The farm-to-table movement has grown tremendously in the last number of years, bringing new kinds of opportunities to producers. Selling directly to consumers can bring higher prices and is rewarding. But many producers are struggling to make it. Producing food is hard, time-consuming and financially risky. Lynne Curry (@ruraleating) writes an op-ed about the challenges and the rewards for the Los Angeles Times. Among her observations?
Agriculture still requires a second income. According to the USDA’s 2012 Census of Agriculture, 70% of America’s 3.2 million farmers earn just one-fourth of their annual household income from their agricultural efforts. More than 60% of all farmers work some days off the farm.
Ultimately, Curry is advocating for resiliency in the food system. While she writes most specifically about rural and small-scale agriculture (she’s located in eastern Oregon), rural and urban food concerns are clearly connected. Her advice holds true for those who produce at a variety of scales and in different locations: “build a multifaceted, participatory food system of fully employed food producers, not hobbyists.”
Her conclusion? Consumers have an important role to play, too. Curry advises this: buy local, and buy often.
“With enough momentum and time, consumer demand may bring on the substantial infrastructure and policy changes that small family farms need to truly thrive.”