Volume 8, Week 38, May 10–16, 2015
There is a farm shaped hole in the heart of the urbanite that can only be filled by a relationship with a farmer.
That has been one of our original 3 tenets, setting right beside, “Fresh organic for the price of not so fresh conventional” and “EVERYONE involved benefits.”
Proof of how much we work at filling that farm shaped hole are the farm tours where hundreds of you physically visit the farm each year, all the stories and videos and pictures from your farms available each week as well as this little weekly note.
But—dangerously—I’ve been thinking of that statement in the first paragraph this week from a different angle.
In the 40 years that I’ve been growing peaches—not to mention the 18 before that where I was a laborer on our family farm—I have never once received direct communication from someone who bought our fruit from a retailer. Never a, “Those were the best peaches,” “Those were the worst peaches,” or even, “Hey, my name’s Mary, and I bought some of your peaches at the Piggly Wiggly store down the street and we really appreciate you growin’ ’em for us.”
Now wouldn’t you think after all the bajillions of peaches that have left the Peterson Family, many with our name on them, you’d get one comment from somebody for cryin’ out loud???
Imagine if you were a baker or an artist or any other craftsman who faithfully practiced your craft, earned a living from it for your family, but never met one lady who wore your jewelry or ate your pie? Your motivation would cease being the delight of your end user and become the satisfaction of whoever’s picking up your stuff and leaving off a check.
So let me take you on a quick red bus tour through the inner workings of our present industrial food complex. It is very efficient—so efficient it only takes 8 percent of your income to feed your family, unheard of in the history of the earth—because it is very specialized; each participant is really good at one part of getting you your food. And each participant really only knows the guy before and after him in the process and frankly only cares about how the other guy’s job affects his, not how the whole thing works together.
The worst part of this industrial system is the lack of relationship. If anything, the consumer by design only has a relationship with Piggly Wiggly.
Our goal is and has been to change that and I believe we’ve had pretty good success at helping you know where your food comes from, how it was produced, and by whom.
But what I’ve been thinking about this week is that relationship, to be real and effective, has to flow both ways. I get a communication or two a week in my in-box which I always respond to and/or pass-on, but the important thing is the relationship with the people who grew it.
If you see AHO or Uncle Vern as the farmer, you’ve completely missed the point. This is an alliance of farmers working together each and every week and their names and email addresses are proudly next to what they grew.
I’m proposing we kick this whole AHO experience up a couple notches. I’m thinking what will happen when your farmers start hearing directly from you all. When your children start recognizing their farmers and hearing back; when heartfelt relationship starts filling that farm shaped hole.