It Seems Like Consumers Enjoy the Image of a Poor Farmer

Prairie Gleanings

Since when did profit become a dirty word in the consumer's lexicon?

Published on: June 22, 2010
When was the last time a consumer asked if your farm was profitable?

I'm sure you've been asked if you're a family farm, are you sustainable, do you use antibiotics, how do you protect the environment …. and the list goes on. But, when was the last time they cared about how you actually make enough money to continue through to next year?

If they did ask, what answer would they want to hear? For some reason, I doubt they'd want to hear that you were making a lot of money. Let's be honest, that sounds too much like factory farm speak. How dare you profit from your hard work.  

The reason I bring this up stems from a conversation with a family member about where they get their beef. They purchase from a small rancher, who raises them entirely on pasture and does not administer antibiotics. My first question was how much does he charge. The person responded that it was only $2.50 per pound, because "he's not in it for the money." In fact, they told me that he will often lose money on his beef.

I'm currently reading (and agreeing) with Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged." As you can imagine, the statement made my knees go weak. Later, I found out beef production was only a hobby for this rancher. However, the implications from the conversation made me quite uneasy.

As more folks strive to consume food in a sustainable manner, please remind them that step one is turning a profit. I've long had reservations about Willie Nelson's Farm Aid program. I've heard too many people come away with the thought "it's a good program because farmers are poor and they need our help." My response is, "Not if they're doing their job efficiently."

In some cases, it seems this image of the poor farmer actually makes some consumers feel good. It makes me sick to think they view purchasing food in the same respect as giving to charity.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the size of a farm operation's profit solely determines whether it is good. Instead, I contend that consumers need to view profit as a good quality to have. After all, you could be the most environmentally-sound farmer in the world. But, if you're not going to be here tomorrow, what good are you doing?

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