I cannot tell you how many times in the last month I have typed the phrase, "I'm sorry for the delay."
Some background information. On May 6th, my grandma (Martha Jackson, my mom's mom) passed away after a long battle with some very aggressive melanoma. On May 20th, my grandpa (Larry Jackson, my mom's step-dad who lost his wife exactly two weeks prior) was in a severe motorcycle accident and has since been in critical condition in the ICU at St. Vincent in Toledo. To say this has been a rough month for my family does not even begin to cut it.
I am often behind on my emails. I am often running around like a crazy person. I am often trying to make sure that my fiancé, my dad, and my brother have everything they need so they can get their job's done. I am often trying to make sure all of the billing is still getting done while we are short a member of our team. I am often thinking about 12 things and working on at least 3 things and then wondering why I feel scatterbrained.
I have a lot on my plate. All of us do. But through this trying time, I have also found just how strong the partnership is between all those involved in local food.
The "partnership" is a phrase I have heard several times throughout the course of this difficult month. While trying to juggle so many things, mistakes have happened. But every mistake has been fixed thanks to the partnership. The partnership has been helpful and encouraging in every way. So what is the partnership?
When I didn't go on the Indianapolis delivery route because I was at my grandma's funeral and the Green BEAN order of 35 boxes accidentally got dropped off at Seven Sons in Roanoke, I had no idea how I was going to fix the problem without having my employees drive back to Roanoke and then back to Indy again. I called Brooks with Seven Sons and he said he could handle it. He sorted the Green BEAN order that was sitting at their place and talked to Piazza Produce to get them to deliver it to Green BEAN for us. I was able to turn off my phone for the funeral and know that because of the work and communication of Seven Sons, Piazza Produce, and Green BEAN, Green BEAN would still get their order for the week.
When I talked to the guys from Seven Sons and Piazza Produce, I thanked them so much for handling the situation for me while I was hours away and with my family. Both of them had nearly identical responses. "It wasn't a problem at all. That's what the partnership is for. We help each other any way we can." That is the partnership.
The partnership goes beyond helping each other when possible. I see the true sincerity of the partnership in nearly every work email I receive. Just in the last hour I have received these two emails from great customers who I am thankful to call friends.
Even better than the emails are when I get to see my customers on the Fort Wayne and Indianapolis route. Most ask me about my grandpa before they even look at their order. Hattie, the pastry chef at Vida, asked if she could give me chocolate because chocolate can make even the worst days a little better. (She didn't just give me chocolate either, she loaded up a whole to-go container full of dessert. Totally spoiled me.) Thomas at Union 50 seemed as tore up about my grandpa as I did. Casey at Livery wouldn't even let me ask him about his next order before I told him about my grandpa's condition.
This is what the partnership is about. These aren't just people I work with and correspond with. They are people who sincerely care about me and my family.
Maybe my coping mechanism is to throw myself into my work and keep myself busy. However, because of the people in my partnership, I feel it is a healthy coping mechanism. I stay busy while still getting to talk about the hardships my family is facing, so I don't ignore the problem.
My dad, my brother, my fiancé, and myself have been working crazy hours to keep everything running the past few weeks and none of it would be possible without the partnership we have with every company we work with. I could write a whole separate blog post about how extremely proud I am of Dad, Evan, and Ed as they have put in countless hours to make sure everything gets done. Even throughout the craziness, the four of us have found numerous occasions to smile and countless moments of pride and camaraderie as we have accomplished more than we all thought we would be capable of.
I am so thankful to be a part of this partnership and to work with so many genuine individuals and companies. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for all of your support and thank you for being our partners.
I've often times been accused of being anti-modern agriculture, which I don't believe is the case. I believe we need more farmers and farmers deserve to be compensated better. Therefore, I believe supporters of modern agriculture are actually anti-farmer.
I believe that by any socioeconomic indicator you choose, the consolidation of agriculture and farms has not been good for rural America. I've been accused of "not looking at the facts." I have a degree in Economics from Purdue University and there is nothing I love more than to look at facts and figures. I believe the article I have listed at the bottom of this page lays out the true facts on what consolidation of rural America has done to our rural communities. We must demand that food, fiber, and fuel policy takes into account the fact that loss of family farms is negative to rural development. Not understanding this concept is the same as re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
The world is in a surplus commodity situation. We’ve always been over-producing calories. The whole world does not need to eat (or even have the possibility of having available) 200 pounds of red meat and poultry per person per year. We say we need to increase production in order to "feed the world" but is that really the case? Agriculture used to feed people. Then it fed animals. Now it feeds cars. If we flipped the food pyramid upside down, we’d have the food subsidy pyramid. We’ve got exactly what our policy predicted: a surplus of corn and soybeans and not enough items to create a healthy diet for the globe long-term.
We have a chance next year with the Farm Bill to go in a different direction. A direction that no longer perpetuates the rural degradation and decimation with the long standing policy of agriculture consolidation. Let's address market access at all sectors: contract, commodity, processing, and retail. We have a monopolistic- and/or oligopolistic-controlled industry. Food is not a product that can or should be in the hands of just a few large players. Our forefathers understood that. Let's enforce the regulations that are on the books. USDA and other enforcement agencies have no problem enforcing regulations that make it harder for the small players in the industry. Let's address the regulatory challenges that cripple the smallest players in agriculture. Let's address the health consequences associated with a subsidized food supply based on cans and bags of refined carbohydrates and hydrogenated oils. Let's address the inequity in most subsidies going to the richest and wealthiest. Let's turn the tide of preferential treatment on food labeling from the multinationals to the smallest players. Let's turn the tide of preferential treatment that favors multinationals and foreigners and give that preferential treatment to the American producers. The American consumers and taxpayers are ready for change in Rural America. We all eat. We all have a stake in a sane and reasonable food supply that brings about vibrant rural communities.
Farmer, Owner, Advocacy Worker
"A Wall Street Journal analysis shows that since the 1990s, sparsely populated counties have replaced large cities as America’s most troubled areas by key measures of socioeconomic well-being—a decline that’s accelerating." Opening paragraph of Rural America is the New 'Inner City'.
"The future we have been sold doesn’t work. Applying the principles of the factory floor to the natural world just doesn’t work. Farming is more than a business. Food is more than a commodity. Land is more than a mineral resource. Despite the growing scale of the problem, no major mainstream politician has taken farming or food seriously for decades. With the presidential campaign over and a president in the White House whom rural Kentuckians helped elect, the new political establishment might want to think about this carefully. Suddenly, rural America matters. It matters for the whole world." Excerpt from An English Sheep Farmer's View of Rural America.
Allow your passion to become your purpose and it will one day become your profession.
Want to make sure you never miss a blog post? Follow the link below to sign up for our email newsletter.