Since our Thompson Valley Ranch beef shares took a jump in price this year, we thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about financial sustainability on the farm.
That's right, money. The M word. It's not the reason farmers get into the business of growing food, but it can definitely be the reason they get out of it. Americans now spend less than 10% of their disposable income on food, less than almost any other country in the world. The blossoming population of small-scale farmers have their work cut out for them helping US consumers see the value of paying fair prices for quality food.
Stewarding natural resources is the fun part, what small scale farmers often feel most passionate about. There are lots of layers to a thriving farmscape - creating biodiversity, building soil fertility, practicing integrated pest management, and so on. It's a complex topic, but it's the easiest to see in action.
Social sustainability is a little more amorphous. It's about making sure the farmer and their family have time to be engaged in their community, and can refresh their own reserves of energy during and after a hectic growing season. It's also about ensuring that farm laborers have safe and supportive working environments.
And then there's the moolah. The financial health of a farm is what makes or breaks the whole operation. Consistent cash flow and a decent net profit at the end of the year makes it possible for farmers to pay their bills, save for retirement, fix the farm equipment, and get seeds in the ground (or cows on the pasture) year after year. These days farmers have to be as good with spreadsheets and Quickbooks as they are with hoes and pitchforks.
So this winter when Thompson Valley Ranch explained to us that their processing and transportation costs have risen and they needed to increase their prices, we didn't try to talk them down. Instead we said, "Hey, that's great that you're keeping an eye on the financial health of your operation!" Of course, it helps knowing that you - our amazing HAH members - are ready and waiting to support all aspects of sustainability on our local farms.
Enjoy that financially solvent grass-fed beef!