The traditional model of the family farm is we are told “unsustainable”. The powers that be are insistent that the best way forward for food, is large scale intensification.
Supermarkets are putting more and more distance between the farmer and the consumer; it is now impossible to understand where our food comes from our how it was produced.
While the conventional system ignores the true cost of food, and is driven by supermarket dictated prices, the sustainable food movement aims to value food fairly, create a connection between growers and consumers and reward those involved in the production fairly according to their input.
This week we were confronted with a task that is less than pleasurable and brings me to a particular bugbear of mine: should we discount our food to sell it? Should we stop supporting other small businesses because the backdrop of cheap food makes it increasingly difficult to pay a fair price to our own farm and to the other farmers that supply us? And the answer, whenever we think about the pressures this puts on our business, is always the same, no it is not the right thing to do.
We have so much good produce now, it is literally bursting out of the ground, and we have hired so many people to cater for an upturn in demand that the end of the summer usually brings, but has not yet materialised, and I am wondering what to do with all the cabbage, broccoli, kale and carrots parsnips and so much more that we have in our fields right now.
I know this is business and I should just get on with it and you would be right for saying that, and I totally get it. But there is a point in here that drives me a bit crazy: which is the devaluation of food by the supermarket model of selling and the inability for us as a small businesses to compete with retailers that can often sell cheap, imported produce for less than we can produce it for.
This is a fact. To give you a little example we buy cucumbers from a small organic farmer in Mayo, we pay him €1 per cucumber we collect them and the time and energy to get the cucumber to us adds another 20%, so the real cost of this cucumber is €1.20. We sell this cucumber for €1.99, that 80c needs to cover so many different things and so many different people in jobs: from customer service to packing jobs to everything in between (we now employ 45 people). So, when I see large supermarkets selling cucumbers for 49c I just can’t understand how that can be done.
There is no getting away from the fact that value is so important, but long-term value versus short term gain is the real issue here, fresh local organic produce will always give you better nutritional value, better sustainable value, better value for our localities and communities and better value for our health.
Of course, balancing a household budget can be very difficult too, and that we are mindful of. To help with this we have many options to help with this: such as the build your own box that gives excellent value, we also have now the added incentive that if you set up a repeat order you get double reward points for everything you buy. Finally, if you buy a cabbage or a swede from us it can be nearly double the size of those you get in the supermarket for the same price! That is double the food for the same cost!
But fundamentally your decision to support us is supporting not only your health; it is allowing an idea, a sector, a farm, individual’s livelihoods, biodiversity, the soil, the environment, and other sustainable businesses to flourish. You are sending a message to the powers that be that you believe there is a better way and crucially you are taking positive action for a more sustainable future.
Thank you for your support.
PS: Set up a repeat order (you can add extras to it whenever you need them) and collect DOUBLE POINTS on our new VIPeas loyalty scheme. This is a great way to save up for money off your big Christmas shop. Have a look at our website here for all the options. You can get a set box or pick and choose exactly what you need. We sell sustainable groceries too!