Craft Over Commodity
The lines have been blurred when it comes to craft food and commodity food and unfortunately they've been blurry for some time. When it comes to what we're producing here at Walpole Valley Farms, we consider it craft and not commodity. So what's a farmer to do when a chicken is not just a chicken, a cow isn't just a cow, and an egg isn't just an egg? Craft farmers have a lot of competition with big agriculture even when you can't compare apples to oranges, so making the connection to customers is extremely important. When it comes to food, what goes into it is what you get out. Food shouldn't be treated like a widget made on an assembly line, and for us, we believe that eating animals that have been treated poorly can't be all that good for our health. The tricky part for farmers bringing craft onto the scene again is that the prices just don't line up with what consumers are seeing at the supermarket.
Chris and I just recently traveled to Texas to an invite only conference for the top 50 or so pastured poultryproducers in the country. This conference was essentially a meeting of the minds for people in the same industry. Joel Salatin brought up the topic of craft over commodity and it spurred much conversation within our group. Most of the producers in the room experience difficulty with the arbitrary labeling that runs rampant in grocery stores today. You've seen it, you've purchased it; chicken or eggs with labeling depicting verdant pastures with children romping, sun in their hair, with the poultry grazing on native grasses next to them, no manure in sight. The labeling is misleading, the labeling is downright wrong but it's allowed. As a poultry producer who actually does have grazing chickens about, this labeling is tough to deal with, especially when the prices are lower and the chickens don't actually even live outdoors in many cases. We spoke as a group about coming up with some sort of new label that really means that a chicken is pasture-raised. We quickly dismissed that idea as we don't feel like labeling always depicts the truth, and we don't want to fall into that trap as producers of what we believe to be a nutritionally superior product. So what did we all conclude? We concluded that knowing your farmer is really the best way to ensure that you get what you're paying for and what's been advertised. It always seems to come back to local. When you know your farmer, you make the decision. When you buy the random meat in the grocery store, there is almost no way of knowing where those animals have been, how they've been treated, what they've consumed, or how cleanly and humanely they were slaughtered.
Whew. So with all of that said, we were so incredibly honored to be with all of those great farmers back in January in Texas. When attending a conference like that we are always immediately brought back to the roots of our endeavors, why we started this busy farm in the first place, and why we're still at it. Craft over commodity, terroir over price per pound, sustainability and regeneration of soils over taking from the Earth. So no matter where you are, know your farmer, love your farmer, get to know them, visit their farm, smell it, taste from it, ask questions, and you will get what you pay for; nutrient density, health, a strong local economy, and a connection to your neighbors.