Today I am welcoming to the blog Lucy House from Dawson Valley Free Range to share with us her thoughts about farmer’s markets from the perspective of the farmer. We are regular buyers of her amazing pork products – the taste is out of this world!
There is an upsurge in farmers markets across the country and it is so great to see. I’m one of those people that when on holidays somewhere, find the closest farmers market to have a look and a shop. I love seeing what’s local. I could give or take your general sell everything market, but one that sells food…..well that’s the one for me!
I’m a farmer that now goes to the market to sell our produce. We sell meat, but I think what I’m about to discuss in this blog goes for any farmer or producer. Farming is a tough game! We choose to farm mostly because we love the lifestyle – it’s a great way to bring up a family, we manage our own time and we get to live away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
It’s not easy and has never been easy, but everyone is very lucky that there are still people out there wanting to farm. After all, if it wasn’t for farmers we wouldn’t eat. Don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in eating something made in a test-tube!
As a farmer, we are at the mercy of the market, no not the farmers market, the general worldwide commodities market. We are at the mercy of the big players, who control prices. We used to have cattle but couldn’t seem to make a decent living so thought we would get into the free range pig market.
We still couldn’t seem to crack the mainstream market – free range pigs don’t conform like conventional pigs – they were fatter, blacker and less consistent in size. So it really wasn’t much different to when we were selling cattle – we were still price takers. So we, like any other farmer that takes their produce to the farmers markets, decided to take control of our destiny! We could now control the price!
So what do I mean about being a price taker? With regards to cattle, the process is: The animal goes from the farm to the sale yard, where the farmer has no say in what he gets for the animal. If the meatworks don’t want many that week, then the price is low. If the meatworks do want cattle, then there is more competition and the price is higher.
Rain and weather conditions do have an impact as well, and that is even more uncontrollable for the farmer. Once the meatworks buy it, they then sell it on – either to a butcher or wholesaler. Everyone needs to get their piece of the pie and guess who misses out? There is a similar trading market for all livestock and farm produce (vegetables and fruit).
I can hear you asking……well if the farmer gets rid of the middle man and sells it himself, it’ll be a lot cheaper for us, the consumer, won’t it? Well no, not really…..farmers aren’t making money in the above scenario so they decide to take some of their produce to the farmers markets and be their own middleman, to get a little bigger cut of the pie. This does work to a certain degree, but there is actually a lot of cost to the farmer in doing this so the cost needs to be added on.
It really just means that the farmer can control the price and therefore the profit a little bit better. Usually the farmers that attend these markets, especially if they are selling meat, specialise in grass fed/ethically grown and it will be local if it’s the farmer actually selling it. The benefit of this is that you can ask about the product –what it’s fed and how it’s treated – from birth through to slaughter. It may not always be organic, but most farmers selling meat at the markets will be “organically grown” or ethically grown. But make sure you ask!
Sometimes it may not be the farmer, sometimes it maybe someone dressed up to look like he is and is selling farm fresh meat or vegies, but in fact might be just a retailer. Most genuine farmers won’t mind being asked all about their produce – I know that I love talking about mine, and think that it’s important to build a relationship between the customer and seller. A relationship that is built on trust and respect.
Believe me, the farmer is not making a fortune and while you may think that you should be able to buy cheap meat because you are buying from the farmer, you are just paying more like what the farmer should be getting. The big picture is that you are supporting a local farmer and a local food industry!
PS check out Lucy’s pork recipes – I am dying to try the pork belly roasted in milk!