The Fresh Loaf

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recession hits organic farms - article

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summerbaker's picture
summerbaker

recession hits organic farms - article

I read this depressing article in the NYT today:


http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/29/us/29dairy.html?_r=1&hp


It is mainly about arganic dairy farms.  Are there any Fresh Loafers who have info about how the recession has hit the organic grain farmers?  Is it as bad for them? 


In the meantime, since my husband and I have managed to keep our jobs, have no children to support and have no massive debt, I'll continue to to buy organic milk and flour and hope that the economy picks up so that others will eventually be able to as well.  I'd hate to see this industry take a step backwards.


Summer

rainwater's picture
rainwater

I wouldn't consider buying anything less than organic dairy products......I'm mostly  vegetarian, and my food bill isn't that much anyway.....would rather eat less food made with the best quality ingredients, than more food with chemical ingredients.....I wish I could buy local "raw" milk, and did for a while....but it was an 1 1/2 hour drive once a week for $8.00 a gallon milk......the milk was well worth the $8.00, but I was spending too much time and money on traveling and gas......I miss the "raw" dairy milk very much.....it's unbelievably good, and much more digestable because homagination does something to the fat molecules which makes them less digestable......

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

This is very sad news! 

tjkoko's picture
tjkoko

Niman Ranch in Calif that, I think, sells organic grown meat is having a really tough time of succeeding economically.

dausone's picture
dausone

I have a problem with this aricle.

Higher organic grain prices contributing to the collapse of the industrial organic dairy industry is pretty much what the article is saying. But nothing is said about what cows naturally eat, big shocker, it isn't grain. It's grass. Last I checked, organic grass costs about as much as sunshine and some rain. With this economy you would expect farmers to be using it more and more instead. So I wonder how much grass fed dairy farms are being effected?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

is because that is what they eat.  Hay & green feed, fresh, dried or fermented is their main food.  Many animals thrive in pastures and grains are used to supplement their diets.  Milking cows and fattening steers need lots of calories.   Keep in mind that grass does not grow all year round in many places so that feeding in the winter is more expensive.


Farmers are affected but far from stupid.  During a recession, the farmer is the last to go hungry.


Mini

deblacksmith's picture
deblacksmith

Mini is so right.  I have heard many time from both of my parents how is wasn't easy in the 1930's but that they always had lots to eat.  Their parents owned their farms outright and could raise all that they need in both direct farm products and livestock.  Didn't get much from what they sold but both parents went to college on what cash they could raise.


Dave

flourgirl51's picture
flourgirl51

As an organic grain farmer I would like to say that the real demon in all of this was the ethanol craze that happened last year. When it was announced that there would be more ethanol factories built here in the US, many farmers switched from growing grains such as wheat, barley, rye etc to growing corn. This created a shortage of grains which sent the prices skyrocketing, which in turn affected the price of feed grains,corn, flours etc. It also created a glut on the flour market as there were so many farmers shipping ALL of their grains out at once. This created a logjam of grains and flours and the prices dropped.


Some farmers thought that they would get rich quick, went out and purchased brand new machinery for hundreds of thousands of dollars but now, a year later, can't make the payments on their equipment. The ethanol craze seems to have gone by the wayside and those farmers who should have proceeded with caution are in a real dilemma.


We have been certified organic for fourteen years and know the ups and downs of the industry. We don't do contracts but manage to get a fair price for our grains. We also SAVE OUR OWN SEED which many farmers don't do and now they have to pay high prices in order to plant this years' crops. Fuel prices have also soared espcially diesel which is what tractors run on.  


Our main enemy this year so far is the weather. Here it has been very cold and rainy. We finally finished planting yesterday even though we had to leave some spots fallow as it was just too wet, but time is not on our side due to our very short growing season. We can grow a fantastic crop of wheat this year and have it wiped out in ten minutes if we get hail. Such is the life of the farmer.


Anyway, I feel that the dairy industry will rebound eventually. Those that haven't spent beyond their means should be okay in the long run. At least the organic dairy farmers don't have to pay the high chemical prices that conventional farmers do as those too went sky high last year when the prices went nuts.


Finally, as far as grass fed dairy goes- it takes a lot of acreage to graze a herd of cows. Not all land is equal in that some land is better for growing grass and hay than others. Climate is also a huge factor. Here in northern Minnesota we have about 5 1/2 months of growing weather and that includes planting the crops. That means that the cattle have to be fed something else the rest of the year. The quality of the grass and hay are also important as cattle need protein to produce milk, which is where the grains come in.


I hope that this helps to shed some light on organic farming. I did a blog on here a few weeks ago about it. It is cold and stormy out there today. Time to go bake some bread!


www.organicwheatproducts.com


 

summerbaker's picture
summerbaker

Thank you so much for your thoughtful response.  I feel that I can never get too much information about the food that I buy/eat.  To those of us who aren't farmers, there really is a huge disconnect between what we eat and where it comes from.  During the last three years or so I have been trying to close that knowledge gap, though it is nearly impossible to do when you're dealing with most of the processed foods from the supermarket.  Once I figured this out, I simply decided to cut down on the amount of them that I purchase and most of it I don't really miss (Though frozen chicken pot pies do come to mind!).


I wish you luck on this year's harvest and hope that it doesn't hail.  I really enjoyed your previous post as well.  Also, I am still happily baking with the flour that I purchased from you last winter.  It creates a delicious loaf even though I've been storing it in the freezer!


Summer

flourgirl51's picture
flourgirl51

Thank you Summer. It is people like you that remind me of why we do what we do! I used to be one of those "disconnected" people too before I moved up here. I was born and raised in Chicago but my heart was always in the country. When I lived there I would hear people talk about "dumb farmers" once in awhile. Well let me tell you, I had NO idea what it takes to actually BE a farmer! You have to be part electrician, mechanic, plumber, weight lifter, large equipment operator, mathematician, secretary, engineer and more all rolled into one. You have to know how every piece of machinery works and how to fix it when it breaks down, plugs up, blows up, or burns out and you have to be able to do it STAT with whatever parts you can borrow from something else sometimes because you always are trying to stay one step ahead of Mother Nature. The farm animal folks also have to be midwives and veterinarians.  But in my case, there is a kind of magic in planting  tiny seeds and nuturing them, watching them grow into something so grand as a field of wheat. It is truly one of nature's wonders.  Growing and grinding our grains into flour and baking that into breads is one of the most rewarding things that I have ever done. It takes what we do full circle as we get to really enjoy the fruits of our labor.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Community supported agriculture (CSA) is becoming very popular throughout the country and seems like a good option for any organic farmer feeling an economic pinch.


Of course, it's also a great option for the consumer.


 

summerbaker's picture
summerbaker

Lindy,


What a great site!  I even found a CSA farm in my area and called them.  It sounds like a good deal - $20 a week for a whole bunch of organic produce - from this particular farm.  The only problem is that there would be a lot of overlap between what they would provide and what I grow myself.  However, you really can't eat too many veggies!


Summer

dausone's picture
dausone

Just wanted to add eatwild.com to the list. Michael Pollan references it in some of his books. I am not affiliated with the site but use it quite a bit for locating small family farms near me that I can buy directly from and help support.

summerbaker's picture
summerbaker

Another great site!  On it, I found a beef farm near us that I would like to visit.  Thank you for the suggestion.


Summer

dausone's picture
dausone

What a great thread! Thank you all for the information and for the great response flourgirl! It is amazing to be able to have an insider point of view on the topic for sure.

flourgirl51's picture
flourgirl51

You are quite welcome!