In Search Of The Perfect Egg
Everyone is talking about it.
No, not the perfect egg, the price of an egg. More than one person has commented to me that they are going to be our "Golden Nugget" this summer. I wish that was true. While the price goes up at the grocery store, it goes up for a reason and a lot of those reasons apply to us as well.
Leaving us making decisions... do we take a smaller cut? Do we pass the increase in our expenses to our customers even if it means a big increase? Do we try to split the difference and hope we sell enough to make it worth it? Instead of grocery store shelves that people will continue to patronize, our small farm relies on personal relationships. You can't purchase our eggs and then turn around and complain about the middle man or the greedy corporations. You have to look us in the eyes and complain to real people. There is no perfect answer. Every small farm is struggling with it. I can sit for hours with spreadsheets, web searches, and trying different things to make it look better on paper for your bottom line and ours. We can take in all this information and sit in a constant state of dissatisfaction not only with our prices, but what else we could do to be better.
Local... No wait, NonGMO... No wait, Organic... The grocery store mentality has tricked us into a lot of things. Starting with the idea that food can be standardized, mass produced, and labeled to represent a consistency in both quality and dollar. Every dozen eggs must weigh exactly the same amount. Food needs to be available for the same price, year round, in whatever quantity we desire to purchase it. Recipes need to be followed exactly regardless of what is actually available to purchase. Most people I know are smart enough when they stop and think about this to realize it just doesn't make sense. Everyone wants to talk to me about "what is coming" or what is happening with current food prices. What is coming is, I believe a bit of a reckoning. Is the average consumer willing to share the risks that farms have been bearing unbeknownst to them all along? One of two extremes (in my opinion) could happen. A- People realize that farmers, especially small farmers, have been bearing these risks all along and start sharing them. They patronize local farmers who are doing their best to make imperfect decisions and are committed to feeding people. They learn to be flexible with what they eat when and stop insisting on a standard that nature is not designed to provide. Grocery store prices will do what they will do, but it won't matter because people have food systems built on personal relationships and have accepted that this is part of the deal. Nature cannot be controlled to the degree we have come to accept as normal.
B- People refuse to share the burden. They complain endlessly about those in farming and food production. They stay disconnected forcing the farmers to take the burden until they can't anymore. This only has one outcome- demanding more standardization from a system that is already tapped out. Prices will soar and truly natural foods will become more scarce because highly processed non meats are easier to standardize and mass produce than nutrient dense pork, chicken, lamb, & beef. The environmental impacts in air & water pollution, waste, and fossil fuel use from the factories that produce our "food" will increase alongside prices. There isn't a perfect answer here and there is a range to the above scenarios. But there is a need for everyone to decide what they can do and help bear the risks. Is it just that a small number of farming families bear all the risk when it comes to the actual price of food? While other families not invested in the process only complain about the middle man?
Please don't think this is a criticism. I shop at the grocery store and don't love the prices I see either. I like eating fruit in the middle of winter. I'm simply saying that you don't have to farm to help spread out the risks. Shop directly from farmers to discourage price gouging and encourage natural supply chains. Adjust the way your family eats to be more in line with what is available regionally and seasonally. There is no such thing as an easy answer to this problem and we are committed to continuing to struggle with it for all of you. A friend asked me a few weeks ago if my goal was to help other people make the transition to doing what we are.
Honestly, not really. If that's what your family is being called to, of course I want to help- as many people have helped us along the way. I do, however, deeply believe that we have some systematic problems going on right now that require a much more hands on approach than our culture has been used to taking in the past. I believe most everyone (yes, definitely including myself at the top of the list) can and should do more.
Not in search of the perfect answer, but in search of a community based solution to a community problem.
What will you do?