Local Food Means Farmers Will Get Paid More

Contributed by Lisa Hanlon

Right now “local” is kitsch.  But what does local really mean?  Who do we want to support or how close do we want our food to come from? There are many factors to consider, whether they be environmental, economical, or just plain trendy so you can brag to your friends.

When it comes down to it, who wouldn’t want to support their local economy before giving their money to a greedy corporation?  I truly believe that most of the Canadian public want to support local, yet don’t completely understand how to do that, or don’t want to inconvenience themselves into having to actually cook a meal themselves, or figure out what to do with weird vegetables like kale or rutabagas.  Canadians are lazy eaters.

If the local food movement is really going to overcome the conventional agricultural system now in place, then consumers are going to have to take an active role in developing a food culture, appreciating what we have when it’s in season, and sharing the risks farmers take for us all.

Supporting local farmers by means of CSA shares or pre-ordering a quarter beef shows that we really care how our food is being produced and want the farmer to actually make a living doing what they love instead of having to work off-farm.  If we really value the effort farmers are making to produce and market healthy and sustainable alternatives, then we need to make a little more effort to find local products, pay a little more and relearn those old family recipes


3 thoughts on “Local Food Means Farmers Will Get Paid More

  1. Wayne says:

    The farmer may get more, but the farmer needs to place a value on their time. By sellng local they get a bigger share but also devote a pile more hours into the process. By going through the so called “greedy” corporations, the farmer can access markets that may be unattainable by doing it themselves. Two different marketing structures and two different buyer/seller relationships. Some people do not realize how thin the margins are for the “greedy” corporations until they try to market their own produce and place a small value on the time they commit to it.
    Also for some buyers, they do not have enough time to go to work, get home to feed the family, and enjoy life. As we have found out, grocery shopping at one spot, your “greedy” corporation, allows us to be able to afford to save money for our children’s education and to be able to spend time with them. Not everyone can afford to “buy local” as it is perceived.
    And yes, I am a farmer who enjoys, and cooks, the home cooked meals.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Food is such a personal and intimate issue for people, especially farmers. I definitely agree that agriculture has become too “commercialized” and it is sad to realize how little people know about their food or where it comes from. This is part of the reason people are wiling to accept low prices at the grocery store; they have no connection to their food. These prices do not accurately reflect the work that the farmer (whether large or small) put into their product. Local food gives people an opportunity to understand and respect the effort it takes to grow healthy safe food. I believe that grocery stores have their place (I enjoy my coffee as much as anyone), but a stronger focus on local, in season produce is a viable option for consumers and producers alike to support the economy, decrease agriculture’s impact on the environment and increase awareness of agriculture issues.

  3. Josh says:

    Locally produced food is a niche market for farmers to a certain degree. However, the large corporations are necessary for a farmer to be able to make an income. Unless you are running a home butcher shop, it will take a long time to get your name out on the market enough to make a living. For example, i’m from a hog farm background. We run 125 sow farrow-to-finish operation, producing 35-50 market hogs/ week. To be able to sell those to niche markets, I would have to trailer them to the butcher, pick them up after, and then spend a day delivering them. The amount of money put into the obnoxious cost of fuel is a high expense on its own. If I then pay myself for the time I spent on this excursion, the premium that I would be receiving for farm-fresh meat is lost. I then need to pay whoever was in the barn during the time I was away, spending more money. And doing the labour is not the only issue.

    To be able to find enough places to sell my meat it would take many hours behind a desk on the phone. Farmers markets are great to sell produce, but you will only ever sell so much. I also can;t just walk into Fortino’s and ask them to put my product on their shelf. There is a lengthy process to be able to get your product out there and on the market. This business part also takes TIME.

    To any farmer, time is money. Although the niche market is there for farm-fresh food, it is not practical to be used for 100% of a farmers produce. Thats why it is a “niche” market. If everybody was doing it, the premium would be lost. This method of production is also incapable of keeping up with reality. 6 billion people can not be fed from on-farm shops and Farmers markets.

    On a final note, I would like to say that I have nothing against selling some produce at a farmers market, or form an on-farm store as I do it myself. It is a great way to meet the consumer and tell them the real facts and not what the media says. The next step to go from here is to continue getting these real facts out there, and to increase communication between the farmer, consumer, and corporation. My agriculture professor this semester, Stewart Skinner, showed us a website for the largest grocery chain in the UK, Tesco. It has a Tesco farming web page, that everyone should check out; http://www.tescofarming.com/v2/index.asp . I found it very interesting, and have been throwing around the idea of getting something like it started with grocery chains in Canada. I believe it would be a tremendous step in communication between the producer, consumer, and corporation.

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