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The Over Haggled Farmer

Posted 9/22/2013 7:16pm by Don Lareau & Daphne Yannakakis.

I have been thinking about changing the name of my column to “The Disgruntled Farmer.”  Of course I have been so disgruntled that recently I have not even written a column, or is that disorganized, discombobulated, or just down right tired from another long season.  So it is at this point in the season that little things bother me.  I also have plenty of time to mull them over while harvesting sunflowers and tomatoes jacked on caffeine, which have driven me to the pen again, or keyboard.

I could go on and on about a lot of little things but this time I will keep it simple, haggling.  Why do you want to haggle with me?  I work my ass off and not for a lot of money either.  I am selling you really amazing produce and flowers that you can not get anywhere else.  I usually have dropped my price so low (could be the problem) that you decide why not try for more, how about you “bargain” with this poor tired farmer.  Well, you are not bargaining, you are haggling and it is a discredit to the idea that you love local organic farmers.

When you go in your doctors’ office do you ask them to drop the price of an exam by 25%?  When you get a lawyer to do some work with you do you haggle down their hourly rate down?  Maybe everyone does this and I am out of the loop, well within the realm of possibility, as I do spend a lot of time on my farm.  But do you do it when you go to the grocery store?  I do not think most people go into most businesses and haggle with the owners.  But for some reasons with farmers at the farmers’ market or at their farm everyone does it.

The worst part to me is that if you asked the people who haggle with me they would be self-proclaimed supporters of all things local and organic…especially when they can get it at a reduced price, “How about a dollar less a pound?”  But it is already so damn cheap that I am liable to go out of business.  I thought you liked to support small business and local business and organic farms.  So stop haggling with me, either buy it, don’t, or haggle with me if you plan to buy two hundred pounds or buy twenty pounds each week, but think about what you are doing before you haggle.

Every time you haggle with a farmer you are questioning the value of that product, and of their labor to grow and create that product.  Then you have the farmers questioning the value of their products, and comparing themselves to each other and then they begin to undermine each other on price so that by the end of the season the whole system has eroded to nothing.

It is often cited how great a countryAmericais because of the low cost of food.  We pay more ontaxes then what we spend on our food.  (You should reread that last sentence).  It is a matter of values; what do we value as Americans?  I nominate valuing our food.  It can keep us healthy, help to keep us from getting sick, nourish our children, it is yummy, and it is something we can not live without.  Makeup, cars, new clothes, cheap things from the dollar store we can live without, food, not so much.  So if you truly value food pay for it, learn to pay more and more for it.  It should not be cheap; in fact you should spend more on food than almost anything else in your budget, which would truly be a sign of a healthy country.

The problem is that we are taught to look for the best deal the cheapest food and we get what we pay for: obesity, diabetes, cancer, and the most inexpensive food bills in the world but also the emptiest calories too.  When you buy a bag of lettuce mix from City Market and one from a local farm they both may be organic, they may even be from the same seeds, but they are not the same product not even close.  So why should we as farmers compete on price with what we see at City Market?  Because the consumer sees these two bags of lettuce mix as the same product.  Learn to see your local food as the real deal that it is, and be willing to pay more for it.

Now take this blog (rant) with a grain of salt, I love when anyone comes to the farm and buys anything from me at any price really.  But I just wanted you to know what can happen to a depraved mind out in the fields.  Not to make you feel guilty, not to complain (but I am feeling better), but to add a little food for thought as you browse the aisle for the sale signs, or walk through the farmer’s market at the end of the day hoping to score a deal.  Think instead, “am I paying what this is truly worth to me?”

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