Writing for Civil Eats, Debbie Weingarten takes a sobering look at the financial pressures forcing many small farmers to give up farming:
No one wants to think about farmers calling it quits. It muddies the heroic glow cast around our food producers. It cuts through all of the feel-good chatter about food systems and local economies. Each time a farmer quits, a little piece of our new agrarian dream dies. But however hard it is to discuss, the rate at which farmers are walking away from their farms—whether by choice or by force—may be the most important measure of whether or not our food systems are actually working. Because although farmers’ markets are springing up everywhere, the average small-scale farmer is barely surviving.
Weingarten says farmers can’t win when the market won’t support paying the full cost of sustainable production.
According the 2012 Census of Agriculture, farmers earned just 10 percent of their income from farm sales, while approximately 90 percent of their income came from off-farm occupations. The projected median farm income for 2015 is negative $1,558. Nearly half (or 1 million) of the 2.1 million farms in the U.S. require at least one member of the family to work off the farm.
Read the full article here.