Saturday, December 4, 2010


I have noticed an interesting pattern that made itself known to us almost immediately after we dubbed our farm the Genuine Faux Farm.

People seem to think we work on more than one farm.

Now, before anyone thinks I'm really upset with them, let me assure you that I am not.  Don't take this personally.  However, please note that we are only one farm.  We are not the Faux Farms, the Genuine Faux Farms or whatever other variation that might come up that involves the plural.

So - why even mention it?  It made me start thinking.... a dangerous pastime  (all together.... I know!)

The plural is, in my opinion, another symptom that illustrates the distance FROM the farm, from the land and from connections to our food that has grown by leaps and bounds since 1950.  It's also a symptom of the ever increasing "number of hats" a farmer has to wear in order to maintain a farm business.

Distancing ourselves from the farm

As the number of farmers decrease, the likelihood that an individual actually knows someone who produces food goes down.  As a result, any knowledge about what it takes to raise food becomes increasingly generalized for most of the populace.  As a result, most of us know only what we are told on the packaging and signage at the stores in which we purchase food.

And, what do we see in the store?  "xxxx Farms" on the label.  A label that sports a chicken.  Or a silo.  Or a red barn.  The use of the word "farm" and these pictures hint at a wholesome way of raising food that still tickles our subconscious.  But, the very manner most of what is produced, distributed and sold makes it nearly impossible for any individual to really know where the food came from, how it was really produced and who had something to do with its production.

Hats on the farmer's head

We've been in the business long enough now to be fully aware of the number of jobs that must be filled in order to have a successful farm operation.  There are promotional, sales, billing, purchasing, research, data management, strategic planning, tax accounting, building maintenance, mechanical maintenance, animal health, distribution management, ecology and communications jobs on the farm.  Oh, and we forgot to mention all of the jobs that have to do with actually growing produce and raising livestock.

It's really no wonder that small farms often look for ways to off-load some of the effort by consolidating and becoming more than one farm under one marketing entity.  Hence, the birth of "so and so" Farms.  It's not necessarily a bad thing.  Especially when there is transparency, traceability and truth in marketing a product.  But, it begs the question - are there ways to simplify so the 'family farm' is once again viable?

Bigger is Better?

And then there is this.

We all seem to have trouble recognizing what an optimal size is.  We can't quite identify for ourselves what an optimal income might be.  And, so the obvious response is that if what we have is good - then more is better. 

For example, marketing students are often introduced to techniques to 'open up' new markets and expand sales opportunity.  It's all about growth of a business and creating more demand for its product(s).  As a result, you have farms entering larger markets.  Markets they cannot manage as a single, small farm.  Markets that demand higher quantities, more uniformity and less flexibility (in all sorts of ways) lead a farm to look for ways to grow.  And, the easiest way to do that is to consolidate.  Once again, we have "farms."

Just a few thoughts.   Where do these thoughts take you?

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