So I'm watching this video about a farm in Portugal, and I have to say that it looks great. Happy piglets on the sow; flocks of turkeys, sheep, cows, green vegetables. Growing small quantities of a large variety of crops.
He talks about how animals eat different things, so following cows with sheep and then with turkeys gets more use out of the land, and there's excepts of a dining room and happy people eating the food (they presumably grew) from the farm.
But I was jarred out of my revery by one statement, by a cook/chef: "I cook the food for the farmers markets and for the volunteers".
Sure, they did show a couple of people that probably get some sort of pay for the farm, but when I looked carefully at the farm, it's one of those role model farms. you know, the ones that are impossibly clean and straight-laced - the way that only thousands of hours of hand-labor can produce. You see these farms offering "internships", or offering people stays as wwoofers.
You know those guys with the signs on the side of the road that say "Will work for food?" -- why does it seem that every single one of these farms, offered as a shining example of how a farm should be -- seem to be a variation on slave labor?
I don't ask people to work for me for free, or just for food and housing. that's not the contract that I'd take the other end of - would you? If you work, and farming is work, don't get me wrong - you should get paid for that work, and the pay you get should allow you to cover all of your basic expenses (like that farm food), rent, clothes, health care and, horrors! savings. You should earn more than you spend. Ideally, if your goal is farming, your job should produce enough that you can chase your own farm dream.
So I'm watching this video, and looking at this lovely farm, and the slave labor (because that's what they paid slaves, right? Food and housing and not much else)
Here's the basics for a model farm:
1) Everyone gets a wage. if you aren't profitable enough to pay your workers, you shouldn't be in business. Period. No excuses. Can't figure out how to do that? Get out of farming. Get out of business. Don't care what your business is; can't make a profit, leave it to someone who can. If you can't figure out how to do it, don't complain about the people who do -- appreciate them. Conventional farmers, for the most part, have figured this out. You figure it out, too.
2) You have to make a profit. Sorry if that conflicts with some ideal you have. figure out a way to make a profit with your ideals. Or adopt different ones. Because sustainable means IN BUSINESS, not bankrupt or subsidized by anyone (like your workers) or a non-profit or whatever. Make enough money in the good years you can sustain yourself through the bad ones. Appreciate folks who do this. Conventional farmers have figured this out. You figure it out, too.
3) Tell the truth. If you publicize your farm operation, don't tell me what you'd like to do, tell me what you do. Don't talk a different story than your walk. If things are going right, by all means, there's lots of folks who love a good story. But if it's fiction, label it as such. Don't lead some poor new farmer down the garden path. Same is true for any other industry, by the way.
4 weeks ago