Farming, like a lot of other things isn’t what it used to be. In the United States large corporate food producers now do the majority of the farming and family farms are rapidly becoming relics of the past.
A panel discussed this trend and movements to combat it at the Santa Monica Farmers Market 2009 Quarterly Panel Series at the Santa Monica Main Library on November 5. Panel members were Farmer Greg Nauta, Rocky Canyon Farms, Farmer Phil McGrath, McGrath Family Farm, Chef Ben Ford, Ford’s Filling Station, and Evan Kleimann, the host of KCRW’s Good Food who moderated the panel. Both farmers sell their products regularly at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Markets.
Nauta noted that in the U.S. “we’ve pushed our society towards keeping farming cheap, industrialized and out of our face.” He also stressed that it has been getting increasingly harder for the small family farmers to stay in business because the cost of farmland has become prohibitive. In Ventura County one acre can cost as much as $70,000. As a result farmers like Nauta lease the land they farm.
McGrath explained that one program that has helped his family farm continue to thrive was Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). This is when the community supports a farmer to stay in farming. McGrath receives payments in advance for his products and then supplies his customers with weekly boxes of vegetables and fruits.
In the past, most farms used to be cooperatives noted McGrath, but now in California most of the farming is corporate with corporations contracting with individual farmers to grow products for them. Most small farms that are making it do so by directly marketing their products to their customers. This as it turns out is exactly what many customers prefer because their produce usually tastes better and their farm animals are pasture raised. Ford mentioned that chefs also prefer to use products bought directly from farmers when they can.