>But like it or not, we have a serious problem in American agriculture. And
that is that farmers aren't >making enough money to even consider being a
Sustainability is a tough term to define, but if the definition does not
include sufficient economic return to maintain farms AND attract new
farmers, why bother to define it? It's a moot point.
It seems to me that supporters of sustainable ag should be spending much
more time thinking about the marketing end of agriculture and helping
farmers communicate with consumers. The buyer of agricultural products has
the only vote that counts in determining whether sustainable agriculture
survives, much less becomes the prevailing production practice.
Sustainable agriculture may be a tough sell to some farmers, for the very
practical reasons that Greg points out. But it is not a tough sell to
consumers, many of whom are scared to death of the faceless, nameless
industry agriculture has become. Salmonella outbreaks, assembly-line
chickens, BST in the milk, chemical-of-the-day in the produce--all this
unsettling news about a denominator as common as food has left the public
quite literally hungry for salvation.
Sustainable agriculture might well be it. But it's not much help to pass
that chalice in this community of the devoted and the converted. A little
more outreach would be a fine thing. If there are eager markets, and
well-paying ones, farmers will come right along.
My small, direct-sale (farmers' markets and restaurants)
sustainably-operated farm makes money. Not a lot of money, but enough to
attract a 30-year-old partner who, I hope, will one day buy me out and take
the farm into yet another generation. Two of my summer workers are the sons
of local dairy farmers, who came with their parents' blessing to learn
about sustainable practices and MARKETING.
I can teach them all I know, but I can't develop those markets for them.
That requires a concerted effort by many.
Well, that's my two cents. Thanks for the good post, Greg.
Flickerville Mountain Farm & Groundhog Ranch
Warfordsburg, PA (see us soon on the 'Net, you bet!)
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