sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

June 13, 2006

family farms struggle; you can make a difference
posted by soe 10:04 pm

This story in today’s Hartford Courant reminds me why it’s important to buy locally produced food.

The article talks about family dairy farmers in Connecticut whose 2006 crop of cattle feed is drowning in the spring’s season-long rain. Add to this short-term natural catastrophe a long-term man-made one of cost. Energy prices have raised the costs of running a farm, but the market has held the price of milk below what it actually costs to produce it. Subtract the costs of the middle men — the store owner and the bottler — and the average farmer loses $10 for every 100 pounds of milk they produce. One farmer took out $50,000 in loans last month to pay his bills. Six have been forced to leave farming altogether just in the last year. Two have closed just since January.

Connecticut boasts 169 dairy farms that spread across a quarter of a million acres of land statewide. Twenty years ago (four years after the farm across from my elementary school had been turned into a housing development) 481 farms dotted the state’s landscape. Ten years ago, 289 still existed. Try to remember that this was happening while other businesses were flourishing in a time of economic prosperity. Think what happens when the interest rates on loans start going up.

Picture the cows you drove past last week on your way to work. Imagine now their pastureland plowed under and a McMansion in the cows’ place.

Call or write your state legislator and ask him or her to support economic bills that encourage long-term vitality for farms as well as more immediate low-interest, fixed-rate loans. It’s imperative that legislators understand that this affects more than just 169 families; it affects all of us.

Invest in the future of local agriculture. Tour a family farm — the biggest dairy farm in Connecticut has a herd of fewer than 1,000 cattle. Visit an agricultural fair. Support kids who want to go into farming.

In the meantime, buy locally produced food (such as The Farmer’s Cow milk) whenever you can. You can immediately put money into the hands of farmers by buying into community-supported agriculture — by buying actual shares in a farmer’s crops, buying from farm stands that eliminates some of the middle man costs, or demanding that your local grocer start carrying local produce.

Food tastes better when you buy it close to where it was grown. In the same way that food out of your own garden tastes best because you can see when it is just ripe and perfect for tasting, so, too, can a farmer best judge when it’s time to harvest his or her crop. If, on the other hand, a crop has to be picked so that it isn’t rotten when it arrives on the other side of the country and sits out at the grocery store, it sure isn’t going to be ideal.

Remember those strawberries you bought last season from the grocery store when you thought to yourself, “These looked beautiful but, God, they hardly tasted like anything!” Try a locally grown strawberry from a farm stand this summer. I bet you’ll be pleased with the results. Even when the fruit doesn’t look as pretty (and sometimes it doesn’t because these crops are grown in real-world situations where some days it rains too much and cracks the tomatoes and on other days a worm bites into the apple), it still tastes … real.

Yes, it may cost more than what you’ll pay at Stop & Shop or Big Y or WalMart. And if you are on a tightly fixed income, this may not be how you choose to make the dollars stretch. I can respect that. But if you can afford it, consider investing in a way of life that is rapidly dying out.

Food does not originate in a grocery store. Eggs come from chickens, not cardboard containers — and chickens require feed. Meat comes from living, breathing animals that do (and taste) best when they are allowed to roam in pastures. Fruit comes from trees and bushes that require protection from birds. Fences need mending. Tractors require fuel. All this costs a farmer money, and food you buy in the grocery store is priced so that the farmer providing it is losing money hand over fist. They are losing money so you can save pocket change. Family farmers are not rich. They are not squirrelling their money away for a sunnier day or to save for a vacation home in Florida. They are living hand-to-mouth and another bad season could be the last for them.

A Connecticut farmer is still earning the same amount as in 1979. What were you earning 27 years ago?

You pay less than $4 for a gallon of milk. Farmers earn $1. It costs them $1.60 to make it. A farmer literally pays 60 cents to provide you with a gallon of milk. Think about that for a minute. Can you afford to pay more for milk? On the other hand, can you afford not to?

This is a very real problem, but one that’s not too late to address. You can still see cows as you drive around this weekend. There may come a point where that’s not the case. But right now right here, you can choose to be part of the solution.

(Information for this blog entry also came from June Sandra Neal’s “Not Cowing Down to the System” article which appeared in the May 28, 2006, issue of The Hartford Courant’s NE Magazine.)

Category: politics. There is/are 1 Comment.

for erik
posted by soe 8:31 pm

“In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night . . . You — only you — will have stars that can laugh! . . .

“And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure . . . And your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky! Then you will say to them, ‘Yes, the stars always make me laugh!’ . . .

“It will be as if, in place of the stars, I had given you a great number of little bells that knew how to laugh . . .”

          The Little Prince
              ~ Antoine de Saint ExupĂ©ry

Category: life -- uncategorized. There is/are Comments Off on for erik.