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.