Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Thoughts for Food..and Farmers

I saw this on Facebook and thought it was worth sharing here. While I am encouraging my children to obtain a college diploma for the doors it will open for them, I also have taught them those pieces of paper do not measure knowledge, intelligence, or worth.


Today at Good Neighbors I was approached by a woman telling me how offended she was that we ask that she pay $2 in order to come to our farmers' market. She was clearly very angry and very aggressive in her comments holding nothing back. She said that she has lived all over the United States and has never before been asked to pay a dime, and that we are the only Market in Central Florida that asks for money. 

I let her know that I did understand where she was coming from and tried to explain that it takes a great deal of effort to put on such a weekly event and that we spend over $2500 a week in payroll in order to do so. I tried to explain that we are not a city funded market and that each and every dollar that comes into the farm goes to run the farm. 

I tried to explain that when we average 30 vendors during the summer and we charge 25 dollars per vendor and that we only take in 750 dollars a week. I tried to explain that 750 dollars a week doesn't even come close to covering payroll much less anything else on the farm. 

When I tried to explain that other markets take place on city property with the city paying for maintenance, taxes, insurance, labor, etc, etc. She then, almost violently yelled out, “WELL, DO IT SOME WHERE ELSE THEN!” to which I didn't quite understand what she meant and had no response for. When suddenly my Nephew replied in my stead, “Well, we can do that. Where is this free land your talking about?"

The women then replied angrily that we “are stealing from people and from farmers by making people pay $2." To this I politely replied, “Well, if we don't have enough money to pay for expenses, how are we to put on a farmers market in the first place?" I asked her, “Who is to mow, who is to mulch, who is to feed the animals, who is to trim the trees, repair the fences, fix the tractors, etc, etc, etc?" I then asked her if she had a job. 

She replied quite proudly that she did and she has held her job for 28 years as an anesthesiologist. I asked her if she works for free, or does she charge for her anesthesiology services; to which she said “YES OF COURSE I CHARGE PEOPLE!” 

This is the part of the story that takes a turn for the worse and really underlines the problem with peoples perceptions of farmers in today's culture. She said she went to school for her job and “deserves” to get paid for her services; she then said very loudly “IT DOESN'T TAKE AN EDUCATION TO THROW DOWN A BIT OF MULCH AND MOW A LITTLE GRASS, THERE'S NO REASON YOU HAVE TO CHARGE $2." This is the part that hit home the most. 

I have often heard fellow farmers and ranchers refer to themselves as “just a dumb farmer;" of which I didn't quite understand what they meant, as I know it takes a great deal of brains, common sense and intelligence to run a successful farming operation of any kind. Today I finally got what they were trying to say. 

Through experience, they understood that people looked at farmers as being dumb. We as a society, wonder why there are fewer and fewer farmers around. Its because the public in general doesn't value their services enough to care about them. How can someone understand why $2 needs to be collected when they consider the person asking for it to be worthless and ignorant. 

Would this lady have said, “It doesn't take an education to pick an ear of corn or to pick a head of lettuce” in the same way she dismissed someone's work in mending a fence or shearing a goats hooves? Probably. What the lady failed to understand today is that if it wasn't for a farmer somewhere on planet earth, she wouldn't be alive. 

The irony of her remarks is that she is putting her life in the hands of someone she considers dumber than herself. Farmers can survive on their knowledge. The question she should be asking herself is can she survive on her knowledge. 

I sure hope for Americas sake that these type people we call neighbors, are able to rethink their positions on who is valuable and who is not, before it's too late. Nothing in this world is free and that includes your choice of what you eat. 

If this means something to you, please share it.