Tampa Bay Times, April 13, 2016 - This article from Florida on "green washing", the marketing of all things local when almost everything is from elsewhere, is probably the most important article I read this year. The author did some excellent and credible work, not to hurt these restaurants, but to point out that they are not supporting local farmers.
This exploitation of local farmers extends to processed goods too. Check that jar of pickles and find out where the cucumbers were grown. In all fairness, food artisans contribute a great deal to our local economies and need to be supported. But let's be clear, most are not buying from local farms. When you buy these products, you are supporting local businesses but you are Not supporting agriculture.
"A model budget indicates that total revenues from wholesale produce sales alone necessary to operate a food hub without public funding is nearly $800,000 annually. This assumes the hub charges growers a 20% mark-up fee on products handled by the hub. This fee then covers the approximate $160,000 in operational expenses (excluding the cost of produce). These numbers represent only the selected operational expenses and do not include the cost of infrastructure investment and ownership (i.e., taxes, financing costs, or depreciation). Ownership costs should be factored in for the assessment of each particular operation as they affect the estimated sale amounts required for viability. For example, Matson and Barham’s (2015) estimated value of required breakeven sales that considered ownership-related costs was around $1.2 million. Sensitivity results presented in Table 3 could be used as a guide to inform readers about the possible level of sales required to cover higher levels of costs.”
Several times I've been in a position where I had a choice to sell (or not) an asset that would ease my financial strain. The potential buyers were not all - shall we say - our buyer of choice. It's a hard call; it's about ethics and it's also about survival in world that's not ethical. In two out three situations, I was fortunate to be able to make the ethical call, but in the third, which was selling our farm.. we had to sell to the buyer we had. Is our old place still a farm? No.
It is ridiculous/absurd/obscene that when a buyer gets big, they expect Texas farmers and ranchers to get big with them. To no one’s surprise, the onus of responsibility lands on growers to make it easier for this now big buyer. What responsibility does the buyer bear? I’d love to know how much notice Kerbey Lane gave these farms before canceling their orders. This stuff all keep coming back to “Who bears the risk?” in the midst of a bunch of blah blah blah about values.
French farmers protest in Paris.. they've been offered higher subsidies but what they want is an overhaul of the system. I'm not sure what they mean by overhaul and I may or may not agree with them.. but this is important as an example of farmers taking the power that is theirs to take.. and standing up to those who would consider them merely inconsequential cogs in the food wheel.
from the Telegraph (UK): The FNSEA, France's largest farmers' union which called for Thursday's protest, says the measures are insufficient to help farmers facing the effects of a Russian embargo on Western products as well as long-term problems linked to cheaper foreign competition and the negotiating power of supermarkets.
I'm President of a non-profit working to restore the Mary Christian Burleson cabin in Elgin, TX. The land and the cabin were donated to us by the developer who bought the adjacent 23 acres (we couldn't afford the entire property so struck a deal with the developer to buy it and donate the 1 acre with the cabin to us). The developer will build a housing/farm development of 80 small LEED certified homes; the 5-7 acre farm will feed residents seasonally and residents will pay for a required CSA that will presumably keep the farmer in good financial shape. Thing is, we can't find a farmer. The land is raw and covered in mesquite so needs a lot of work.. and investment.
I read in the Austin American Statesman today about the deal for (re)development of the Seaholm Power Plant in Austin. The City will select a developer who will develop the property including signifcant infrastructure. The developer will make their money from rents, fees presumably from future tenants. Since the City will retain ownership of the land, I assume the developer won't pay any property taxes so that's a big plus right there.
In neither of these projects is equity established -- neither the farmer nor the Seaholm developer owns the land. So why is the Seaholm project attractive and our farm notion not?