Let’s not give away the farm … to get to market!

By Paul Rohrbaugh, NSAS Director

Direct marketing has become a very useful tool to the sustainable farmer.  It not only provides an outlet for our “values added” products but also allows a greater share of the food dollar to come back to us.  Direct marketing by definition creates a relationship between the producer and the consumer.  Often times that relationship extends to other sustainable farmers with which the customer may deal in the future.  Therein lies a tremendous responsibility to each marketer to maintain trust with the consumers that come our way.

Last month a college history teacher became infamous by his lack of integrity.  He allowed and eventually encouraged his students of the last couple decades to believe that he had been an Airborne Ranger in Vietnam.  After it was found out that he had not served in the armed forces, a great shadow of doubt fell over all of his teaching and writing.   This has happened in agriculture as well.  In the last couple of years some television documentaries have exposed the “organic” practices of some large, traditionally industrial corporations as being deceptive and misleading if not fraudulent.  Without mentioning any names, it should be noted that at least one large poultry producer in the U.S. has an intense radio campaign to present their product as somewhat of an answer to the current, pastured poultry revolution. They don’t exactly say that but if you go to their website and put 2 and 2 together it becomes apparent.

Like it or not, the current pastured poultry revolution was initiated by and to some extent still driven by Joel Salatin.  Joel has spoken extensively and has received frequent coverage from the media including National Geographic, the Smithsonian and a multitude of consumer periodicals.  In addition he has written three books, all of which present his model and its claims.  His claims include humane and healthy production, pasture enhancement, nutrients in his poultry not found in conventional, cleanliness, etc..  However, his claims require a production model that provides clean, high quality pasture daily, clean air, water and sunshine as well as a diverse natural feed, etc..  In other words, in order to echo the claims of Joel Salatin’s pastured poultry requires that his model be followed in detail.   Does that mean that we must use Joel’s model if we wish to raise poultry for direct market?.  Absolutely not!  What it does mean is that if we want to enjoy the relationship developed between pastured poultry and the consumer, we must produce an equivalent product.  If not, lets state our claims clearly. 

Back to “Giving away the farm”.  Sustainable agriculture is based on a values system which gives worth to productive soils, clean water, farming families and communities, high quality foods, biodiversity, and profitability.  These values are to be maintained, not just for one crop or even one lifetime but for future generations.  The products that we take to market need to reflect these fundamentals.  Think about it!


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