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Growing Pains Small Scale

April 7, 2015

For small to medium sized farms, especially those selling direct, it *appears* that there are many supporters. We hear that’s what people want, right? Small farm, organic, direct.

Oh and cheaper. And convenient. And like the store. And…WAIT!!! So all that just like us is actually wanting just like them?

An article about the Hunger for Organic appeared in my stream today.

The price of feed-grade organic corn averaged $13.01 a bushel over the last 90 days, according to Mercaris Inc., a new market-data service and online trading platform for organic and other certified commodities. Conventional corn for animals, fuel and other uses for May delivery on the Chicago Board of Trade, by contrast, settled at $3.865 a bushel on Thursday.

IMG_20141013_113934Feed grade corn – that’s what the chickens eat. So in order to be certified organic, we must pay over three TIMES the cost, but are expected to also meet that store price for chicken. Please…PLEASE come show me in real life how that’s done. Let’s raise some chickens and put the pencil to the paper here. Your dime – after all there’s so much demand.

That’s not even the kicker. Large companies (you know, those ones that are “evil” and “against small farms”) are buying land at the $2 million mark to raise their own supply. This is good and makes sense from a business standpoint but how, exactly, does that help folks like us. Because we’re scrambling for equipment upgrades and $2 million land grabs are not in the works. It’s good that companies are willing to raise what they need, but I hope folks aren’t fooling themselves with Chipotle style marketing that it will help folks like us.

The growing pains are real. Recently signed up for MarketLink, a USDA program that through farmer’s markets would allow us to take SNAP payments for low income folks – a bonus in low income, disadvantaged areas like this. I signed up, got approved for the equipment, went to the USDA site, signed up. Tried to sign in again and the runaround begins.

It recognizes that SlowMoneyFarm is there, but won’t allow SlowMoneyFarm to log in. Due to crawling service, I don’t answer fast enough for them, although it’s seconds after it shows up, to verify information. So…I got to step three to sign up, and need to sign in, it seems before going to step four. I can’t get to step 4 because I can’t sign in.

I don’t have a team of people to handle it – it’s me. So while I’m *trying* to get on that program, I can’t be doing things like, oh, planting things, starting seeds, breeding rabbits…which kinda needs to be done or there won’t be anything to sell when I get on the program. This cart and horse situation seems to come up every time I turn around. Add USDA bureaucracy to it and I wonder if it’s worth it…but it allows those who don’t have cash to get what we grow. Does that count for something?

Then it brings up is that taking “ag welfare” as some insinuate large farms do? Will it be seen as money for nothing?

The behind the scenes issues are many. The answers few. If there is a true hunger for organics, and true interest in learning what goes into food production and small farms, then folks must buy from those small farms so they continue to exist. Anything less is just a good idea – and the world is full of good ideas with no action.

Action helps in many ways, not just us but others like us. If you want food choices, embrace and finance those choices. It’s possible that everyone can win. Is that such a bad thing?

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