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My Reply To Ryan Goodman

January 26, 2011

I think a lot of agvocate Ryan Goodman, who I met once at a truck stop. (wait, that sounds bad) He’s a good kid, and far more genuine a nice guy than I’ll ever be, I was gifted with too much snark. Anyways, he posted some good points and a good question on his blog this morning, basically whether or not farmers and food companies are to blame for crappy food, or whether we’re just fulfilling the demands of consumers.

I am far from an economist, but I do have a basic understanding of the “supply and demand” concept. Consumers demand salty, sweet, and fatty food and in turn food processors demand the raw products from farmers and ranchers to manufacture those foods. We would not produce the raw materials that make up that quarter-pound cheese burger with fries if there was not a market for that product. There would not be a market for that product if consumers did not demand it. Am I wrong?

I’m not gonna say he’s wrong, people do love the crap. Follow any fat woman shopping on a motorized cart, and you’ll never follow her to the vegetable aisle. But I did take some exceptions, and I can’t let that much typing go to waste…

I respectively disagree, (surprise!) this is something I think about a lot, so please hear me out. No, I’m not responsible if someone turns my wheat into bland white bread. You’re not responsible when Taco Bell uses some part of your beef in their 35% mix. But if all we do is provide the raw materials to feed the system, then yeah, we do bear some of the blame. To some degree I see that as playing to the lowest common denominator, that we sell for whatever we can get because that’s the system that’s in place.
Five years ago I wasn’t selling a whole apple finished hog to a taco shop because? Well I wasn’t raising them. Five years ago customers weren’t buying out my wife’s eggs at the farmer’s market because? We didn’t have chickens and were buying our eggs at the store. No pun intended, it is a chicken and egg scenario. Do people buy the crap because they demand it, or because we don’t offer anything else?
People want to buy this stuff! If I say I grow wheat no one cares, if I mention that we’re into grapes, pastured poultry and grassfed beef, their ears perk up. You can see it on their faces. And if a consumer doesn’t want my products, well guess what, their not worth my time.
Of all the things I’ve learned about wine, the thing I appreciate the most is that every bottle is an expression of that year’s production, of that variety, on that small piece of land. The taste of that year is bottled up and offered for sale. Think about that, and consider that vintners don’t have a PR problem, in fact people plan trips to vineyards to get the full experience. Weigh that against the mentality that every steak should taste the same, that every loaf of bread is identical. Think about it, Prattsville, Arkansas as the Napa Valley of steak. Think I’m nuts? People derided Napa Valley wines a few decades ago, where would they be if they took every grape, blended them together and offered one wine?
What if one day we farmers and ranchers said “You know what, our food is too good for Cargill, ADM and Tyson. You want the good stuff, you come to us!” What would that do to small towns? How about that for connecting the farm to the plate? That’s some agvocacy I could get behind.

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From → Food Policy, Nation

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