using his own capital to pay for feed and facilities. He humanely raises them on a diet of locally sourced feed and pasture. Once the chickens reach weight, the small farmer processes his own chickens on his farm. He stores the chickens on his farm until they are sold directly to the consumer. Granted this might still require some additional transportation to reach a population center.
How many steps did we take out of this process by raising chickens local? Think of the fuel savings alone. There are many more differences between local and big “chicken”. They would say that they are saving fuel by transporting thousands of chickens at once. “Economies of scale.” I say that they are making the farmer reliant upon them.
“Big Ag” truly only came about after WWII. “The US Farmer feeds the world!” That is true, because the US has prevented the world from feeding itself. But that is a topic for another day and a little more research on my part. Local also means security for the community. By limiting the logistics needed to raise our food, the points of failure are fewer when the “supply chain is shortened.” Though we still rely upon diesel and gas, doing what we can to partner with local businesses and to even develop local businesses at the end of the day will keep our community and country less susceptible to points of failure. After all, 2020 and the chaos that ensued is still fresh in our minds.
I realize that I went on a bit of a rant…. Buying local does so much more for you and the local farmer. Regardless of whether you purchase from us or another local farmer, consider buying local. Contact us if you are not familiar with local offerings in your area. We will be happy to help put you in contact with other farmers in your area.
Passel Hills Farm is a family owned farm located in Union Hall, Virginia on Smith Mountain Lake. Shifting careers from a fiber optic splicer to a farmer, this is our story of life on the farm and a few tales from years past as we have time to tell them.-