Reality of Farm to Table
As I sit here enjoying my second cup of coffee of the morning that almost became an Irish Coffee due to having to pull a lamb (bare handed, in my sweats, and before my first cup of coffee) because it was stuck with a leg and head out during my morning lamb check, there has been something nagging at myself and some other producers for a while. Farm to Table has obviously become quite the buzz word and families, chefs, and restaurateurs alike all want to say they are buying local and nutritious food. The reality is that not every "farm" is what it claims to be, and this is often one of my biggest frustrations as a young, beginning producer who has quite literally risked everything that I have to produce exactly that. Farm to Table. Over the past three years of this I have heard and experienced firsthand numerous "producers" who may never raise a single vegetable or animal, and yet always have product for sale. This business is hard enough to make money, let alone a profit without having to compete with these farms that in all reality have zero risk. With my farm it would be very, very easy to make money if I didn't have to worry about the weather, birth rates, loss rates, weather, feed prices, harvest weights, and did I mention weather?!?
Anyone who knows me, knows that I have staked my personal and farm reputation on raising quality food with integrity. To me that means an animal that I know it's history, what it has or has not received, and that it lived a humane life. If you are buying an animal from the sale barn or as an already processed product that you are reselling, can you really put your reputation on the quality of that product and know for a fact how that animal was raised? Below is some advice that I would give to any blogger, farmers market manager, chef, or family that wants to support local family farms.
First: Go Visit The Farm!!! This to me is a no brainer and why we have an open door policy. My farm is not always perfect, it’s often not as "pretty" as I would like it, but it’s real. We have nothing to hide, no off limit areas or locked doors that we are ashamed of. We also have real lambs that need their bottles, real chickens on pasture that need moved, and real honey bees that might sting you if aggravated. If you go and visit a farm and you see none of the type of productl that they are marketing, or not nearly enough to ever meet the demand that they are supplying I would ask some real and hard questions.
Second: Social Media. Look at the farms social media accounts, in this day and age we all have them and most of us post more pictures of our animals or produce than we do of our families. If you look on a farm or farmers social media and don't see any or very generic pictures of their production, or worse only pictures of the packaged final product again ask questions and inquire more.
Finally: The Farmers Hands. My final suggestion is when you shake your farmers hand be mindful. I don't want to build myself up, but by June when I am 6 weeks into moving chicken tractors daily and through at least our first round of hay, my hands aren't soft, smooth, and pretty. They are unfortunately callused and scabbed but strong, and don't be hating on the dirt underneath my finger nails.
This post will probably piss some people off, but myself and other producers are getting tired of those counterfeits who are using the popularity of this wonderful movement for their own personal gain. As a foodie community it is up to us to govern ourselves because good lord the government has bigger issues at hand than regulating this (and quite frankly we don't need anymore government regulation). Please shop mindfully and remember that every dollar spent with a small, local farm is helping make that farm payment, pay those feed bills, and keeping that farmer on their land producing the products that you love.