[permaculture] [might be spam] Re: NYT morons at work: Don't Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers - NYTimes.com

farmer1 at gasperfarm.com farmer1 at gasperfarm.com
Wed Aug 13 23:25:26 EDT 2014


Ah, that makes sense.

So what you have here is a large scale commodity farmer that is already
established and profitable. An operation like that can then divert some of
the product into the direct market stream and employ the children or bring
the wife home from the town job to market it.

That extra job scales well because the marketing labor goes up
proportionally with income.

Since they're at scale on the production side their costs are very low and
they're supported by the farm so they're not in a farming after work
situation. Land and equipment was paid for generations ago. And anything
over commodity price is profit; so they just have to make enough to cover
marketing labor.

There is no stress about the slow ramp up time in growing a direct market
cause it can just go to the commodity channel. Eventually they grow the
direct market enough to dump the commodity channel.

Its a lot harder to loose money in a situation like that.

But none of that helps a beginning farmer. Typically they don't have the
large scale land and the equipment. They cannot get big enough to sell
commodity so start small and grow with the market but that means they
don't produce enough to keep costs low. They're doing marketing and
farming: two jobs. And due to the way farming scales they often have a
full time farming job with a part time farming income. And so they depend
on off farm income while they work themselves to death trying to grow the
farm.

That model isn't working well. But the previous model isn't an option for
beginning farmers.

So what do we as beginning farmers do?

One solution being increasingly proffered is to eliminate the marketing;
build food hubs and other agrigators to market the food. But these are
just middlemen who in the long term will push down farm gate prices and
keep all the profits. This is nothing less than the recommodification of
the local food movement.

At first that might sound like an opportunity for a beginning farmer to do
like the first model: sell at scale while building a direct market. But it
doesn't deal with the trouble of getting to scale and it adds a new
problem:  agrigators become least cost suppliers of local food and
eliminate the market opportunity for direct marketers.

So what do we as beginning farmers do?

Pete

> It's paid labor, their children have children of their own and generally
> the operation is arranged as a partnership of some sort. They sell
> direct to the public and also sell into the regular commodity system.
> They are also larger.  One of our members is the largest certified
> organic wheat farmer in Oklahoma, and the only certified organic beef
> producer, he has 5,000 certified organic acres.  They sell wheat, flour,
> and organic beef through our Coop.
>
> When I grew up on a farm in SW Oklahoma, my father always paid me for my
> summer labor.  50 cents an hour for planting cotton, chopping cotton,
> changing irrigation pipe, plowing wheat stubble, feeding cattle, and
> other misc farm chores of the 1960s in southwest Oklahoma.  of course
> that was in 1966 when 50 cents was two silver quarters and gasoline was
> less than a quarter.
>
> Bob Waldrop, Okie City
>
> On 8/13/2014 9:00 PM, farmer1 at gasperfarm.com wrote:
>> I have a question about the long term established farmers who don't
>> depend
>> on off the farm jobs.
>>
>> Are you saying they are successful enough that they're able to employ
>> the
>> next generation, or that they're depending on the unpaid labor of their
>> children?
>>
>> I know of some producers who do good business selling to chefs but by
>> and
>> large it is trouble. They're rarely willing to pay a high enough price
>> for
>> what they want and many farmers have gone under due to unpaid accounts
>> from restaurants.
>>
>> Pete
>>
>>
>>
>>> The Oklahoma Food Cooperative has about 100 active producers, of that
>>> number, 59 of them are growing food or raising poultry or livestock.
>>> About half our producers are women owned or women managed operations.
>>>
>>> All of the "newer farmers" of our 59 have to have an off-farm job in
>>> order to support their "farming habit".  The only ones that don't have
>>> off-farm income are long-term established farmers, many of those are
>>> parents and their kids as the labor (older kids, often starting their
>>> own families).
>>>
>>> Of course, this isn't necessarily restricted to organic or other forms
>>> of alternative agriculture.  Years ago, some farmers in southwest
>>> Oklahoma went in together and bought a bunch of Texas lottery tickets.
>>> They won.  One of them was interviewed by an Oklahoma City television
>>> station, and he was asked what he was going to do with his share of the
>>> winnings (several hundred thousand dollars).  He said, "Well, I reckon
>>> I'll just keep on farming until it is all gone."  Hoots of laughter
>>> were
>>> heard around the state, but it was kind of a bitter laughter.
>>>
>>> I dated a girl in junior high and later in life was back home for a
>>> family event and we were catching up and I asked about her, and there
>>> was a sudden silence around the table.  Finally my grandfather cleared
>>> his throat and said, "Bobby Max, I forgot you used to date her.  Their
>>> family was losing their land to a foreclosure, and her mother committed
>>> suicide."  She laid herself down on the burning trash pile behind their
>>> house and burned and asphyxiated herself to death.  It was written up
>>> in
>>> the NY Times.  This was during one of the big waves of farmer
>>> bankruptcies over the last 30 years or so. I forget the numbers but
>>> that
>>> year I believe there were several hundred farmer suicides.
>>>
>>> Sales here at the Oklahoma Food Cooperative have been declining slowly
>>> for two years.  We got started in 2003 and spent the next few years
>>> running to keep ahead of the demand, and then we topped out in
>>> 2012-2013, having sold $5.8 million in locally grown and made food and
>>> non-food items in ten years, and it has been a slow downhill grind
>>> since
>>> then.  The three year drought certainly hasn't helped things at all.
>>> We have less vegetables for sale now than we had three years ago, but
>>> part of that is that when we got started, there were maybe 4 or 5
>>> farmers markets in Oklahoma County, now there are 30, so there are more
>>> places for farmers to sell their produce.
>>>
>>> One of our more established farmers, who has been with us since our
>>> first year, called me up last year and asked, "Is it time to give up
>>> yet?"  My heart was chilled when I heard that from her because she's
>>> from a multi-generational farm family, all organic operations,
>>> certified
>>> Animal humane operations, certified naturally grown, produces a diverse
>>> mixture of crops and livestock/poultry for sale and everything is sold
>>> direct to the public. Plus she makes a line of body care and household
>>> cleaning products.  She has a traveling grocery store on an old school
>>> bus with a regular route, and she sells through us.  It's her and her
>>> family, at least one daughter and a son are involved with the food
>>> production.  If she is edging towards despair, I'm worried.  She
>>> appears
>>> to have gotten a second wind though and has now opened a store in one
>>> of
>>> our larger regional cities.  So I'm glad about that but I hear similar
>>> laments from other producers.
>>>
>>> Alternative farming as we know it is hard and all the cards are stacked
>>> against these folks.   At one point I proposed to the producers that
>>> the
>>> Coop start a oklahomafoodbtob.coop to facilitate sales to businesses.
>>> Not a single coop producer was interested --
>>>
>>> (1) They didn't want to sell what they had at a wholesale price. "That
>>> just means less money for us."
>>> (2) They said there was zero chance the restaurants would actually pay
>>> us on time.
>>>
>>> They set their own prices when they sell through the Coop, and each
>>> producer functions as his or her own brand.  Members order items from
>>> specific producers. The customers pay us a commission for buying
>>> through
>>> the Coop and the producers pay a commision for selling through the
>>> Coop,
>>> so the bottom line for our producers is that they get 77.5 cents out of
>>> every Coop grocery dollar, except for the sales tax.
>>>
>>> Most of them had had very bad experiences with local chefs.  The Coop
>>> pays our producers when they bring in their orders, "same day payment"
>>> has always been our rule.  We can do that because (a) we have working
>>> capital built up from the sale of member shares, and (b) we pay the
>>> farmers the same day our customers pay us.  And our customers do pay us
>>> or they don't get their groceries.
>>>
>>> So we ditched that idea.
>>>
>>> It's not a surprise that it's an unsustainable system, and this is what
>>> it looks like when a system is accelerating towards collapse.
>>>
>>> Bob Waldrop
>>> Oklahoma City
>>>
>>>
>>> So it's an unsustainable system out there.
>>> On 8/11/2014 6:43 PM, John D'hondt wrote:
>>>> There was a time in this country where you could support a family from
>>>> a
>>>> farm, but that is no longer the case because of the cheap food system
>>>> which was intentionally setup to concentrate all the profits in the
>>>> system
>>>> in the hands of the processors.
>>>>
>>>> Pete
>>>>
>>>> Exactly, in the 1930's a farm laborer could feed his family for a week
>>>> from the proceeds of one sheep fleece (just wool). I saw recently
>>>> sheep being sold for 25 cents per head.
>>>> Prices for farm produce have been deliberately driven to near nothing
>>>> since 1945.
>>>> John
>>>>
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> to the realities of peak oil, economic irrationality, political
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