Name of Farm and its location:
Name of Owners:
Contact info, Email/Mobile:
This questionnaire is for a UCSB Global Journalism Class, for a report I am doing on the role of local sustainable agriculture in the food economy. I believe this is a particularly pertinent question right now since the food crisis will cause a significant shift in agriculture, not just worldwide.
My big question is: Will this global food shortage work to the advantage of small locally-orientated farms, expanding their role in the agricultural sector of the market, escalating this shift towards more sustainable means of production and more localized food economies???
Please answer as many as you can.
Background info questions – can be answered in abbreviation
How long have you been a farmer? We started Windrose Farm in 1990, and were full time farming in 1997. I was involved in faming/ranching since the 1950’s with my family.
What size is the land you farm, on average? We own, with the Bank, 70 acres, but ‘farm’ 25 to 27 acres, the rest is vital habitat; hills, creek bed, etc.
What are your weekly work hours? (Outline a standard week in farming) Monday through Saturday the crew works 8 hours per day, we tend to work from 10 to 14 hours each day of the week.
Do you ever get to take a break? How much time off a year? California, unlike some farming areas allows you to farm 24/7, we take two weeks off in late October and early November and go to Boston and travel in New England, seeing farms, fellow farmers, relatives
What do you specialize in growing and what are you growing and selling currently? How does it vary throughout the year? This takes a lot, but the short answer is: we grow 60 types of heirloom tomatoes, 45 kinds of apples, 10 kinds of garlic, and a host of other crops too many to list. Best to say we are a ‘highly’ diversified Family Farm.
Where do you sell your produce? Do you supply any retail outlets? We sell to restaurants, two farmer’s markets, and will have a farm stand some day soon.
What forms of energy (in ratio) do you use to farm (man/machine/solar power)? We remain, to date, addicted to petrol-chemicals, though we do a great deal of hand labor, averaging more than 60% of our cost of production.
My guess today is for total conventional energy we are 70% + electric and the rest petrol-chemical. We plan many changes: solar, geo-thermal, etc. all take a lot of capital.
What are the predominant risks in making a living off the land? “Staying in the Black”, is the short answer. Business schools teach the ‘five year’ business plan, for farming it is 10 years or more. The main ‘risk’ is under-capitalization. The time if now for a new paradigm; we need to match willing land owners with willing farmers in long term commitments to produce sustainably our local foods.
Is it a concern of yours to conserve energy as much as possible in the methods you use to farm? More each day, we have little option without a infusion of capital to bring those technologies onto the farm, until that happens our costs and prices must continue to rise.
Why are you a farmer? (Is it generational/personal values/ or simply a matter of business) “This land made us do it”, we are truly blessed to be on a most special place that in truth drives us. Much of this adventure is luck, etc. but we both simply love being farmers and pray we will be joined by thousands and thousands more.
Throughout your farming years, how has demand for local whole foods changed? It is a slow movement as people become knowledgeable of what ‘real’ food does for them and their environment. To date it is more related to that knowledge and disposable income, meaning knowledge and money equate to those who support us.
Opinion Questions – that I might quote… answer the ones you care about.
What does sustainable farming mean to you? Do you consider your farm to be sustainable? If so, why? Here’s are Farmer Bill’s Four “E’s” of Sustainablility:
1 – Environmentally, 2 – Economically, 3- Emotionally, & 4- Equity (meaning social equity consumer to farmer and vies versa)
Safe to say by this definition we are not
What do you consider to be locally grown…within Santa Barbara county, within the state, within the nation? Is it simply a matter of distance? It is a mater of region, the geologic, climactic area that is appropriate to supply ‘local foods’.
What are your views on the issue of U.S. ag subs? (in light of the recent farm bill)
Should they exist at all? NO! The USDA, a solely owned subsidiary of Monsanto, a ‘tong in cheek’ comment, but the hard truth is they are working to dominate the entire food ‘industry’, which should not be and is not a “industry” but a natural process in partnership with mankind, meaning the destruction of local farming and food systems. THEY ARE THE ENEMMY OF MANKING! I believe.
Has the diversion of agri-business production to bio-fuels, impacted demand for locally grown food – have you noticed a sudden surge in demand at the farmers market? Just a slight one. I assume you mean the NONSENCE of growing corn for ethanol, or GMO soy beans for bio-diesel, all a net calorie looser, it’s just a government corporate scam to fool the public, no one is telling the truth: WE ARE GOING TO HAVE A MAJOR INTERNATIONAL ENERGY RECK!! Some day in the next 10 to 30 years this energy glut will be over and we will have to become “sustainable”.
-in speculation do you think small farms will expand or grow in numbers to fill this gap in the market, to make up for supplies and growing demand? They must, but will not until the consumer demands it, with knowledge, caring and more disposable income committed to their food, environment, and health.
Due to inflated food prices of staple crops have your prices on whole foods gone up too? Or are you experiencing a price convergence between produce sold at chain stores with yours? Has there been an improvement in price competitiveness? Or not? We are so ‘small’ we just don’t see that, as it is really driven by the ‘commodity’ side.
Are you familiar with the term ‘food sovereignty’? What does it mean to you?
Is there a difference between food sovereignty and food security? Not familiar with that term, though with a definition I suspect I do.
Any more notes, questions, things you want to say……write here.
Feel free to call or e-mail as needed.
Yours Farmer Bill
Sunday June 8, 2008
Good morning Sophie,
While I believe there is a major ‘shift’ in consumer consciousness, “Blessed Unrest” documents this very well, the international food industry is continuing to grab an ever larger market share in both conventional (a.k.a. chemical) and organic sales. Note: Wal-Mart is the world’s largest seller of organic produce and increasing in the sale of “fo” organic ‘industrial’ produce, fresh and processed.
The hard fact is for right now the vast majority of produce sales are controlled by a handful of internationally based corporations whose quarterly reports drive them (a.k.a. short term profits), and therefore no long-term sustainability is ever planned for. Yes the price of the “fo” organic produce is often at or near conventional produce, but that is NOT real organic sustainable produce. One must know that in the USA the vast majority of consumers have no concept of the “actual” cost of food: price supports underpaid foreign labor, and the huge increase in chronic diseases due to highly processed false foods. They remain addicted to things that are fundamentally NOT food, but toxins. To change all this will take a “long view” and will not be easy. Even foreign countries once staunchly against GMO’s are now accepting the ‘bait’ and starting the ‘addictive’ trail to Monsanto and their ilk; this is due in part to the USA’s using grains to make ethanol.
The ‘market’ price question; heirlooms at major stores, is the typical ‘gouging’ corporations will due as long a ‘consumer’ remains fooled.
In closing I believe the future is going to be in “local food systems” in most all communities. Many, many more farmers and local processing (minimal), distribution, and sales must be re-created. The peril lies in large cities that have been developed at the far end of a food and water supply line, for them the answer still may be in somewhat larger satellite farming communities who can produce much more, though substantial challenges will face all of us. At the end we will all live or perish by our ability to achieve “true” communities of inter related, inter dependant, caring human beings.