Shiloh and Kitty Amin working on the newest member of the Tumbling Shoals Farm "fleet"
You might not believe this of me since I do my best to keep my feet firmly planted on the solid ground, but I have a few soapboxes that I occasionally stand upon. You may have enticed me to do just that once or twice (ever ask me why we are certified organic? Best advice: don’t ask). I spent this past weekend mingling with fellow farmers and associated ag advocates (groupies) and I noticed something pertaining to one of my soapboxes.
If you probe around in the lives of most farmers of any scale, you’re likely to find that someone on the farm holds an off farm job. Sometimes for the money, sometimes for the insurance, sometimes both, but either way, the vast majority of farm families require an outside job to live sustainably. Why is that? Clearly, the demand is there-- everyone has to eat; so it stands to reason that farming should be a viable career choice. Yet it appears that it’s not. Is it us, the consumer, just not paying enough for food? While it’s true that we don’t pay enough for food (we spend the least percentage of our incomes on food than any other developed country in the world and we spend the least percentage of our incomes on food than ever before in this country), I believe it goes deeper than that. I believe the farmers themselves are partly to blame. They don’t ask for what they need to make a real living. They, themselves, don’t see farming as a viable career choice. For years, this fact has bugged me.
But I noticed this weekend a shift in that paradigm. Finally. I’ve been attending this conference for 12 years, missing it only once. For most of those years, the focus was primarily on production—the “how to grow stuff” variety of information. In the last few years, however, I’ve noticed a subtle shift in focus to more business themes—the “how to make a living” variety of information. I couldn’t be happier to see this change. Finally, farmers seeing themselves for what they are: entrepreneurs. Finally, farmers demanding the tools to help them make farming a viable career choice. This shift in paradigm will go a long way toward developing and strengthening our regional and national food security because more and more young folks will choose to enter this profession. Plus, honestly, it feels pretty cool to feel like I’ve been listened to whilst on my soap box :)