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    « Pro Food Form | Main | Can consumer demand drive changes in food options »

    07/21/2009

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    Education, Education, Education!
    That is the only way change can or will happen. The food industry has been consolidating in such a fast and alarming rate for the last 40 years and America has been totally ignorant of it. Thankfully people are starting to not only care, but seek our farmers.
    We see the change on our farm--- my family has been able to do well selling grass-fed beef, but we are producing a luxury product. It would be great if federal laws were changed so that we could compete, and possibly feed the masses! I have a lot of hope about this. When I was a kid being a farm kid was not cool, now it is. I think this in itself says a lot about where we are going.
    That does not mean there is a lot of work to do!
    The industrialized food system benefits when we are ignorant.

    We need to educate people on how to cook, eat well, and grow food in a new way!

    Dairy farmers have suffered more than anyone from the consolidation of US agriculture. As a reporter I covered emergency hearings on dairy pricing in MA a couple of years ago. It was eye-opening, and I've never looked at a bottle of milk the same way since.

    The system of milk pricing is byzantine, federally-controlled and pits farmers against consumers for the benefit of the middlemen who process the milk. Say the words "free market" to a dairy farmer and you will get laughed at--there's no such thing in the world of dairy.

    One of the best resources on this issue is a guy from Ulla's (and my) neck of the woods in upstate NY--John Bunting, a dairy farmer who writes for the Milkweed and recently started blogging. It's not all easy for the lay person to follow, but the guy knows his stuff. Check it out:

    http://johnbuntingsjournal.blogspot.com/

    My partner and I are currently building an online news/community website for the Catskills region in upstate New York. We're not online yet, but hope to be soon. (We're still very much engrossed with the gritty details of getting Drupal to work for us--feel free to check back at www.watershedpost.com in a few months and see how we're doing!)

    We are very interested in looking into how we--as a site serving a geographically-based community, and with a heavy focus on supporting and promoting local small business--can help get farmers and eaters together. Suggestions most welcome.

    Ulla, I agree that educating consumers regarding the "true" cost of food, as well as, the benefits both; in terms of personal health, as well as, the impact on local economies, of supporting family farms such as your family's is key. We must transition from condition where grass fed beef is viewed as luxury to one where consumers can gauge the true cost of their food choices. Good luck with your marketing efforts.

    Lissa, I agree dairy farmers have been especially squeezed and the entire industry is in crisis. It is unfortunate that local creameries and other light processors of milk products have disappeared from the local landscape. Diane Rehm of NPR recently did a show about the Dairy crisis. You can listen to it here -- http://wamu.org/programs/dr/09/07/15.php#26912 I think an online news/community web site for your area is a wonderful idea. Of course, when you are ready please consider using Hungry Garden's map technology to organize location of local food producers and consumers in your area.

    Thank you both for taking the time to share your stories.

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