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Understanding Costs and Recognizing Value

June 22, 2012

I went down to Huntington’s Kitchen on 3rd Avenue this morning to pick up my order from Milt-Ton Farms. Stephanie Appleton had put in a few duck eggs for me to try, promising me I would notice a wonderful difference in my baking. She looked tired and I asked what was going on; she had hinted on Facebook that things were a bit busier than normal. She shared some and I thought a glimpse of the issues of what small farmers deal with would help us, the suburban consumer, to begin to understand.

The hay needed cutting and baling. There were tons of other things to do, but if that is not done timely, it can all end up being a waste. So, Tim was busy doing that in the evening when he returned from his full-time job instead of the already pending list of things that he normally takes care of.

The Appleton family has been very active helping get the Wild Ramp store renovated and time spent there, as lovingly as they offer their energy and skills, is time away from their farm.  So, again, some regular things are not getting addressed.

But the most pressing matter is that a cow is missing. Somehow, it found a hole in the fence and wandered. As Stephanie put it in terms we can all understand, “That is $1000 wandering around somewhere.” So Tim has also been looking for the steer, after his haying, after his 9-5 job.

In addition, Stephanie and the kids have been setting traps to try to stop the almost nightly loss of chickens. So far they have caught a feral cat and a raccoon, but the area dogs that wander in a pack still pose a problem.

When I visit the farms I ask about the challenges, and loss of small livestock and crops to predators is a very common answer.

Think about it… have a flock of 20 chickens and you lose 1 or 2 a week to a fox or raccoon or a dog. Slowly but surely your ability to produce enough eggs or to have meat chickens to process, all needed to produce income to feed your family, disappears.

So, you may say, fence them in….ahh, there is the challenge of having free range or pastured chickens in a nut shell.  There are ways to fence and still provide room to roam. But as Roy Ramey of Avalon Farm told me, “I can’t spend $3,000 in fencing to protect $1,000 of income.”  Loss is part of the equation, even as the farmers search out other ways to try to minimize that loss.

So, when you buy that dozen eggs and compare the price to what you pay at Kroger, think it through. This is NOT about getting the least expensive egg you can. This is about being able to feed your family more nutritious food, understanding that the price that the farmer sets is based on the costs to raise that chicken, their time to take care of the animals, and even the cost of some loss.  Recognizing the value of the quality of the food we have available from our local farmers is part of OUR decision to adjust our spending habits a bit…and maybe forego one of those decaf half soy double whip whatevers to balance our own household budget.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 22, 2012 10:47 pm

    In some cases quality can be bought. We buy quality every time we support a local farmer’s endeavors. People need to get away from the concept of ‘cheap’ food. That’s a very modern and false concept. Food doesn’t have to be expensive, but comparing prices of your local farmer to some place like Walmart is just ridiculous. We get what we pay for. We want real, nutritious, wholesome food, then something is going to have to give. Either do it ourselves, or pay those that sacrifice their time to do it for us what it’s really worth.

    • June 23, 2012 9:49 am

      All I can bring to this blog is the consumer’s perspective and one thing I am learning is how very hard these farmers work, especially compared to people I know who live a suburban or urban lifestyle. And yet, when I have been in on discussion about pricing, they almost always tend to forget to add in a value for their time. We, the consumers who want food that is more nutritioous and better tasting, have to be willing to trade something to afford this. I think I personally can trade VOLUME as a very easy first step. I do not need to eat as much as I have been. That will give me the added benefit of losing weight as well, something many of us here in West Virginia need to do…back to the Win Win Win I wrote about earlier..I can add another Win (aka lose) I think.

      • June 23, 2012 1:56 pm

        Indeed, true on all points. Also, as you eat food that is more nutritious, the volume will decrease on it’s own. Most of the food we eat that is commercially grown is devoid of the 85 trace elements we need due to the soil having been depleted for generations. Local farmers and organic farmers have soil that is in much better condition, therefore, the food has more nutrients in it. More nutrients means you naturally need to eat LESS to get what you need. We as Americans eat so darn much, because it’s all hollow calories devoid of any real value.

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