Here a sneak preview. The April Ohio Farmer about to arrive at your mailbox has Meyer Hatchery entrepreneur Karen Meyer on the cover. How she’s managed to develop a full-line poultry supply business with catalog, Internet and retail outlets, while raising a family and helping her husband and sons milk 300 dairy cows is a story of success.
What didn’t get into the story, however, where some of Karen’s comments about the how the current economy is affecting her business which focuses mainly on backyard and small farm hens, broilers, ducks, turkeys and geese.
“I think it’s helped,” she told me. “We are finding more and more customers want to be involved in the production of their own food. They want to raise their own eggs.”
Can’t get more local than the backyard. Of course, backyards aren’t going to supply what is needed to keep the nation fed. However, it shows the attractive role that the local market continues to play in the food supply.
It’s a trend that has been accelerating. More than 75% of Ohioans said they “occasionally” or “frequently” buy foods that are locally grown, according to the 2008 Ohio Survey of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Issues conducted by OSU. More than half the 3,500 randomly-selected Ohio consumers said they spend more than $50 a year buying directly from a farmer. The 19% who said they “frequently” purchase foods directly from farmers spent a median of $200 over the growing season. Furthermore 64% of the respondents said they thought it was “very” important for state and local governments to continue to develop local food centers around the state.
Locally, we have a group that is looking into adding a weekly produce auction to a twice-yearly machinery consignment sale. With support of numerous local Amish families, it looks like the idea might get going.
At our county Extension office a program to help people learn how to grow their own vegetable gardens is being advertised. They wouldn’t be trying it if there was not a strong interest in providing for yourself. Steps to get closer to your food supply might seem to be taking business away from farmers, but I doubt it. As farmers who spend their careers specializing in growing things know, it’s not that easy. Many will try and a few will succeed with backyard gardens or poultry flocks that give great pleasure and some nourishment. It is a wonderful thing that they come to a closer understanding of raising livestock and fruits or vegetables. However, bulk food production is the job of farmers. If you can do it closer to a growing demand for local supplies, you save on transportation in the deal.
Let local demand flourish.