In order to survive in this market, it is essential that we get a fair price for our products and labor. Booker T. Whatley published a great book a long while back and he had 10 commandments for new farmers. One was "avoid the middleman like the plague and sale direct to your customer". I have found this to be wise. In the last five years as distributors have sprung up in the Austin market, riding on the local wagon, it has hurt the market for farmers that have been there for 20+ years. On the consumer side the prices appear to have been at the same level, however at the producers side the margins have dropped and many new farms have not been able to last more than a few years in business. Distributors are not loyal to farmers as they are price hunting each week for the cheapest products from farmers. They are going to buy from who ever has the lowest price, at lot of time this exploits farmers and drives down prices as desperate farmers compromise and dump products rather than not taking a complete loss of no sales. The lower the distributor can purchase food increases their margins/profits. Another little hint... distributors cannot find enough local food to meet the size of their business and then have the need to rely on organic wholesalers to fill their shares. When they say they offer "local and sustainable" products, "sustainable"
Another interesting observation, as a local farmer we understand the limitation of supply. That's why a CSA farm has a waiting list because we understand that we can only supply a certain number of customers so we limit our business to the size that we can responsibly commit to serving. A distribution company on the other hand focuses more on growing their business and considers supply later. In this way they find the need to compromise what they consider local and then expand their definition. We used to call local 100 miles. Now it is 200 miles and even more. Citrus and melons from the valley. Beef from west Texas, etc. Just because it is from our great state of Texas, is it local? Farmers Markets have also increased their parameters for local as they discover that there just aren't enough local farms in their area. The demand exceeds the supply.
I encourage everyone to buy directly from the farmers. We don't need anyone peddling produce between us. Committing to local farmers and developing relationships is what builds integrity in our local food economy.
I also encourage farmers to work together to serve our community better and to see our local food supply grow.
Visit your farmer and see for yourself what you are getting into.
"We grow righteous food"