I just got off the phone with a farmer and it’s the same story I hear again and again. He’s considering quitting.
I asked him questions to try and understand exactly what he needs to continue. He must continue. Because the options are scary and unsustainable.
We went over multiple reasons why he would Need to quit. Essentially, he doesn’t have enough people signed up. Maybe it is because some people aren’t able to commit to signing up for the season. For others, it’s too much food at one time or maybe they need more choice? Also, there’s a lot more options for people to purchase local food now than there was 9 years ago when he started his certified organic CSA. I also think many people don’t know about him, so marketing reach is an issue. He runs an amazing program with incredible value for the $80 a month. But I’m not here writing this to promote his specific CSA (yet.). I am here to promote the idea. To let you know that who we buy from matters.
Anyways, I think it’s time to be honest about the state of things. About the state of the small local food producers in Saskatchewan…
It’s not always more convenient or cheaper but I can tell you that it makes the world a better place when you purchase directly from a small producer and sometimes it is more convenient and cheaper. I also think that as we work together, we will figure out how to best do this. I’ve thought about quitting, maybe I do once a week. I’ve considered how freeing it would be not to have to worry about keeping thousands of dollars of food safe from the improper temperature. Or having to come up with $20,000 to pay the producers for the week. Or to release me from the pressure to sell all of The Pearl’s lamb so his family can live and have a home (love ya, Brian).
But this is my heart. It keeps me going. It wakes me up guiding me to start our day with beautiful food laid out and fair trade coffee as I answer emails and check fb for messages about these farm foods. The Wandering Market makes me a better mother and person to be honoured to serve people and farmers in such an intimate way. It’s so Important. All of that reigns above any superficial struggles i need to solve. And think, once I solve this, I can show others how to do the same.
Honestly, there is not a single farmer/food producer that I’ve spoken to that isn’t seriously struggling. Struggling to deal with all the physical obstacles as well as make a living at it. They are all holding on to their shirts for dear life. I really feel it doesn’t have to be this way. That together we can solve this. Every year more people quit small scale farming and local food producing. We did and we didn’t even really get started. A lot of people this year got out of raising Pigs because it just isn’t profitable unless you do it feed lot style. Free-ranged animals require a lot more food as they are out running around. They also need a lot of space and fencing which is expensive and labour intensive. They don’t mind that but we need to compensate them. I am so Thankful to everyone that supports us or is signed up for a local CSA or that goes to the farmers market. You may have no idea how much your purchase means to that farmer and to the building of a strong and healthy food economy. I’m out in it everyday and I see it. I’m here to rely these messages to you so we can brainstorm and solve.
On the optimistic side, There’s a lot of people just starting out on this journey too! I am so humbled and in awe of the people coming forward to say they want to make amazing food for people. They are directing their passion at me and asking how they can get started selling and contacting people.
What I’ve come up with is that we really need to gather all our resources. I use to be a “I do it myself” type person. That was incredibly limiting for me. Now I realize that there is no way we can buy and sell all the food that the farmers need us to. We are limited by customers and what we can haul. But I have ideas. Oh boy, do I have ideas…
We need multiple sources of people helping in numerous different ways so that we can tap into all the different “markets”. We need to accommodate people who need convenience, choice and those that need it super affordable. There may also be people that want to invest in a specific farm like the farmers I was originally talking about. Buying his CSA gives you a share in what the farm produces. It’s an amazing idea, it’s slightly risky, it makes a world of difference and it’s not for everyone.
We can have people doing farmers market tables for a farmer, even a once a month commitment would be amazing. And we could be supplying someone with an income while they help. We can have more food buying groups like Karen and Monique in regina. They organize farmers drop offs and gather people and provide their homes as a pick up spot. It’s more important than they know.
There’s a place for everyone that wants to be involved and time will tell who fits where. We need so many different skills to make this work.
I feel up for the challenge of organizing this. For gathering people and ideas. I know you’re out there… waiting… like I was. Waiting to be a part of something useful and meaningful. Waiting to get my hands dirty and cry and laugh and solve problems and eat glorious foods with the hands that grew it.
I am here. I am ready. I have messy hair and a uní-brow. I am committed to figuring this out.
I am here.
Farm to folk,