Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I am not quite sure what I think about the increasing faddishness of some aspects of the local food thing.

I appreciate the effort but there are things that disturb me about this New York Times piece on the "new farmers". Can you trust anything that begins with the (built- in ironic) lead: "The Carhartts are no longer ironic. Now they have real dirt on them."

Will such people last longer than the hippie back- to- the landers of my generation, who mostly didn't? Granted, there are better markets for high- quality food now.

One of the farmers profiled is a former trendie from trendy "Billyburg" (Williamsburg),and another apparently doesn't want to stray too far from a New Yorker's comfort zone: " “If we can find affordable housing, which is a challenge in East Hampton,” said Mr. Piedmont, 28, who spent two years in Italy after graduation, “we’re going to have two interns this summer.” "

And what is this?-- granted perhaps more a typical NYT staffer's ignorance of life outside Manhattan: "Although publications like Small Farmer’s Journal, published since 1976, often present the life of the small farmer in a heartwarmingly “Little House on the Prairie” light, a recent article in Sheep! about the dangers of jackals and one in Backyard Poultry about preventing chickens’ drinking water from freezing, are a reminder of the old-school risks of farming."


A lot of this reminds me of the satirical blog "Stuff White People Like."

Whoops. It is on it.

I'd be curious what Peculiar, who has spent some time on this scene, has to say.

Oh and, re food-- Mike, I'll have more to say soon. Though I don't use mushroom soup, I am no purist. Two things I will use but enhance: canned broth, and mac and cheese.


PBurns said...

If you like the "Stuff White People Love" blog, check out the analog at "Stuff Black People Love" at This is the newest site from the folks that gave us "Hello Negro" over at >>


Heidi the Hick said...

I can hardly see straight from slappin my forehead! I mean, anybody with an ounce of hick CHIC knows that the coveralls are only chic if they've got some dirt on them. Geez, don't these people care about style at all?????

But wait- is there money to be made on the topic of the "Water Freezes in Winter- Protect Your Livestock!"

Cuz I could write that article.

I'll follow it up with:

"Manure: It happens."


Peculiar said...

Hotchkiss, CO Barbie Conversion Kit:

Start with Santa Fe Barbie, Boulder Barbie or other comparable model. Cash out real estate assets, SUVs and Ken’s successful suburban business. Purchase land, preferably outright. Purchase 4WD van, John Deer accessories, home schooling kit and dog. Hire Taos Barbies for a pittance as interns. Sell lots of four-dollar tomatoes to Telluride, Aspen and other Santa Fe Barbies. Hope that Ken has some plumbing/wiring skills to get through the winter.

Seriously, land prices are the real sticking point today, and the reason why it is not a difficult decision for Mrs. P. and myself not to pursue farming further. We don’t have anything to cash out. The economics of small-scale farming are indeed much better than they’ve been for generations. Just go to some major farmers markets like Santa Fe, Telluride, Boulder and watch all those Santa Fe Barbies only too happy to throw down four bucks per tomato (to be fair, there are poorer people who support local ag by spending their food budget more judiciously than the mainstream; power to ‘em). We were driving home from the Ridgway market last summer with $1,000 to $1,500 cash; that was one market out of four weekly, and that was a pretty small one. But you only have those kind of market days for twelve weeks or so. If you have mortgage payments, it’s still a very marginal proposition when you only make serious income three months a year. Plumbing skills highly recommended.

It’s no surprise then that yuppies and trustafarians make up a large percentage of aspiring small farmers. (Things might be a little different in the Central Time Zone, where land prices are less appalling.) What’s going to get a lot of these people is not the economics (which are doable, barely), nor even the hard work necessarily, but the dedication required. I concluded last summer that a successful farmer must have nothing, nothing at all, he would rather be doing than making things grow and selling them, at least for six months a year. That’s what our boss was like. He’d lived for almost three years within thirty miles of the spectacular Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and hadn’t yet made it out there. That would drive me up the wall, but it didn’t bother him, because nothing was more fascinating to him than his plants. I’ve concluded that I just couldn’t give up my summers that way (hmmm, maybe I could farm in the southern hemisphere? But it’s still be summer down there… DOH!), and I suspect that a lot of aspiring farmers will also find this to be a problem, especially three or four years in.

Nevertheless, there are people making a go of it who are doing pretty well. As in so many things, it pays to specialize; our farm did melons, which no one else in western Colorado really did; another successful outfit here does flowers, another does Thai chili plants. If the thing is becoming trendy, that’s probably all right, since lots of folks will try it and some will therefore make it stick. It’ll help if they have some finances to tap. I also suspect that many of them who bail out will be inclined to put easements on their land to keep it open or sell it to other aspiring farmers. Trendiness is always problematic, but we have much worse trends.

But if they’re scared of the jackals, wait till they encounter their first groundhog!