“Are you Julia? I read your newsletter every week and follow you on social media. I'm a huge fan and I really support what you guys are doing!”
I hear this sort of thing a lot. It used to make me feel really good but lately I've been finding it frustrating and depressing. I don't understand. Everyone loves us but we still aren't breaking even. Now instead of just saying “thank-you,” I ask, “ Have you ever bought anything from us?” Sadly, the answer is usually “no, but...”
People also say to me, “You're doing really well aren't you!?” I respond with something like “We're SO busy,” which is true but not the same thing. We are “SO busy” because we are stretched way too thin. Not one of us is earning a living wage and most of the farmers we work with need “real” jobs off the farm to support themselves. So while it may seem like we are winning some kind of popularity contest, ‘likes’ on social media don’t feed my employees, let alone my animals.
Here’s the thing, I am a farmer. I do what I do because of climate change, because of animal welfare, because a healthy food system matters, because investing in my community matters, oh and to make a living for myself, my family, and those who work with me. All of that depends on customers showing up and buying my products – again and again. When folks make the effort to buy from small farms like ours it has a huge impact. For example, last weekend it rained. Our sales at the farmers market were 50% what they are on a nice day. Unfortunately our overhead doesn't drop 50% to adjust for bad weather.
I'm not asking for a hand-out or sympathy. I’d just like you to come out and pay a fair price for an exceptionally healthy, tasty product that is produced in a way that is in line with what most folks say their values are. There’s lots of talk about things like sustainability and the benefits of a local economy so I thought there would be a ready market for a farm like ours. If people really don't care... or don't care enough, I wish they would just say so. It’s the mixed messages that are so confusing.
We do have a small, dedicated base of customers who really do get it and it is these folks that really keep me going and give me hope. Sure, some of them are relatively well off but some most are just prioritizing and making conscious lifestyle choices in order to be able to make it work. I really feel like these folks are part of our team. They support us financially and are our best ambassadors.
Please understand, in no uncertain terms, we will not be in business much longer unless more people put their money where their mouth is. I understand that it is more convenient to go to the grocery store. But if you like the idea of living in a world with small family run farms, it isn't enough to just love what we do. You have to support us... even when it is inconvenient and even if it costs more. Trust me, no one in our industry is getting close to rich at this, but we're willing to keep at it if you'll meet us half way.
Consumer demand is the driving force in all industries. It starts with you. Every time you spend money on food, you are casting a vote for the kind of food system you want to be a part of, for the kind of world you want to live in. So, sure, ‘like’ us on Facebook, post photos on Instagram, and keep reading the newsletter – but most importantly: buy our meat. It is the only way we can keep doing what we do.
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