Thursday, December 06, 2012

A Young Farmer's Perspective

NC sent us a link to a fascinating Op- Ed in the Denver Post by an intelligent and analytical young farmer. She says: "People all say words like "farm fresh," "sustainability," but they don't want to actually pay for what it actually costs me to make it. Almost everyone tries to talk me into lowering my price or asks me to give my eggs away for free." Also: "... If I have customers coming over when I am gathering eggs, I put my hair in pigtails, and I use a small straw basket and make lots of trips. People like to buy eggs from little kids skipping through the pasture with a basket of eggs." !!

Among other lessons that can be drawn is the indubitable fact that many of the rich are inveterate cheapskates ("How do you think they got that way?" I can hear my old Dad mutter)-- and that the average postmodern urban dweller has no idea where anything comes from.

NC has more to say: "That's the heart of the story. Is it any wonder that the likes of Monsanto dominate food production when the deck is so stacked against small producers? Is it any wonder that local and organic food is so hard to sell when the customers are so clueless that they think it could somehow be given to them for free?

"That was the part of the story that had me in stitches; these people who go to farmer's markets and think that small-scale local farming exists in this magical bubble that makes it immune to economic reality. Of course they would think that! I bet Marie Antoinette thought that animal husbandry was all carefree giggles when she went off to play milkmaid!

"Inasmuch as any of us have a technophile streak, I think it's substantially rooted in the desire to understand the human economics of it all. I won't say I understand computers, but thanks to a high school physics teacher who worked in the semiconducter industry, I at least have some idea of the long hours engineers spend poring over circuit diagrams, of the super-sterile factories filled with unbelievably nasty chemicals for etching silicon, all so we can have magical electronic gadgets. I'm definitely not an electrical engineer, but I watch the trucks carrying wind turbine blades up and down I25, and I can do basic math so when someone says we ought to switch to wind energy, I have some notion of how many more trucks carrying how many more of those blades such a task would entail.

"The goal here isn't necessarily to understand all aspects of technology or production or economy perfectly. It's to have some idea of all the sorts of things that people around the world are doing to keep civilization going. The goal is to be able to see some pale reflection of the sweat of other people's brows in modern conveniences; not necessarily to extol or deplore them. Just to understand them.
"Because the alternative is to go through life thinking that meat just magically pops into existence on supermarket shelves, that alternating current and wall sockets just sprout from the ground, that cars just go and gas stations are sitting above natural deposits of gasoline. In short, to believe that the world is built around oneself for one's own comfort."

1 comment:

Federico said...

My wife and I (mostly my wife to he honest) grow vegetables, my father-in-law grows vegetables and keeps chicken, and my father is into grapes and orchards. All these things taught me that producing food is a damn pain in the ass (hence my preference for hunting, which is at least fun), and is very, very far from any bucolic ideal. What Shelby Grebenc writes is very much what I have learned, that 'free range and organic' means hard work and low profits. I agree with her points, and sympathise with her.

On the other hand I like my food to have that subtle taste given by the bitter tears of impoverished orphans, so I am now in a conundrum: how can I buy Shelby's eggs at full price and still upset her enough to make her cry?

Shelby Grebenc can make a reasonable and reasoned argument. Why the hell is she then throwing it all out of the window by appealing to our pity at the end of her piece? Or am I just a grumpy bastard?