Recently participants of area farmers markets were invited to set up a “farmers market” at a showing of Farmageddon. Farmageddon is a film, which takes a look at current methods of agriculture. Some thought that vendors should not participate because films like this one demonize one method of production. Their position that there is a market for products produced under many different methods and that producers can market and promote products without criticizing someone else’s production or practices.
I took the time to view the trailer and read the comments from those who have seen the documentary. It seems to me that the point of the film is to highlight the lack of choice, the reduction in the freedom to choose products that may be best for us or our families. It is the increasing concentration of ownership of land, production, processing and distribution in smaller and smaller numbers of large companies with ties to governing bodies that deny opportunities to young farmers, new farmers, or new ideas or the restoration of ancient traditional foods of value.
I would like to market my products without defaming the conventional or current accepted practice farmers in my county, they are only doing what the co-op, extension, seed, chemical and processing companies say is best for them at the present time. They are very good at what they do. In order to move my product at a price that allows our business to be sustainable my consumer is interested why we do what we do. It would be my turn to highlight the differences and to accentuate the role of what I call bigger, faster, cheaper. The economy of scale in production has a major impact. I pay more to butcher 1 # of chicken than the restaurants and stores in Sioux Falls pay for a 1# of chicken. So it begs the question why I bother. I bother because it tastes better; it is better for me and the bird. It creates jobs for me and my family, and the local processor. It keeps the profits in our communities and we don’t need federal or state program dollars to do it.
I think the folks that will attend this event for the most part have already been exposed to films like Fresh and Food Inc. Their minds are already open to looking outside the box for their food so I would think it would a good place for producers that differentiate themselves from the mainstream to present their practices and possibly the product of their farm.
If we keep doing what we have always done we will get the same results. In agriculture that means fewer and fewer producers producing more and more of the same resulting in no choice for consumers. In 1980 there were more than 50,000 farms producing pigs in Iowa, today there are fewer than 10,000 yet producing more pigs. There is less variety, essentially only one method of production. If anyone tries anything different they are labeled a threat. Across the country bigger faster cheaper means smaller rural towns, closed schools, banks, post offices and generally a lower standard of living for those not holding ownership stake in the method of production.
I could go on. My point is it is better to participate in the discussion and highlight our strengths and let consumers make their choice. The reason these films and books like them are written is because the consumers’ right to choose is being limited.