Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Small Farmers Rant and CSA Week 4

The CSA shares I delivered today were in bags instead of the regular baskets because of a conversation I had with a neighbour of my St Catharines drop location last week.

I was so rattled and quite honestly annoyed, that I just high-tailed it out of there without even bothering to pick up the empty baskets that I needed to refill again today.

I hate justifying what I do, how much I charge and why it is worth it. To people who buy their food in the grocery store, discount store or wherever else and don't understand or care about fresh specialty produce or local farmers any conversation seems to be a lost cause. It is true, most people buy based on price and of course there is a reason for that.  Some people can barely afford any food.

But small farmers are not getting rich and laughing all the way to the bank, even when people can afford to pay reasonably well for food. Very little of our disposable income is allotted for food in this country. The expectation is that our food will be cheap. And it is-pricewise and often quality-wise too.

The conversation went like this:
"I'm just going to peek in the baskets to see what's  there....my friend is in a CSA and she got 2 dozen peaches for 3 weeks in a row....she can't eat all those peaches."
She sneaks her peek.
"There's not much in here and I don't even know what some of it is. What's this worth...$10 a week?"
I shake my head and tell her that no, it is not and that the food is a very good value in terms of price and quality.
"Where do you get it from?" she asks.
I tell her I grow it and she asks me again where I get it from. "I grow it" I repeat.  She still doesn't believe me because some things don't grow here and some things are out of season.

I'm starting to feel truly agitated, so I remove the baskets from my car and put them on the porch of my friend where they belong. Then I get the hell out of there, leaving the empty baskets I am supposed to pick up behind.

On the drive back home I'm thinking about what was in the baskets and trying to feel good about it all. But I don't. I feel crappy and tired from working so hard and I just wish people understood what it takes to grow food and try to survive as a small farmer.

I wish they understood the seed I buy and save. The organizations I am involved in to ensure I have access to some amazing varieties of seed. The costs I incur...tractor and equipment maintenance, water and greenhouse maintenance and repair, costs for soil supplements and mulching materials, deliveries, pots and trays for my plants, costs for help I have to hire, the hours I put into researching varieties and most of all...the hours of work I put into the gardens. Seldom a full day off, because I need to be here.

I say this not as a complaint but as my reality and the reality of many small farmers. I love, love, love what I do-but I definitely wish it was more lucrative. I believe that if people want good quality food and my job is to produce it, I should be paid a reasonable amount for my work.  But of course farming is different and the reality is that I can simply not live on the money I make doing this work. Money has to come from elsewhere as well. What I earn goes back into supporting the work I do so I can continue doing it. New tractor tires-check. New greenhouse plastic-check. That's how it is.
It is a year round job for me, even though I am not producing every single month of the year. I am always working towards when I will be producing. But I do not earn income every month of the year from farming. It's a crazy business model, isn't it?

I  believe there was superb value in your basket today- jerusalem artichokes, tomatoes, collards, carrots, sorrel, garlic, hot and sweet peppers, cape goose berries and a sprig of morelle de balbis, tomatillos, cut lettuce, broccoli florets. Hope you think so too.

And thank you for listening-reading.


Anonymous said...

Linda, keep doing what you do. Anyone who has a garden and nurtures it throughout the summer knows the costs and time involved. I live in Edmonton and subscribe to a local CSA. We pay more than we would buying from the grocery store but the quality and taste is so much better. I also tend a small garden in my backyard but it doesn't produce nearly enough for my family of four. That lady that gave you a hard time will never understand and you shouldn't have to explain things to her. Everyone who subscribes to your CSA appreciates what you do.

Chez Nous Farms said...

Linda, please keep your head up in these times, I'd like to say this is a unfortunate run in with a Walmart shopper who does not understand food and life. Let's keep moving forward supplying organic produce that not is only good for the planet but for us, I'm not much into the cure but we believe in prevention , organic food!! Take care, Rick&Shirley
chez nous farms

Linda said...

Thanks for taking the time to read and your supportive comments. I'm happy indeed that I have a supportive web of customers and I need to learn to let some things go. I just think farmers are so far removed from the general population when I hear comments like this...it makes me want to educate. But I think the bottom line is money for most people when it comes to food choices, and beyond that...they don't care. Too bad.

Tiffany Mayer said...

Not that it's any consolation, but I know I would have paid more than $10 at the grocery store for what I got in my basket. That person was clearly clueless.

Erin Wilson said...

Hi Linda-

I wonder if your ears are ever burning? I talk about you to friends here all the time. My friends here have no idea where their food comes from (the vast majority of it comes from outside the country). When I tell them about you, and how you grow food, and the kind of connection folks can have to their food... it all sounds rather magical to them.

Wanted you to know how grateful I am for you, and for the short time I could spend at your farm. It was really important to me.

Linda said...

Thanks Erin..that means a lot.

Ben said...

If I had a loonie for every time someone at a farmers market looked at some of my produce and said, "you know you can get that for $0.99 at Food Basics..."

Izabell Fagan said...

Oh Linda, if only people could see how hard you work and how much you care. Don't let them get you down. I'm always telling people about you and how I wish there were more like you here! You provide a great service and there are many of us who wish you were more accessible - you know -- less than 1000 miles away. If only they were smart enough to appreciate what they had! xo