While I hate the reasons that drive us to do it, I do love how small farmers, like our farmer friends and us, pull together when the growing season is tough. Is this something seen, year after year, in other industries?
A longtime, extremely experienced farmer reached out yesterday to see how we are handling this wet weather. He told us how terrible things are for him — much worse than we’ve been experiencing. We offered some extra transplants we had, but it’s too wet to plant in his fields and has been since March. He didn’t need our help, there’s nothing we can do, but he needed to talk. He needed to know he’s not alone.
I stopped into our local co-op grocery store, after the farmers market, and commiserated with a fellow farmer for a solid 20 minutes in the middle of the produce section. We each took turns sharing our attempts to make this season work and our backup plans for when it doesn’t. We just kept saying, “If this keeps up … I don’t know, I don’t know,” and shaking our heads in disbelief.
Another farmer needed tomato plants, which we had plenty of. So, we traded chicken for plants, and it suited us well. Hans and I can spend a bit less of the grocery budget and put that money towards mounting piles of bills. They can hopefully make some money on tomatoes while their field crops are left unplanted.
None of us have crop insurance. We aren’t getting a Trump bailout for our diseased beets or unplanted peppers. If this level of precipitation and destructive storms continues, local, small farmers might be forced to sell equipment, dip into emergency or kids’ college savings, take out a loan, lay off employees and make tough decision after tough decision.
But, small, diversified farmers who utilize numerous marketing avenues have a couple things going for them:
- Small, diversified farms are incredibly diverse in their plantings. We grow many different crops, many different times, in many different places throughout all four seasons. Yes, it’s a hard job, but it’s risk management. And it saves us time and time again.
- We have relationships with the people that support us financially. They genuinely care about us. They come to the market, when it’s not super convenient, just to get some lettuce — and they’ll grab some kale, too. They ask us how we’re doing and really listen when we tell them we’re trying to hang in there. They spread the word about a sale we’re having to all their friends on Facebook. They watch the radar right alongside us and text to see if we got rain.
I’m not saying these two advantages are going to save the day. But they do make farming in these adverse conditions a bit more manageable.