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Issue 84 April - Editor's Letter

Issue 84 April - Editor's Letter

The day of the true small family farm is all but over. I hear this often, and even as we look to the beauty and renewal of spring, the challenges we face remain the same.

Our industry is faced with autophagy. Cells recycle themselves and energy sources within the body, promoting efficiency. In the absence of sustenance, a cell essentially eats itself to survive.

Anchored by generational farms cut by debt or battling the gravity of consolidation, these are the day-to-day struggles of companies trying to find profitability as losses continue to stack against them. To anticipate where each dollar goes today for the needs of six months, a year, or five years from now—often with revenue that comes too late. Or not at all.

These are the stories we do not tell. In their complexity, they fall into the shadow of decorum. We tell them behind closed doors, between confidants.

These stories are fleeting, the ones that defy paper and our attempts to write them. They seem to change too quickly, constantly moving toward a new present. In many cases, these are stories of immense hardship for farmers, too malleable to be held on the page. They change every time their caretaker tells them, but the nucleus is still the same.

In our industry, these members ride a continuum of hardship, driven by a heart of resilience.

These are the stories a mother or father tells themselves as they put their children to sleep at night; wondering if the family farm they’ve bled for will survive this economic winter. Will the dirt beneath their boots defy the rising costs of production, labor, material, and water; the demands from customers, the price cuts, and the rigid requirements of packaging, timing, and flexibility?

We try and keep the consumer out of it—navigate the challenges just out of sight—but these companies, these people who face them each day, are finding themselves at a breaking point. The cell is eating itself alive to survive.

We need to do more than survive. We need to change the way we do business.

Many of us do not directly face the hardships ourselves. We navigate the surface of our industry sea, constantly diving down in search of the depths. Within these depths are those stories. These stories need to matter enough to change us.

This conversation is as old and older as many of the generational farms that face such challenges. How can we continue to have it, nonetheless?

This letter is a question. It feels more pressing today as we watch companies and organizations slip under the radar and out of sight. How do we regrow the way we build relationships? How can we help the cells thrive again?

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