I went down to the state house with Pete Eshelman last fall to testify at the interim study committee on Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in Indiana. I presented largely on the reality of loss of family scale agriculture and the true economic reality of concentration and consolidation in rural America. Just so everyone knows, I don't consider myself anti-ag. I do not like what has happened to rural America and especially family-scale agriculture. I also think "we" should quit claiming what happened is great at the same time that "we" are asking for funding in the next farm bill for mental health help for farmers to deal with the economic stress in a means other than suicide.
I listened after farmer and farm organization member came up and said that contract livestock farming was the way for the next generation to remain on the farm. I can still remember the eye rolling I got from a couple of state senators, including the chairman of the state ag committee, when I told them we need look at that portion of the issue a little closer. (I have found out since the state poultry association wasn't happy with the "misinformation" I shared.)
95% of the eggs are produced on less than 200 farms in this country. The statistic comes from the egg board web site. And the math works out. We keep close to one hen for every person in the US. About 300 million hens. And egg farms now have well over a million hens on each farm. Some as large as 12 million hens. That doesn't take 200 farms to produce 95% of the eggs. 196 farms for 95% of the eggs in this country according to the egg board.
We did have the same number of sows in the US in 1979 as we had in 2012. Only difference was 90% less hog farmers in 2012. We do overproduce calories for the world. Overproduction, not underproduction is the problem. Corn was the same price in 1973 as now. Farmers share of the retail consumer dollar is 30 points lower than 1970. I had sources for all my facts and offered to send them to anyone. Never got a phone call or email.
On the guaranteed loans, the young generation are the ones that are able to qualify for the Small Business Administration government guaranteed loan. We as taxpayers are funding the corporate takeover of rural America and livestock production by guaranteeing these loans at 90-95%. I'd love to be able to expand with the government taking the risk. We are funding multinational corporations through the Small Business Administration.
Well, low and behold the USDA Office of Inspector General came out last week and said exactly what I've been saying for years. These are not independent small operations. The corporations control the day-to-day management decisions. They should not qualify for government guaranteed loans. I'm including an article from Forbes magazine. There have been a few more scathing articles on the subject but I don't think very many people will put Forbes in the fake news column. I wonder if rural America would have looked different if Big Chicken, Big Turkey, and now Big Pig would have had to take the financial risk of funding their own expansion instead of putting it off on farmers and the taxpayers.
(By the way, I just love how Forbes uses a picture of a small independent family farm with hand-filled hanging feeders as the picture to depict this story.)
Read the whole Forbes article here. Then comment below your thoughts on the issue.
4th Generation Farmer
(This article originally appeared as a Facebook post. Find the original post and comments here.)
What a year! I know I am not the only one who feels like this year has gone by in a flash. This year brought a lot of changes to Gunthorp Farms. I hope you enjoy my recap of some of the biggest happenings of 2017. (If you want to compare 2017 to 2016, you can find my 2016 recap here.)
The Gunthorp Team Expands
Our team is always evolving, but this year we had some major changes to the roster. In May, my husband (then fiancé), Ed Babinec joined our team as our new farm manager. Ed has a degree in Ag Systems Management from Purdue University and he has a lot of experience in the feed and grain industry. We threw him head first into managing a pasture based livestock operation and I know I speak for the whole family when I say he exceeded our expectations. Ed has done a great job in his first 6 months, and speaking as someone who was in his shoes as the newest full-time team member a year ago, I cannot wait to see what the next year holds for him.
This summer we did run into some problems with staffing. For awhile, it was just plain hard to find employees who want to do farm or processing work. Thankfully, we are no longer extremely short-handed. A temp service, Leaders Staffing, agreed to help us find employees. Sometimes processing facilities and farms are labeled as dangerous so the staffing agencies refuse to work with them, but they are working with us and have kept a steady stream of employees through our doors when we need them.
Normally Thanksgiving is our worst time of year when it comes to labor needed vs. labor we have. This year though, we advertised for seasonal positions to help with our "Hell Week" and it worked! We had a full crew that came in during Hell Week, on top of our normal crew, to help us get all of the turkeys slaughtered, processed, and packaged. Evan did a great job of describing Hell Week in this blog post, which he actually had time to write during Hell Week. That tells you how un-hell-ish this Hell Week was compared to years past, he actually had time to write a blog!
The Gunthorp Family Grows
Last year in the 2016 year in review, I wrote about how I had recently gotten engaged to Ed. We had thought we would get married in February of 2018 because he was supposed to work at his job in Toledo until December of 2017. As you can see from the paragraph above, he left Toledo to come to Gunthorp Farms in May, so we had no reason to wait until 2018 to get married. We decided to move the wedding up to August so that we could get married in my Grandpa Ted and Grandma Jo Gunthorp's barn, right down the road from Gunthorp Farms.
The wedding was in the perfect location. Evan officiated the ceremony and did an amazing job. Greg and Evan roasted a pig. Matt Rogers with 800 Degrees brought his pizza oven and made pizzas with our pork. Matt also used tons of vegetables from my grandparents garden for the sides! We had kegs of beer from Junk Ditch Brewing Company. We had guests from as far as Colorado! All in all, it was a perfect celebration of Ed and I's relationship and I couldn't be happier how it all turned out!
(If you talked to me at all over the summer though, you probably got a very delayed response. I had no idea how much work it was to plan a wedding! Especially one that wasn't at an event venue... So anyways, thank you all for your patience through this crazy time!)
The wedding was the perfect start to our life as a married couple, but it was also the beginning of another relationship. Evan has always had a very strict "no dating employees" rule, but that is no longer the case. Maekenzie has worked for us for 3 years now in the processing plant with Evan. Somehow, after 3 years, she still likes him and they started dating shortly after hitting it off at the wedding. Maekenzie has a great work ethic and a heart of gold and we couldn't be happier to have her at family functions now in addition to having her at work. She has been a huge help for Evan, besides just putting him in an overall better mood, she has taken over managing the part-time processing employees, keeping track of inventory, and whatever other tasks get put in front of her. She does all of this while working towards her degree in Agribusiness at Ivy Tech.
In The News
Gunthorp Farms had the opportunity to be featured in some publishings this year. Check them out!
Greg is still fighting for sustainable agriculture and very small processors every chance that he gets. He is still attending the quarterly stakeholder meetings between USDA and very small processors in the hopes of getting scale appropriate regulations and getting rid of the retaliation that this industry often sees.
I was able to be a part of the Northeast Indiana Local Food Network for the past year and I'm happy to announce that our website is now live! Check it out here, they even used my testimonial on the home page! NILFN has great ideals and I'm very excited to see the connections that can be made throughout the upcoming year through the help of this organization.
We are always more than happy to show students around the farm. This year we hosted Merry Lea/Goshen College, Purdue's Small Farm class, Ivy Tech's Ag Innovators, and the IMPACT Institute's culinary department. We love talking to young individuals who are excited about sustainable agriculture.
There is more cool stuff that happened with our customers than what I can list, so please forgive me if I forgot something! Here are some highlights:
The Hard Times
This year hit our family pretty hard. On May 6th, my grandma (my mom's mom) Martha Jackson lost her battle to cancer. Grandma was a part of the reason that we chose to move the wedding day up to August; we really hoped that she could be at the wedding. Then just two short weeks after Grandma passed, Grandpa Larry (my mom's step-dad, Grandma Martha's husband of 35 years) was in a severe motorcycle accident. He was hit from behind while turning into his own driveway. He was airlifted to the hospital in Toledo and we were unsure of whether he was going to make it. He was on the ventilator for a long 18 days.
Our whole family went through a lot of hurting this summer. Thankfully, Grandma must have been watching over Grandpa, because he is very much so alive and well with us today. You can find him watching my sister's basketball games, just where you would have expected to find him if none of this all had occurred. He's even rode his motorcycle since the accident.
This summer taught us all a lot about grief and how we all process it differently. I, for example, leaned into my work to try to hold onto the aspect of my life that wasn't grieving. My customers were all so kind to me throughout the loss of my grandma and the time when my grandpa was in intensive care. I wrote a blog post about it that you can find here.
As we plan for 2018, it is hard to tell where the next year will take us. This year is our 20th anniversary of being in the meat business though, so we have a lot of ideas up our sleeves on how to celebrate. We will be hosting a big celebration at the farm with guided tours and of course, lots of good food! Be on the look out for more information coming soon!
Thank you for your continued support over the years. There is no way we would be where we are now if it weren't for consumers, chefs, purchasers, and supporters like you encouraging us along the way.
Have a safe and happy new year!
~Kara Babinec and the rest of the Gunthorp Farms team
Hell Week. It’s not a pretty name and it doesn’t bring about good feelings or fond memories. Constant soreness, pain, and anger accompany a caffeine-induced existence. In the past, it’s meant days without sleep and arguments so bad that some of my best friends have walked out. This year fortunately wasn’t that bad.
The week before Thanksgiving, for those of you who don’t know, goes by common name “Hell Week” amongst ourselves and our staff. We slaughter and package 1500+ turkeys to be fresh table birds for Thanksgiving in addition to all of the pork, chicken, and duck that our customers need as they prepare for the holiday. Essentially, this has meant that we start at 8am each day and go home once the trucks are loaded between 3 and 5 in the morning.
Two years ago, I remember putting turkeys in bags well into our inspectors’ overtime hours on the Thursday of Hell Week. I looked across the processing area to see Victor in blank stare at a spot on the wall. Several minutes passed as I continued to slip the bags over the turkeys and pass them down the table; Victor didn’t move a muscle. I was running on about six hours of sleep since I had awoke on Monday. I knew that Victor’s number wasn’t a lot different, and I knew that I was going to allow him whatever nap he could get standing up in that open floor space near the labeler. We called it quits before 2am that night with a steep workload remaining for the day to follow.
Victor didn’t fall asleep standing up this year. I’ve slept at least 6 hours each night this week. Best of all, I’m typing this at 10:13pm on Thursday. Jose is cleaning up the rest of the equipment, and all of the turkeys are packaged and in the cooler. (Last year set the record of finished packaging at 9pm on Friday).
We’re getting better at this, and I’m going to spend Thanksgiving enjoying time with my family rather than asleep on Grandma’s floor as I have in the past. The holiday will be what it should, and it will feel like this week was a necessary little stepping stone to making such an occurrence possible for thousands of families across the country. In the past however, I always felt that Hell Week was an iceberg that left me nearly drowning through the entire following week. It was an experience that I would pass by even if it meant that I would not be eating turkey on Thanksgiving and industrialized meat would win its way into the dinners that we would have otherwise filled.
Part of this year’s success was due to some temporary help that we were fortunate to have with us each evening this week. As the last of them, the husband of a longstanding local customer, was leaving, we struck up a conversation about staffing, foreign companies owning the big US processors, market access, approved processing aids, USDA testing, contract growers living below the poverty line, customer apathy toward processing, and a slew of other points that I wanted to spread about from atop my soap box. Eventually, we shook hands and I returned to my office to finish up the regulatory paperwork for the day. I sat down, and realized all that I had said. Every little point that I made about how messed up this industry is hurt more than my aching muscles of years prior. I don’t view Hell Week in the same light I used to as a result. The self-destruction that we’ve put in in the past has been part of an unfathomably intricate bigger picture. A Thanksgiving turkey is one purchase, once per year, that is going to be one portion of a plate that bears, or at least ought to bear, piles of other great food. But, that one bird, that one decision is one that says ”I live by my morals”. I don’t think anything in life is more important.
About 30,000 people will be enjoying our turkeys for Thanksgiving in the US this year. The fact that the majority of the other 300 million care more about price tag or what is convenient than any moral our business is built upon is more draining than was my 45 hour sleepless stretch of Hell Week 2015. I do not want to run all 46 million turkeys for the US through the plant, so I had best not complain too loud, but I would like to thank everyone who considered their Thanksgiving turkey in regards to morals. The energy drinks will help, but you all are the ones who will be pushing me through all of the Hell Weeks to come.
Processing Plant Manager
When family farms fell into consolidation and industrialization following World War II, rural America ceased production of its most valuable asset -- farm kids.
Throughout history, children growing up on farms have been taught the value of hard work, dedication, and logical thinking. The same goes for the children of "mom & pop" local businesses. In the past, these children unknowingly faced the burden of instilling these characteristics into their peers. Through school, sports, or eventually taking a job in town, America's farm kids & children of business owners pulled forward the work force and taught real life skills to those who were not fortunate enough to have a childhood that left them so well equipped.
Since the near extinction of America's family farms and main street businesses, farm kids have become an endangered species, and the implications of this fact are well evident throughout the workforce.
Multinational foreign corporations now dominate rural America. They complete their work with million dollar machines and migrant workers, falling under the eyes of the local community but never interacting with it. We, at Gunthorp Farms, have seen the neglect that conventional agriculture places upon our local community and economy. We strive to be a driving force of the solution, not part of the problem.
As such, we are reevaluating our hiring, training, and staffing programs to develop a workforce for the future, not just workers for today. One of our main focuses is on our high ability local youth. These individuals are often faced with highly systematic and structured opportunities when looking for part time employment (such as fast food and retail options). These positions, while efficient and readily available, stifle the individual's opportunity to develop real life skills and poorly represent the work world which these youth will one day grow to be a part of.
Our operation prides itself in the free expression of ideas, and the flexibility to do things differently. Every employee acts as an advisor to their superiors as we encourage them to bring forth new solutions to our conflicts and provide input on how our business should be allocating its resources.
We are searching for highly motivated high school and college aged individuals in our community who want to push themselves to new heights and help create the workforce of the future. If you are looking for the opportunity to learn new skills, innovate new processes, and manage both systems and employees, please give us a shot. We believe we can help anyone achieve their future career goals (no matter what those goals might be) through the skills and tasks that can be learned at Gunthorp Farms.
To apply, please download this application and email it to email@example.com. A copy of your resume and most recent report card would also be appreciated. Applicants must be 14 years old or older.
text or call: 260-499-0159
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.
I'm back with another restaurant-worthy recipe! This one is brought to you by Chef Tyler Herald, Executive Chef of Patachou, Inc. I often see Chef Tyler at Public Greens in Broad Ripple on Wednesdays, but he runs the show in all of the Patachou brand kitchens. The following bio is an excerpt from the Taste of the NFL's write up on Tyler:
"Chef Tyler Herald came by his culinary career honestly: when he was 14 years old, his mother bought a restaurant. She was a single mom and had to work long hours. "If I wanted to eat, I had to learn to cook" he jokes. While Chef Herald's culinary style has evolved, he stays true to one philosophy: Keep it simple, and use the freshest and best quality ingredients.
This edict continues to guide Chef Herald's work in his role as Executive Chef for Patachou, Inc. He is responsible for menu development and all aspects of kitchen management for all Cafe Patachou, Petite Chou, Napolese, Gelo, and Public Greens locations, in addition to Patachou Catering. He is committed to developing and serving food that appeals to everyone, but that also broadens the public's palette a bit as well. He is passionate about the concept of farm to table cooking, and works closely with local farmers to ensure that Patachou, Inc. utilizes local, organic produce whenever possible. He is especially proud of the fact that in the summers, the produce featured at Napolese Pizzeria is almost entirely local and organic, and that Napolese alone uses the bounty of no less than twenty local producers on its menu. "This is a priority for me," he says. "Every year, I get ridiculously excited when we get our first batch of Indiana heirloom tomatoes.""
The rest of the bio can be found at http://www.tasteofthenfl.com/chefs/chef-tyler-herald.
So without further ado, here is a concoction from Chef Tyler himself using none other than Gunthorp Farms boneless skinless chicken legs.
Open Face Indy Hot Chicken Sandwich
A Public Greens inspired recipe
Want to make this for yourself? Check with these locations to pick up some Gunthorp Farms poultry for your own kitchen.
It's no secret that we work with some amazing chefs who make some really amazing food. It always blows my mind that they take ingredients like our pork, chicken, turkey, and duck and turn them into masterpieces. I am a little less inclined in the culinary department, so even when I start with the same ingredients, I never know how to get to the end product. That is why I had the idea to start this "Restaurant-Worthy Recipes" blog series... I give them some product to play with in exchange for the recipe for whatever they make with it!
For our first recipe, I sent some spare ribs to Paul Robinson, the head chef at Pizzology in Carmel. Chef Paul has been a member of the Pizzology team since 2010. In 2011 he earned his degree from Ivy Tech's culinary program and in 2013 he became the head chef for Pizzology. I asked Chef Paul if he could do something cool with our spare ribs and he instantly ran to the cooler to show me his fermented garlic honey. I could see the wheels turning in his mind of the cool things he was going to do with these ribs!
So here is the recipe by Chef Paul Robinson, braised spare ribs with fermented honey glaze!
Rub the ribs with the following wet rub:
Place in pan (uncovered) with 1 cup of stock .
Roast at 375F for 1 hour. Flip over. Roast another hour.
Cover with foil. Roast for about 45 min. Then enjoy!
Paul served this over Pecorino braised Swiss chard and mustard gnocchi. If you happened to be at Pizzology on the night that he ran this as a special, you had to be there early to get a dish for yourself. It sold out in just a few hours!
Looking to get your hands on some spare ribs to make this dish for yourself? Check with these locations.
This is the first of many recipes that chefs will be sharing with us! Stay tuned for more yummy dinner ideas!
Occupation with the highest suicide rate according to the CDC in 2016...
Farming, fishing, & forestry: 84.5 suicides per 100,000 people in the occupation
The next closest industry is construction and extraction workers with 53.3 suicides per 100,000 workers. Farming takes the lead in a race that no one wants to win; not only by a few paces, but by a mile.
The real shocker. Guess what the farmer suicide rate was during the farming crisis of the 1980's? It peaked in 1982 at 58 suicides for every 100,000 farmers. A farming crisis is described as times of agricultural recession, low crop prices and low farm incomes. If you are a farmer reading this, I can't help but wonder if you shake your head reading that definition. When are crop prices and farm incomes anything but low? Are we in the midst of another farming crisis?
I relate back to hogs for my examples because the pork crisis in the 90's is what had the largest impact on my family. One generation ago, there were 600,000 hog farmers. Now there are roughly 60,000. I've often been told that these farmers who went out of business were simply bad businessmen, but can 90% of an industry be bad at business or is the industry simply impossible for businessmen to be anything but bad?
For those who aren't familiar, in the late 90's Tyson bought two hog slaughter plants with the sole intention of shutting them down. The first plant, Dakota Pork in Huron, SD, was bought and shut down in August of 1997. Their capacity was 5,000 hogs per day. Farmers in the northern part of the United States and the southern part of Canada would now have to truck their hogs as far as Iowa. Then once they got to the plant, they had to accept whatever price they were given, which was often around 5 cents per pound live weight. It was cheaper for many of these farmers to shoot and bury their hogs instead of trucking them to a slaughter plant. They literally could not afford to sell their pigs. The second plant, Thorn Apple Valley, was in Detroit, MI. This plant had a daily capacity of 14,000 hogs. When they shut their doors, Tyson was able to make $10-$15 for every $1 they spent on the deal due to the fact that they could now pay & charge whatever prices they wished to for live hogs and the resulting pork products.
Tell me again that the 90% of hog farmers who disappeared over the course of the last generation went out of business because they were bad businessmen?
The American farmer has been trampled on by the industrial agriculture industry and along with it, rural America has been destroyed. Many Americans probably agree with this after the results of the last election. Rural America cried out for something different because the same old politicians and the same old big businesses are simply not working. They put their vote with the most radical candidate who promised that he saw the desolate remains of rural America. The following paragraphs are an excerpt from An English Sheep Farmer's View of Rural America that was published in the New York Times and I think he hit the nail on the head.
"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."
Recently my dad was kicked off of some "agvocates" blog pages. My question for these "agvocates" is simple... while you are advocating for the industrial agriculture industry, who is advocating for you? Who is standing up for the actual farmer and fighting for their right to a decent wage? Who is fighting against the high suicide rates in the industry? Who is helping farmers stay in business? Who is standing up for anything other than the right to produce extremely cheap food?
If Farm Babe, the Farmer's Daughter, Tyson, Smithfield, the Pork Checkoff, etc., are not going to fight for the farmer, I will. No farmer (whether they are conventional, organic, or whatever other category they put themselves in) deserves to be walked all over, especially not by companies and individuals who are supposed to be on their side. So no matter what kind of farmer you are, know that I will fight for you. Obviously someone needs to.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The pictures below are one of the reason that farmers are pissed off at the industrial food supply and one of the reasons that we need the Humane Society to stand up for independent family farmers raising niche livestock. Its not the alternative farmers, the niche farmers, or even us granola crunchy hippy organic farmers that are creating the noise and confusion in the marketplace. Its the big players. Examples of three random labels from our local grocery store of Hormel (Jennie-O), Tyson, and Smithfield below. These are three of the biggest players in the meat and poultry industry. The other big players all have very similar labels. I could find a lot better labels. I'm challenging the "agvocates" to clean your industry up and quit blaming us for your problems. These are the companies you guys are aligned with. I just don't see anyone asking all of these commodity farmer advocates why the companies they are aligned with are using the misleading labels they are railing against.
Allow your passion to become your purpose and it will one day become your profession.
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