A More Powerful Vote
It’s different when you vote with a purchase. This vote does more than an ‘X’ at the ballot box.
A purchase of produce direct from the grower is an approval of acts already performed. The result is known and you take it in exchange for dollars. It’s not a promise of something yet to be delivered or a task to be performed sometime down the road. The exchange is made… and you must receive the goods. That’s the deal.
Farmers’ markets, CSA (community supported agriculture) arrangements, farm memberships, farm subscriptions, and on-farm markets are means for farmers to directly exchange their goods in local markets. Now, more than ever, these venues are critical to small to mid-size farms. Here’s why.
There’s Been A Dramatic Shift In Agriculture…
The introduction of larger capacity high-priced technology together with a decreasing number of large volume buyers drive the trend. Few of the traditional 100 to 200 acre size farms are able to supply these larger buyers with the larger volume purchase units they prefer.
To serve the needs of these larger volume buyer demands farmers need to make larger investments. Larger investments in ever bigger specialized equipment demands a matching volume of work to employ it at a level that makes it affordable to the farmer. The result is larger fields, larger units of single output and single crop production and fewer farms overall.
We now have larger farms and also more much smaller farm enterprises, the two extremes. The very large and the very small each serve a different kind of market.
How Farms Are Changing
Large farms work with large volumes to supply large volume buyers. Their buyers aren’t interested in small lots of differentiated produce. They demand uniformity. And that’s easier to get when you’re buying from just one grower or just a few.
Smaller farms aren’t attractive to those large volume buyers so they must find other ways to access the marketplace. For many it is through shortening the chain from grower to final consumer.
One approach is to work together to supply smaller local processors and re-sellers. Direct marketing to end consumers is another. Both of these solutions keep dollars circulating within the local community a little longer.
They foster a closer connection between farmers and the communities that consume the products of the harvest. It opens up communications between farmers to end consumers thus nourishing bonds on a more personal level. The struggle for balance of profits to enable the farm to keep producing and the recognition of a need for affordable nourishing foods and a healthy environment is highlighted by these relations. The market a farmer serves determines the relations and the value to be delivered.
How Relations Drive Value In the Marketplace
The two kinds of farms - the very large and the small - serve different markets. The market demands and relations drive the choices farmers make on their farms.
Large farms aim to minimize labour input, maximize production per worker, increase the field sizes to enhance efficiencies. The trend is toward ever more simplification, specialization and uniformity. It’s the way to give their customer what they’re willing to pay for – value as the buyer defines it.
The small farms aim to make the best use of labour while selecting suitable technologies that fit into their relatively small acreage. While there is always a need to simplify processes and to focus their resources for the best return, the smaller volume buyers they sell to have a different set of demands. This market rewards a wide variety of product offerings of different shapes, sizes and flavours. The desire is for a healthy environment as well as healthy food and people. These markets are made up of smaller local businesses and people like you…
How Your Vote Can Drive On-Farm Practices
Farmers all over, exist at the interface of human society with its economic systems and the natural world. Our struggle is to work with natural ecosystems to produce food and other supplies for those who choose to trade for them while serving human communities in other ways. Both large and small, farms live by generating and delivering value to the marketplace they deal in.
It’s the values communicated by the marketplace that guide the choices farmers make.
How To Get the Most From Your Vote
Your vote is a way of communicating what you consider as value. Your purchase tells the seller what value looks like.
As operators of a smaller farm, we thank you for your vote. It’s vital to the emergence of a more equitable food system… one that puts health of people and community ahead of centralized corporate profits, uniformity and long distance trade. Through our choices we determine the kind of food system that will dominate in years to come. Your vote really does matter. We encourage you to get to know your food, your farmers, your market vendors… and vote on purpose.