Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Follow-up on food waste

   A few weeks ago we wrote about the things we do to avoid food waste on our farm.  We discussed several things we do with unsellable and surplus food, things that even most small, organic farms don't do or don't do to a significant extent.  By far the most important of those things is preserving food for our own family's later use, but all of the things we do to avoid food waste take time.  The question we aim to address this week is why you as a consumer might (or might not) want to deal with a farmer that takes the time to do these things, especially preserving food for his own family.
  And we think the most important answer to that question is that if you believe in pursuing a real alternative to supermarket ways of farming then we think it makes sense to look for a farmer that wants to eat his own food year-round.  We think the inverse is also true: a farmer that would rather focus more on making money during the busy season (instead of preserving food for his own family) and is content to take that money to the supermarket in the off-season is more likely a farmer that isn't so committed to a way of farming that's so distinct from the supermarket. 
  This begs the question of whether the products of any local farms really are preferable to the supermarket to begin with, especially when it comes to comparing something like home canned local tomatoes with fresh tomatoes from Florida or California.  Perhaps you'd rather eat fresh tomatoes from the supermarket when they're out of season instead of eating home-canned tomatoes or doing without.  And perhaps you'd prefer a farmer that shared and followed those same priorities, concentrating on bringing the best of everything he can to the market during the market season instead of getting distracted with things you wouldn't even really care about for yourself.
  In theory those fresh tomatoes from the supermarket in the middle of winter could even be certified USDA organic, but in practice shopping at the supermarket almost always means substantial compromises to even the USDA organic label, to say nothing of all that the USDA organic label leaves to be desired.  But one could trust in and patiently wait for the USDA organic system to improve and offer more and better options, focusing in the meantime on the certified organic things one can buy, and taking comfort in mostly meaningless alternative labels ("all natural," "non-GMO" olive oil, "hormone-free" chicken, etc.) for all those things for which there aren't certified organic options or for which the certified organic options seem like a rip-off.  One could trust that ultimately it's going to be supermarkets, the far-away farms that supply them, and government programs that fix the problems with our food and agriculture.  Lots of people don't believe that abandoning responsibility for our food and farms to unaccountable corporations and government programs was at all to blame for how we wound up with so many problems in the first place.  Pretty obviously, we believe consumer disconnectedness is at the root of our food and agricultural problems, but if you'd just as soon buy what you want to buy when you want to and leave it to corporate and government specialists to think about and take care of all the details, with (or without) an organic label to help that process, then you'd surely think (if you took the time to think about it) that how we farm is generally a pointless and inefficient waste of our time and your money.
  Even in that case, if we happen to have something on the farmers' market table that looks good for a price that looks good, you might still want to buy it, but that might just not happen very often.  We would probably have compromised too much of what you'd be looking for for the sake of things you don't really care about at all.  And you almost certainly wouldn't want to make any commitment to our way of farming (like a CSA involves.)  Fair enough.  Thanks for looking.  On the other hand, if you'd rather not trust the supermarket or the USDA organic label to answer all your food and underlying farming questions for you (present and future), and if you'd like to support and eat from a source that's a lot more than just a nearby version of that same system, and especially if you'd like to build and grow a comprehensive alternative to the supermarket system such that the homegrown alternative amounts to more than just token supplements to your diet, then we'd encourage you to consider getting to know and partnering with a farm like ours.  If you share that perspective, you might actually prefer that we spend significant time preserving tomatoes (and all sorts of other things) for ourselves when we might otherwise be putting more on the farmers' market table for you, precisely because there's no better guarantee of good farming than what a farmer would choose for his own family.  And if you get to know us and decide to partner with us, you may come to find that we're actually providing you with good things that the corporate marketing specialists didn't even tell you you were missing.