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Freedom to Choose, Freedom to Farm

October 29, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m watching a much larger Dominique hen walk over for a drink. As she reaches for the water, one of the duckling youngsters reaches out and bops her right on top the comb. She stops, as if thinking whether to retaliate, and the duckling bops her on the head again. She was a giant next to the young duckling, who was stretching out to be as big as possible. The Dominique hen shook her head and walked away.

I have the Muscovy duck and her three remaining offspring transferred to a more-outdoor, open bottom pen that is – reality – two dog crates opened and placed close together. The little ducks can reach through but not get out, and to help keep the pen dry, small watering containers are placed OUTSIDE the pen. The ducklings are quite bold with other feathered creatures – some might say they’re bullies. Some might say they’re just being youngsters. Some might wonder what that has to do with choosing and farming.

Today is a day to pause and spend a few minutes remembering Troy Nealey. He’s never far from thoughts, but it was this day in 2006 that his life ended far too soon. He chose to serve as a Marine, and chose to benefit youth showmanship in his area if he didn’t come home. So often freedom to choose is taken for granted, and thankfully, most choices aren’t so serious.

Those waving the banner of food and farm choices may or may not have seen the news release.

Rose Acre Farms, the second-largest egg producer in the United States, is looking to operate a 2,600-acre farm with 3 million laying hens near the community of Bouse in La Paz County, Arizona. The operation would be Rose Acre Farms’ first in Arizona.

The La Paz Economic Development Corporation told Parker Live that Rose Acre Farms has entered into an agreement to purchase land in rural La Paz County, from Arizona Public Service (APS).

“We are delighted that APS wanted to ensure this would be an excellent project for La Paz County and the surrounding communities,” said Vincent “Skip” Becker of La Paz Economic Development Corporation. Becker added that the first phase of the project would add 80-100 jobs in the area, including “comprehensive employee benefits”. Rose Acre Farms will invest more than $80,000,000 dollars to complete that first phase, according to Becker.

The project includes a 3 million bird layer farm, a pullet farm, a rail spur and a feed milling operation.

Many say they want small farm products. Most are not choosing accordingly. $80million dollars adding 3 million layers and a pullet farm with their own feed milling operation in an area that is not grain country means they’re seeing something that many are not. While people say they don’t want volume “factory farms” that’s exactly what they’re buying, and poised to buy more of. More people buying in the southwest, an easy ship to California as poultry farmers there adapt to regulations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo what’s that mean for the small place with 50, 100 hens? It means consumers need to choose if they want those choices. Places like us can’t compete on a state of the art operation with millions of dollars and, no matter regulations, they know people will buy. If the market dictated it then regulations aren’t needed!

You see- if choices alone made a difference, and there were 100million people ready to make a change and buy direct, that would change. The fact is that’s not happening, and when compared to bottom dollar of under $2 for a dozen eggs then – well – that’s what most will buy. Is that a bad thing? Not if it’s all about the money you save, I suppose. If it’s just about the money, as I hear in so many comment sections, then why is that couple dollars for a dozen eggs such a big deal? It’s not about the money is it?

Freedom of choices means there is also freedom to farm. Like the young duckling, there’s no fear of the much bigger chicken. A properly timed and aimed thwack and it might get a few to think and alter their actions, but most will continue on their day. There’s too much to do to think about the cost of food, let alone where it comes from. That, too, is freedom to choose, and hopefully is in line with words.

May we long have such luxury to make that an ‘unimportant’ decision. For those providing food choices, it’s not unimportant at all – it’s a means of survival.

Many say that there’s room for all, and yet are quick to throw small producers under the bus. All agriculture depends on consumer choices, but those choices must meet with action. That action IS your choice.

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