Are you the hen or the pig?

Posted on Jun 4, 2011 | 1 comment

I’m probably making a mistake penning this while I’m still angry but there are some things that need to be said about what it takes to create the local food system that we envision. The genesis of this post was a tweet today by a prominent Toronto foodie saying she was skipping the farmer’s market today because it was raining. There’s an old joke that a hen is involved in producing your breakfast but a pig is committed to it. The SlowFood movement relabels “consumers” as “co-producers”. This calls out the important function that consumers play in establishing and maintaining any food system. As producers we are committed to producing the products we show up at market with and we’re there week in and week out. There are many mornings when we wake early, see that it is raining or blowing snow and we question why we want to drive into Toronto when all we feel like doing is hitting the snooze button and rolling over. However, we are committed to a local food system, an ethical food system and the customers that are committed to us. It is clear that more than half of our customers (judging by sales on a rainy day) are just involved in a local food system. Many consumers might be committed to the idea of a local food system but when the rubber hits the road personal comfort trumps the commitment to the actual farmers in the food system.

I don’t want to sound like I’m whining here because I voluntarily signed up for the life of a farmer. In fact, I gave up a six figure job working for one of the largest companies in the world to do this. I’m not cut out to spend my days locked up in a cement, steel and glass “cube farm”. I get a lot of personal satisfaction and enjoyment from raising food and fibre for you, but I have to be committed to it. This morning when it was pouring rain with thunder and lightning I couldn’t choose to stay warm and dry inside. I was out fighting the mud, getting soaked to the skin to get the hay I baled yesterday wrapped so it would ferment properly and my cows and sheep would have good quality feed this winter. Feed that I will give them regardless of whether the sun is shining or it’s minus forty and the snow is blowing this coming winter. To those of you that came out to the farmer’s markets today, thank you. After I finished wrapping hay, Silvia and I put on dry sets of clothes and went into town to our local farmer’s market and got soaked again buying our vegetables for the week (and a few treats – if you’re ever at the Lindsay or Peterborough markets look for Lynn Hasson at Lane’s End farm – she makes the best fudge, shortbread, lemon squares, rice crispie squares, butter tarts, etc). Why did we do that? We could have easily spent the rest of our morning keeping dry and warming up at home and left our vegetable shopping to the next time we went to town and stopped in at one of our local grocery conglomerates. We went because we are committed to a local food system and know first hand what the cash boxes of our friends and neighbours looked like. For those of you who skipped the Lindsay market today, you missed the first Ontario strawberries.

My life is filled with a lot of joys that most don’t experience – the smell of fresh cut hay at dawn as the sun starts to warm it up and the dew is evaporating; watching a rainbow while inhaling the crisp, clean air after a summer thunderstorm; watching calves and lambs take their first tentative steps; the satisfaction of grain piling up in the combine tank as I harvest a spelt crop; biting into a sun-warmed plum freshly plucked from a tree; watching the sunset on a beautiful vista of my pastures and animals; I could wax poetic endlessly. But none of that puts food on the table for my family or clothes on their backs. It’s the trip to the farmer’s market that turns my efforts into an income. I have to be committed to be successful. I’m looking for a similar commitment from my customers. The kind of commitment that results in bacon, not an egg.

It’s a simple question: Are you the hen or the pig?

One Comment

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this — I don’t take as much advantage of my local farmer’s markets as I should but I do believe that this will certainly prod me in the right direction. Thank you for all the hard work and dedication. Too bad I live in San Diego or I would be there to buy your products.

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