Small Farms, Small Businesses

Hey folks, been a while since I have posted but there are some things happening out there today that have me very annoyed and very concerned. Yes, this is probably a soap box post, but one that I have to do.

Yesterday, after a few summerlike days after a very cold and wet beginning of spring, I was able to get out the equipment and begin work on our small garden. Part of this was going to the Ag store to buy some potato seeds and fertilizer. Now don’t get me wrong, I was expecting an increase in price – it’s everywhere now, but what I had to pay SHOCKED me. I purchased 30 lb of potato seeds and three – yes three, 40-pound bags of fertilizer. I was estimating $50 or a little more when I went to pay – the bill was over $100 or twice what I was expecting. That’s when the realization and really some fear set in.

My wife and I are also starting a small woodworking and craft business this year. Yes, my timing isn’t always the best, and probably isn’t this time either, but I have retired, and this keeps me busy, so we are all aboard. That is all well and fine, but when I started looking at the cost of lumber to build small tables etc., the cost of lumber would force me to charge prices that I can’t even begin to touch for the same items in large box stores, even though I know my product is a better-quality product. I can’t afford to build items and charge the prices I need to keep the business afloat, knowing that I probably won’t even be able to sell what I have made, so we are sticking to smaller items that have a lot less overhead.

OK, what is the point you may ask? Well, a couple of things. First, let’s look at the small farmer. What I paid yesterday was measly compared to what they are having to pay for this spring planting. Fertilizer has more than doubled, fuel costs have doubled, seed costs have doubled, labor costs have doubled at least if you can find someone willing to actually work. We live in a country that has the capability of producing all of the food we need, yet our farmers can’t afford to plant. Much of what we see on our store shelves are produced by huge corporate farms that can produce for a much smaller cost than the small farmer, so the small farmer has to sell at a lower cost – and believe me they do not see a penny from these higher costs on the shelves. Much of the produce etc. that is used in making food is now sold on commodity futures markets which means the raw items may be sold over and over again, and someone else is making these profits, not the small farmer. Small family dairy farms are shutting their operations daily. See the prices of milk on the shelf? The small farmer goes a very small fraction of that, and most if not all of that milk you see comes from huge corporate dairy farms subsidized by our big box stores. The consumer price goes up, but the small farmers paycheck does not.

Small businesses are failing at an alarming rate. First, in order to make a profit they must charge more because of the cost of raw materials, if you can find them. Now don’t worry, the large box stores are getting raw materials – they are first in line, then the rest can be sold at a higher and higher price. I can buy lumber – but it is high priced and the quality of what I can buy at the local box store is terrible. I watched a man go through a pallet of two by four lumber a month ago, and not only was the price $8 for an eight foot two by four, but he also went through half a pallet of boards before he found 7 boards he could use. The $15 an hour wage is catching up now too. People refuse to work unless they get paid a “living” wage. Some jobs are not meant to be a living wage – there I said it. Where are the high school kids who used to work at chain restaurants etc. They refuse to work unless they get $15 and hour, then don’t think they have to work once hired. That’s not everyone – but talk to employers – many if not most will tell you that is what is happening. Go to a local restaurant now and try to buy a meal that cost $6 before than pandemic. You will be paying twice that now. Small farms and small businesses are being set up to fail!

OK, I am just going to touch on the reasons, many of you will not believe me or just ignore me, but here it is. Our government is responsible for much of this, even though they will slide the blame on us or other reasons, they are still responsible. They really like blaming a war that is occurring on the other side of the ocean, or a disease, no matter how it came about, and is waning, but according to the government is still a pandemic and always will be as long as political gain can be had. I am not blaming only one side of the aisle – even though one basically can do what it wants, I blame them all for refusing to work together. If the other side gets control this fall, they will do the same thing. I can only hope that voters remember these things, can look past the poor media reporting from both sides, and not get swayed when the government this fall finds a way to lower gas prices, supposedly lowers inflation, and the shelves are stocked. It will happen this fall but by that time the damage will have been done. Can our farmers lower their prices on what they raise even though they had to pay exorbitant prices this spring? No! Corporate farms can. They can absorb the loss knowing they will have less competition soon and then can then recoop that loss.

Here is something we can all do right now that will help these farms and businesses survive. Buy at local farmers markets and from small businesses. You are going to say that I can buy it cheaper at a big box store – yes you can, but if you watch these prices are close to that and the money goes to the farmer or small business, not the futures traders or the corporate meat and food processors. YOU can help us all survive through this mess that will hopefully be addressed next year. Don’t always believe what you hear on the urban news centers – according to them there will be food shortages everywhere – and the prices will go sky high, yet the small farmer will not see it unless you buy locally. I hate to put the prices I do on what I sell, but really most of that is the cost of what I have to buy in order to produce what I do. I won’t make a profit this year, I have no doubt, but hopefully can cover expenses.

Folks, it is going to take that silent majority of people to correct these problems. We have to live our lives the way we know how to do, love and embrace family, ignore the extremists from both sides, and the fear mongering of the national media. Remember what is going on now when those folks try to appease and mislead us this fall. Make you own decisions, and support those you know and your local communities. This has happened before, and that silent majority got fed up and things were corrected. We can do it again!

Thanks for reading, even though I don’t like writing like I did today. I will get back to writing about the good life soon – maybe later today! :} Feel free to like or comment but keep it nice.

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