Farmer Feeds Them All

I began my career in agriculture as a farm organizer more years ago than I care to count.

Those were the days before organic agriculture, grassfed beef, and pastured poultry were in vogue. But, the burning issue in the countryside was saving the family farm.

The farmer meetings I attended generally included a put-luck supper, and then a round of singing before everyone sat down to business. One of the song staples was a Depression-era anthem, “The Farmer Feeds the All.” One refrain that has stuck in my memory through the years goes,

The farmer feeds them all, the farmer feeds them all; lives on credit till the fall.
Then they take him by the hand, and they lead him from the land, and the banker is the one who gets it all.

The farmers with whom I was sharing this song over home-fried chicken and Tater Tot casserole were upset because they were only receiving 31¢ out of the average consumer food dollar.

Fast forward to today.

The average American farmer today is receiving only 15.5¢ from the average consumer food dollar. The remaining 84.5¢ is being sidelined along the way in processing, transportation, advertising, and distribution and retail costs. Because of the small scale and undeveloped manufacturing/distribution systems for organic food, the percentage of the food dollar working its way back to the farm gate is sometimes even less.

That is why the developments to establish a new retail model for organic food is so exciting. Any steps to make the route from the farm to the consumers’ table more efficient not only means that shoppers will be paying less for good organic food, it also means that farmers may again enjoy a larger share of that dollar.

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