Thursday, July 17, 2014

ARTICLE : Fact: Most Farmers Are Not Rich

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photo credit: Rosewoman
by Brenda on July 16, 2014
If you don’t know my story already, let me share it with you in brief:
We bought a farm, worked it hard, tried to do the full-time-farming thing. We poured so much into our farm–time, energy, money, debt. We had good products, great customers, and yet, we didn’t make it. The farm didn’t pay for itself. My husband had to go back to work, and we decided that we were unable to continue farming and maintain my husband’s career, the commute, the debt, and a healthy family life.
  • We sold eggs for $6.50 per dozen and though we sold out, we didn’t make enough to cover our expenses. I have people telling me on my Facebook page that even $5 per dozen for eggs is too expensive and unrealistic.
  • We sold raw milk for $10 per gallon and didn’t make enough to cover our expenses. So many people complain about this cost, too, as if it is an outrageous price. The most recent negative comment I got about this was: “And we wonder why people go for the industrial milk…”
  • We sold whole chickens for $5.50 per pound and had such a hard  time selling our chickens (which barely brought in any profit anyways) at the farmer’s market.
  • We also sold beef, pork, duck, goose, as well as some fresh produce, homemade spice mixes, homemade candles, and a variety of organic grocery items in our farm store. It took so much time to manage all of the details of our farm–and yet people told me over and over that to make enough income, we would need to “diversify” more. Diversify more? We were busy with so much to manage already!
I get so many comments from people who truly expect farm-fresh food to be as cheap as grocery-store, subsidized food or maybe even cheaper. I get comments like this:
“Maybe people should wake up to the fact this isn’t a good
business venture… It is simply a way to provide for your
family and a few others. It’s when people try to turn this into a
business that the costs sky rocket.”
The Truth is: Farming isn’t a good business venture, but it should be. Why shouldn’t people make money farming? People who build furniture make money, right? People who design computers make money, right? Why shouldn’t the people who grow our food make money?
“If you are running a farm the milk cow is only a portion of it…….even stores and other businesses take losses on one product or service while marking up others that can handle the higher profit margin and it all evens out as a whole.”
The Truth is: I get people telling me that every product on the farm ought to be a “loss leader”–milk, eggs, chicken, etc. I am not sure how these people expect the farmer to make any income or even cover the cost of feed, if every product loses money for the farmer. There is not one single food product that “can handle the higher profit margin” because grocery store food prices are SO distorted because of government subsidies. Most people have no clue how much food production actually costs.
“ppl will continue with store bought eggs due to the greediness of the up and coming farmer. Farming is about getting in tune with nature, soil, water and plant life, and sharing the spoils to keep ppl from starving. You want ppl to help support your greedy, selfish lifestyle.”
The Truth is: Farmers who are trying to simply make a living off of farming are not “greedy.” Farmers should not be expected to be self-sacrificing people who simply do their job because they love nature. What if every job out there was treated this way? Doctors ought to share their time and skill set to keep people from being ill. Clothing manufacturers should give away clothes to keep people from being naked. Authors and publishers should give away books so that nobody ever has to go without a good book to read. It’s ridiculous, right? There are true costs in every industry. And the laborer deserves a fair wage. Farmers work hard. They aren’t greedy or selfish when they charge realistic prices for their goods, after assessing the true costs and factoring in their time and labor.
“Most farmers never got rich farming. In hard times farmers had no cash, but they had food. So while the rest of us are being forced to pay exorbitant prices for grass fed beef, pastured eggs and gmo/soy you have all that on your farm, you are truly blessed.”
The Truth is: Farmers don’t get rich off of farming, but they should be able to survive, pay the bills, make enough to pay for their time, and keep on farming for years to come. Farmers don’t get food off of their farm for free, and the money it costs to raise this food doesn’t magically appear somehow. When we were farming, we would pay $1,000-$2,000 per delivery of feed–and we were needing to order that much feed at least every 2 weeks. That’s $2,000-$4,000 per month, and farmers can’t just come up with that money. In hard times, they still have to make enough income to raise the food to have the food
“Maybe get a day job along w your laying hens, like the rest of us, instead of over charging for eggs.”
The Truth is: Most farmers DO have day jobs, which is really sad. This person was claiming that $5 per dozen for organic eggs was “over charging for eggs.” $5 per dozen is not bringing in much income for the farmer at all.
Someone who was saying eggs should not cost more than $3 per dozen: “…my husband makes very little over the cost of raising these chickens, MUCH less than minimum wage, but he does it because we feel it’s important to raise and grow good healthy food using methods that improve, rather than deplete our soil and environment.”
The Truth is: I’m glad that these people have a good reason for wanting to raise chickens well….but does that make it OK that, as she’s admitting, her husband makes “MUCH less than minimum wage” for this job? Can we all agree that raising chickens for eggs is a JOB that is worthy of a fair wage for the time and labor put into it?
I want to share these statistics, for all of the people out there who truly believe that farmers are rich or greedy. Notice that the “Median Farm Income” is Negative. People, this is not ok. Farmers have to get a “day job” to support their hobby of growing your food.
The prediction for 2014 doesn’t look any better:
And notice this next chart. The document states: “Farm income contributes little to the annual income of farm households operating residence farms, is a secondary source of income for households with intermediate farms, and is a primary source of income for those with commercial farms.”
So only 31% of small family farms make any profit at all—-and that profit makes up only 7% of their annual income.
The document also states: “Median farm household income increased each year from 2008 to 2012. The increase largely reflects greater income from off-farm sources, where most farm households earn all of their income.
Can we all agree, this is just wrong? That farmers, who produce the food that nourishes us, should be able to make a living at what they do? That they shouldn’t have to work 40 hours per week at a day job, and then go home, exhausted, and raise livestock and work in the garden? That no human being should have to sacrifice every bit of their time so that the rest of the humans can work, rest in the evenings and eat???
If you would like to read more, visit the USDA website here.
Farmers are not rich. Farmers work hard, and more often than not, are giving their food away. It’s not ok. They have to pay the mortgage, the electricity, the feed bill, the cost of animals and seeds, and they deserve to make an income for their labor. Please stand with me in making a difference. Read about How to Bless a Farmer here. Tip your farmer. Pay fair prices for their food items. Do not expect that eggs, milk, meat or vegetables will cost the same as artificially priced grocery store foods.

Let’s work together to make farming an viable career!!


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