What's Local?

Today I took a brief break with Farmer Jenny as we ran errands in town preparing for our new HOMEsweetFARM Market in downtown Brenham which will be open in roughly 6 weeks.... oohhhh the pressure!  Not only are we busy planting for the spring, recruiting 2013 CSA Members and remodeling an old building... we still have children to raise (our most important crop).  Fortunately, the whole family is excited about our new venture and we love working together.

Know Your Local Farmer
As Farmer Jenny and I sat eating a late lunch, at a restaurant overlooking hwy 290 (unfortunately it happens sometimes, but it was happy hour), we viewed a delivery truck from a popular "local food home delivery" company out of Austin heading west at 70 mph after (one would suppose) having a successful day of doing business in Houston.

Now that got me!  There it was, right in front of my face, bypassing my small town and other rural farmers throughout the Brazos Valley delivering "fresh local" produce from an Austin warehouse to Houston, conveniently dropped at your door.  Isn't that special?

For a while now, as small farmers, we have been growing more and more concerned about the integrity of Local Food.  Just like "organic" and "sustainable", what will it morph into?  100 miles, 250 miles, 500, statewide?  Consolidated local food from farmers 250 miles from a warehouse and then delivered another 150+ miles to your door?  As more corporations jump on the CSA trend, the entire integrity of our local food community is at risk.

The local food scene in Austin, TX has been turned upside-down over the last 5 years and we suspect Houston will soon follow the trend.  With multiple new farmers markets and consolidators providing convenient home delivery, the local market has been saturated for the small farmer.  Instead of being able to focus on one or two markets and having up to a 6 year CSA waiting list, farmers are forced to sell more volume at lower wholesale prices and encouraged to get bigger to make up for the lower sales margin.  Well establish CSAs are currently struggling to meet their goals for membership.  The dry bones of unsuccessful new farms are beginning to pile up as they fail to ever get properly established.  The whole local food scene was more profitable for the farmer in Austin 10 years ago as compared to today.  However, "CSA-like" home delivery companies are blossoming and driving fancy trucks like the one we saw today, bypassing our rural town.

It's obvious that the new corporate term, "CSA" (Community Supported Agriculture) no longer means what it used to.  No longer are individuals needed to make a personal commitment to a farmer when they can order week by week online.  Sharing the risks and bounty that comes with each season is not required.  No longer is it necessary to help out on the farm or to be involved with a community of individuals each week that understand the importance and deep necessity to preserve our agricultural heritage.  It really seems that we are becoming even less concerned about the miles that our food travels, or what it really means to be local.  Now with convenient home delivery of "local and sustainable" food, you don't even need to meet your farmer or even leave the driveway.

I think it is something to be concerned about.  What is local?

Farmer Brad
"We grow righteous food"
Brenham, TX