Bridge May Ice in Cold Weather
Written by Kenny Johnson, Owner of Happy Chick Farms, Lockhart TX
Edited by Eric Beck
Have you ever noticed that in nearly every town there is a Market Street? That’s not just a quaint naming convention. Historically it was the street where local farms took their product to market. Where the community gathered to purchase, barter and trade food and staples. In many towns, weekly markets were written into city ordinance. When a winter storm like the recent one in Texas blew in, did it all come to a halt? No, the farmers would still get their product to market however they could. Unlike modern-day national distributors, local farmers don’t need to cross multiple state lines to deliver food to market. We feel a connection and moral obligation with our neighbors. National distributers can easily reallocate the distribution of products based off numbers on a spreadsheet. Local farmers on the other hand see hungry faces in the crowd; the more you support them, the more they can support you.
My family-owned egg operation personally delivers to over 30 grocery stores, mostly in Austin. Juggling the needs of the crisis-driven local demand with our current customer base was a challenge, yet during the recent crisis we were the first to have eggs back on the shelves. Our local coffeehouse on Market Street had our eggs ready to distribute on the second day of the storm, while it was still snowing. They distributed, to our local community, 150 dozen eggs per day for three days, most of whom have never purchased our egg before.
I realize locally produced, farm fresh foods are typically more expensive, but buying cheaply produced food in the short term has costs in the long term. Most of us know this, but still value the dollar over sustainability. Who wouldn’t want to save a buck? Factory-style industrial farms feed over 80% of the population, creating economies of scale untouchable by the small-scale family farmer. It’s not that sourcing local is expensive. It’s that factory style foods are cheap, of poor quality, mass produced, and are distributed across the entire country by only a handful of distribution companies whose supply lines crumble at the sight of a winter storm.
When consumers consistently and continuously buy from local farmers, we are able to expand capacity and create more supply, which means that when crises like the recent ones hit, we are in a much better position to provide those essential goods to a greater number of people. I feel it’s imperative that our communities diversify and balance our food sources to include local small-scale producers and large producers. The local farmer-consumer relationship is a mutually beneficial one, and with increased business from people in our communities, it can become even more so, one that thrives in times of plenty as well as in times of crisis. Small-scale family farms, however, cannot feed everyone, but the next time Texas freezes over those 18-wheelers won’t be delivering to Market Street in the snow. The more you support local farms, the more local farms can support you.