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How Can We Empower Food Choices for All?

September 21, 2012

There are many who think food choices are only for the rich. Indeed, those with more disposable income have more variety of food choices than does someone who must accept what others give, or what they can afford. Even among those with food choices, it’s sometimes hard to find those farmers who are doing it right? How does someone use their food choices to reward the farmers they like, while not buying from those who use practices they don’t want to support? Sometimes both may sell to the same company, who then processes and puts both on the shelves of your local grocery store.

Some valid questions have come up this week, and it’s worth a conversation to help everyone find those farmers they want to do business with. Through the pages of the blog here, and information on our shares, we try to shed an open light on what we do so that folks reading can decide if they want to buy from us or not. Other farmers, also, have been sharing online and off, seeking to increase interaction with those who are sometimes nearby, sometimes far away but all must eat. A conversation starter:

  •  What can consumers do to better understand where their food comes from in a way that they are supporting the farmers who employ practices they would agree with?… But if you sell meat to a large producer and it makes it’s way into the city in which I live, I have no idea if the meat behind the counter is yours or the jerk who treats his animals in a way I would never condone. Short of buying a full cow at a time from someone I know (and, sorry, I prefer to continue to buy my meat fresh instead of having an entire freezer of it), how can we change the system such that we can empower consumers to speak with their wallets as to the farming practices we will not support? And do you think that will end some of the more abhorrent practices that are used by some in your industry?

There are several choices already highlighted here. Buying a whole (or half) beef – but that doesn’t fit this person’s choices. And because farmers can’t sell (legally) 15 pounds of beef it’s a tough call to get both on the same page. Something has to give! It may be that more consumers will decide to get 1/4 beef, or split with 4-5 people on a monthly or bimonthly basis.

Another option is seeking out and buying from small processors who know where and how the meats on their counter were produced. With a small butcher shop, you can still buy so many pounds of meat without stocking up to the degree 1/4 beef is!

Use your computer – talk to farmers and you may find more that sell to your chosen brand than you imagine. There’s still a risk of some unsavory characters getting in on the sale, but short of buying direct, you don’t know everyone involved in a market or co-op.

You could buy via contacts at farmer’s markets, or look at sites like Pick-A-Pepper to find those in your area who might have what you want. Ask farmers questions about your concerns – sincere questions aren’t accusations.

I think the more people buy close to the source the harder it will be for those who are less than positive representatives of our profession to hide. If someone doesn’t take care of their animals, the animals won’t take care of them.

A demand for what you want will be filled, it may take time but there are farmers looking for those opportunities, just like any business. It is a business, but also very much a life.

Food choices are there for all – reach out online. Talk to farmers on #agchat or #foodchat or #foodd on Twitter. Read their blogs, seek that direct contact wherever you can. Even if you don’t buy direct, it may empower food choices to say those you’ve talked to that raise for <whatever company> do have the animal’s best interest at heart. It’s true that we don’t all know where every item on our plate is raised, but we’re getting closer all the time towards that.

Unfortunately there’s not a magic wand that makes it all possible. With restrictions and regulations, there are limits to what we can do, but also many who do believe in food choices. Empower yourselves, reach out for information, visit some farms and see the variety in agriculture that exists.

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