Healthy farmers, consumers and vegetables
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A group of us organic farmers have just returned from a trip to Holland. Before you jump to all sorts of conclusions we went to learn and see how the Dutch grow organic vegetables!
We met many interesting and friendly people, who were extremely open and generous with information.
I came home a little wiser and more hopeful for our future as growers and for the health of our planet.
While we were there, we spoke with a man who at one time was one of the biggest conventional leek producers in Europe. (This level of production is mind boggling). This farmer had come with us on a trip to see one of our suppliers (who buys from farmers there), and talking to him afterwards he said he was amazed by the meeting. He had never before heard a vegetable buyer who purchases fresh produce talk about giving the farmer a fair price, to allow him to continue to operate and to give him the ability to reinvest in his farm and the environment.
This same farmer had made a decision a number of years ago that he didn’t want to continue playing the game, where each year, large supermarket buyers put more and more downward pressure on prices, forcing him to continue growing his output for less return. It was a vicious circle and he had enough and wanted out.
He scaled back his operation and now he only produces only a quarter of his original output, next year he thinks he may stop leek production altogether. What was the alternative? He started an organic box scheme, he converted 5 Hectares (about 12.5 acres) to organic production of mixed vegetables and opened a farm shop. He decided this is the best way forward for his farm.
This is truly amazing and it demonstrates the real behind the scenes behaviour of supermarkets. Seriously, you have to think, how can you really expect to pay 49c for a head of cabbage or celery? How do you think that is possible? What chance will that farmer have to reinvest back into his farm, never mind to improve the environmental conditions on his farm. How do you think the people who work on these farms are treated and paid?
There is always a cost.
But going home on Wednesday it was this story of positive change that stuck in my head, it had blown be away and left me feeling truly inspired.
Here’s to happy healthy farmers, consumers and vegetables!