Supporting farmers in drought by buying their produce
On 21 July we posted a piece on facebook about Extraordinary Pork and the imminent opening of their on-farm abattoir at the farm outside Dubbo. We received a comment that prompted us to write a considered response about the responsibility that all of us share to ensure a healthy food future. Here's the exchange.
'It would be nice to see providores like yourselves actively supporting what is the worst drought for farmers in living memory...'
'Yes, the drought is terrible and we are acutely conscious of the toll it takes on farmers.
I visited two farms last week in the Southern Highlands and, even in a famously fertile area, both were struggling with the lack of rain. Today we spoke to another farmer in South Australia who told us that they'd had 28 ml of rain in the last six months. Grant is off on a road trip on Sunday for a week to visit a number of farms across NSW and we'll be sure to report back via our newsletter and on social media. No doubt there will be lots of grim news about the drought. But it's interesting to note that those who've been working with regenerative principles for years are faring better than most others. Extraordinary Pork (the farm cited in this post) is a great example of this.
We think the most useful support we can provide is to continue buying their produce.
We negotiate a fair, fixed price with farmers which doesn't fluctuate regardless of what is happening in the open market and, once we're in a relationship with a farmer, we are loyal and do our best to buy as much as we can. This commitment means that we absorb some of the risk and that can be very challenging.
In times like this when feed is so scarce, it can be almost impossible for farmers to condition livestock ready for sale and there's no doubt that the quality suffers. If it's really bad, there just aren't any animals fit for sale which is a terrible situation for the farmer.
Unpredictable supply and quality puts a lot of stress on us too, but we are in it for the long haul. We've worked with a number of these farmers for the entire 12 years we've been running this business and we will do what we can to support them now as we always have. We believe this kind of long-term engagement is 'active support'.
We also believe that we are only one part of a three way relationship between the farmer, us and our customers.
Ultimately, despite our best intentions, we are only able to support the farmer if consumers are prepared to play their part and both pay a fair price for the produce as well as commit to buying it consistently.