Over 30% of small farmers say they’re having a hard time covering expenses
The novel coronavirus pandemic has done a good job of showing just how big the cracks in our food supply chain are. Despite factory farms being hotspots of the virus, causing meat shortages and price spikes, small farms are struggling. According to a new survey from the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, between 30 and 40% of small farms say they’re on the verge of bankruptcy, and that the pivots they’ve made in the wake of the pandemic aren’t sustainable.
Right now, many small farms that previously relied on restaurant orders and farmers markets have pivoted to direct retail, selling and delivering produce boxes directly to households. However, many say that without restaurants, the peak summer harvest will have them losing money. “We asked farmers to imagine the following scenario,” wrote chef Dan Barber of the survey. “August sales to restaurants are down 50% or more over last year and August sales at farmer’s markets are down 50% or more (due to social distancing). Under these circumstances, do you think this would potentially force you to close down your operation by the end of 2020? Nearly a third responded yes.”
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We are on the brink of a farming catastrophe that will affect our relationship to good food for a generation.⠀ ⠀ According to the monthlong survey we’ve just completed, between 30 and 40 percent of the small, independent farms nationwide are facing bankruptcy.⠀ ⠀ We asked farmers to imagine the following scenario: August sales to restaurants are down 50% or more over last year and August sales at farmer’s markets are down 50% or more (due to social distancing). "Under these circumstances, do you think this would potentially force you to close down your operation by the end of 2020?"⠀ ⠀ Nearly a third responded yes.⠀ ⠀ Restaurants have been fundamental to small scale farming for at least the last 20 years—we buy from local farms in bulk, and we demand the kind of diversity that improves soil health and human health.⠀ ⠀ Without support, this is devastating for the very farms we most need for our future. #resourcED.⠀ ⠀ Link in bio to see the full survey and the article in The Counter.
Of the respondents, 28.1% say they’ve taken on debt this year, and 36.9% expect to have excess product that they won’t be able to sell or store. Many of the respondents were also between the ages of 25 and 44, meaning if small farms go bust, it could erase a whole generation of farmers. The solution, says Barber, is a fundamental shifting of food culture, one that prioritizes the needs of small farmers and does away with factory farms. And it’s possible — Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren recently introduced a bill that would ban most factory farming by 2040. But given the current administration’s support of factory farms and meatpacking plants, it’ll certainly be an uphill battle.
And in other news...
- Eating at a restaurant where everyone is wearing a mask seems weird. [NYTimes]
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- If you’ve ordered food from exciting new restaurants Pasqually’s Pizza or Neighborhood Wings, that’s just Chuck E. Cheese and Applebee’s. [Today]
- Specialty’s Cafe & Bakery will permanently close after 33 years in business. [QSR]
- Recess CBD soda is trying to expand, since everyone is in a constant state of panic. [Modern Retail]
- A Hong Kong gelato store is making “tear gas” gelato, flavored with black peppercorns, to support protesters. [Vice]
- Today, Krispy Kreme is giving high-school and college graduates a dozen free donuts. [Lifehacker]