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Building Resilience In Farming

July 24, 2020

Every person on earth needs food every day. Every day, food is tended, harvested, transported, stored, and served up on our tables. In a very real sense, food cannot be separated from life itself. And so it has been said that changing the way we grow and eat food is one of the most powerful tools we have for changing our economies and society as a whole.

So when we ask: what will the farms of the future look like? We should really be asking — what do we want the future to look like? And then answers may begin to emerge.

Resiliency is NOT industrial monocultures - those big farms where you see acres and acres of corn or soybeans, not to mention the giant cattle feedlots or huge pork & chicken confined feeding operations. These are systems that degenerate, they die, over time. They produce more carbon emissions than they sequester. There pesticides kill insects including beneficial ones like pollinators. Every year they suck the nutrients from the soil and replace with toxic chemicals. Eventually the land will become barren, eroding away to create dead zones.

This is what agriculture looks like in a globalized corporate economy, where, like the nutrients from the soil, the livelihood is sucked from farming communities and siphoned up into the coffers of a few giant corporations.

But, it does not have to be that way!

Farms can be regenerative, living systems, that produce a bounty but no waste. They can supply the needs of their local community — if that community is willing to embrace the idea of eating a mostly seasonal, locally adapted diet — with no need for long-distance transport by trucks, ships, or planes.

Farms do not have to be net carbon emitters — plants absorb CO2 when they photosynthesize, and only emit it very slowly, through respiration and decomposition; studies show that, when managed correctly, farms and even animal grazing systems can become places that sink and sequester CO2.

Simply stated - industrial farming works AGAINST nature with practices designed to control every facet. Regenerative farming works WITH nature - seeking to understand how nature works and then striving to mimic the natural processes to take advantage of natures synergy.

I recently read that in the USA farmers over the age of 65 outnumber farmers under the age of 35 by a margin of SIX to ONE! There is a big shift coming - the million dollar question is "What will this result be?"

This Spring we saw what happens when One, then Two, then Three very large beef & pork plants that process 6,000 animals per day or chicken processing plants that process 175 chickens per minute - shut down over Covid-19. That is a broken - Non-Resilient system.

Now, compare that to having hundreds of smaller processing plants spread across the country. if a few plants had production interruption or maybe a region was shut down due to a weather emergency the other plants would have capacity to pick up the slack for a period of time.

Here is an example that I learned from a visit to Bose Corporation back in the mid 1990's. Bose sourced all the components for their wave radio from Asia and did final assembly in their Massachusetts plant. Every ship leaving Asia had a "kit" of parts on board. There was literally a filled supply chain from the Asia plants to the docks to ALL the ships on the water to the USA port to the trucks travelling from the ports to the MA plant. If (when) there were supply issues all the plant had to do was reach out and expedite one of the shipments that was already on the way to the plant. Then back fill to make up for the expedited shipment. This keep their plant running with little risk of down time.

The same could work in a decentralized or local processing plant environment that would offer resiliency to the supply of beef, pork, chicken, etc.

Did you know that because of Covid - some processing plants in Mississippi are scheduled out through August 2021?

Prices are high! The last beef cost me an average of $871 each.

And, this week, bacon from six pigs was accidentally made into sausage.

Large or small - there is a lot of work to be done to build resiliency into processing.

A. Snelling recently left this ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Google Review:

"Regular customer but first time buying the chicken. I was blown away by the flavor I got baking these Nature's Gourmet whole chickens. It was better than anything I've had at the grocery store Walmart or Whole Foods. It goes to show that even though some of the chickens you see at the store say they're pasture-raised it's only through some loophole. I've seen the chickens at Ben's farm and they are the real deal."

Ben Simmons

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