Everywhere you look, it seems like farmers markets are popping up more and more, and people really want to buy local and know where their food comes from. This is important for obvious reasons like supporting your community and creating more jobs, but as a farmer who is new to the farmers market scene, I want to share my personal story of why it’s so important to connect with us.
Yes, believe it or not we want to connect with you as much as you want to connect with us. I recently attended a market — it was a very cold day with slow foot traffic, but I did sell my very first package of T-Bones direct to consumer! I hope Randy and his wife, Mary, enjoy their lovely dinner together. It was disappointing to only sell one thing all day to say the least, but that’s typical of a farmer. Work hard and pray for the best. When you’re new to a business, it’s important to celebrate small victories, in my opinion.
So I didn’t make any money that day, but it’s still exciting. People want to know where their food comes from right? Well, as farmers, we like to know where it goes, too! It makes me feel good to know that our livestock are treated so well and that I can bring a smile to someone’s face and memories to their dinner table.
Farmers put BLOOD, SWEAT, and TEARS (literally) into producing food. We work long hours, before the sun rises and after it sets. We deal with excitement and heartbreak. The joy of new births and the sorrow of losing an animal “too soon” after we stayed up all night taking care of them, only to wipe away a tear after we tried so hard and they died in our arms anyway. Their needs always come before our own.
It is said that farming is one of the most dangerous, if not the most dangerous jobs in the world, and I believe it. Farmers are kicked, pooped on (literally and figuratively — lol), stepped on, trampled over. We deal with dangerous equipment that could kill us in an instant, give up meals at our own tables so you can have food on yours. Heavy lifting, dirt and grime, back breaking labor, injuries, it’s all part of the job description. I wish everyone could be a farmer at least once in their life so everyone could have a better understanding of just how hard and demanding the job description really is. Our careers depend on government, market price, Mother Nature, (sunshine and rain!) hope, and a prayer. It is not uncommon for many farmers to go years without turning a profit.
The next time you’re at a farmers market, think critically and thank the farmer for what they do, for without them the world would starve. When farmers go to markets, we have to pay fees to have a booth. We spend thousands of dollars on inputs, sales, marketing, meat processing, fuel, etc. Why? Because we want to connect with you and hopefully make enough money to provide for our families. We want to make you happy and produce a quality product. We want to hear the stories of how you loved what we put love into ourselves, with many generations of producing a product with our children and grandparents. Farmers usually make pennies on the dollar for what you buy at the grocery store.
Please support your neighbors in your community who may have come from a very long ways away to try to bring a quality product direct to you. Farming can really be a thankless job, and if you can thank and appreciate a farmer to their face, it really means a lot.
Farming isn’t a job. It’s our roots, it’s our family. It’s memories of falling asleep in a combine as a child. It’s the story of playing in the hayloft. It’s the story of having that special attachment to our favorite cow. The appreciation you can share at your local market isn’t just buying a product. It’s buying a memory.
Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based row crop and livestock farmer who works to bridge the gap between farmers and consumers. She is a writer and public speaker for agriculture and can be found on Twitter and Facebook.
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