Many people don't quite understand exactly what Tyner Pond Farm...well...is.
As a result, I've had a few people ask me why we are working so hard to get this $250,000 grant from Chase Bank. (See my post: Please Help Us With a $250,000 Grant. Just Takes One Click Please )
Fundamentally, we believe that the food system is broken on many many fronts.
One area we really want to focus on is limiting food-miles (distance things travel from grower to consumer) and the re-localization of our food system. To accomplish this, we need to increase the supply of available food locally by:
Increasing the number of farmers growing food
Increasing the availability of local food in existing distribution systems
These are two solvable yet gigantic problems. The big issues here are demographics and economics. Did you know that the average farmer in the United States is 60?! Who's going to step up and take their places? Will this just mean that more and more farmland will be consolidated into fewer and fewer hands? Who would want that?
Now couple that with the study reported yesterday that over 6 million American youths are neither in school or working anywhere. Who doesn't think that this represents a massive societal problem?
Part of our mission here at Tyner Pond Farm is to demonstrate the economic viability of small food-growing farms. Really, not just simple viability but actual prosperity. In the 1950's farmers kept 40% of the food dollar. Today in the industrialized food world that farmer keeps less than 9% (packaging and marketing & transportation make up the lions share in the price of food)
With local food, these costs are a lot less relevant which leads to a greater percentage of the food dollar staying with the farmer. (See this post we wrote: The Future of the Family Farm )
With millions of unemployed young people and lots of aging farmers, what are the barriers to getting these two groups together?
Money. Frankly this is the biggest issue. The current farmer needs to be able to cash out. Young aspiring farmers don't have the financial resources to acquire the land or the working capital needed to get a farm going. Our mission is the creation of a funding mechanism to acquire land and support new farmers. We started with Tyner Pond Farm and have just acquired another 120 acres three miles away that we are naming Tyner Creek Farm. We are also leasing 75 acres nearby and will be transitioning that from row crops to pasture.
These efforts create jobs. We now employ two full time farmers and will need more as we add additional farms. These farmers are not just labor, they are the actual farmers with a stock option plan that allows them to build equity in their own enterprises without investing capital.
In addition to the actual jobs farming, we have a salesperson and part time delivery person. Hopefully this year we will be able to install our own processing facility which will offer opportunity for another couple of entrepreneurs. Think about it. less than 300 acres and opportunity for quite a few people. Imagine what could be done converting millions of acres to local food production.
There is also a trickle down effect. We buy animals from other local farmers to sell through our efforts. We have hired an advertising agency to help us as well as a photographer and a videographer...all local. We advertise in our local publications and support other local efforts through sponsorships. Our neighbor farmer planted non-GMO feed crops this year. He has a ready market with us and others like us....and will make a lot more money than he would have growing and selling into the GMO commodity system. All adding more dollars to our local economy.
Education. The only place for aspiring farmers to learn the craft is through Internships and Apprenticeships. 40 years ago there was a lot of opportunity for these 6 million young people. They would learn a trade or perhaps apprentice in a factory. This was a path to middle class for most of our society. Those opportunities don't exist much anymore. Farming local food is a way to bring this back. Most of the leaders in the local food movement offer Internships and Apprenticeships. We host some as does Joel Salatin, Greg Judy and pretty much everyone else.
How do we get these two groups together? We build systems to standardize and promote these kinds of internships.
Distribution. At the end of the day this becomes a distribution problem. Farmers are not often good salespeople. Systems need to be set up that assures them markets. Chipotle and other restaurants are a great start and my expectation is that every grocery store in the country will eventually have a local food section. Hospitals will procure healthy food locally as well as schools. These changes are coming, but where will the supply come from? Ask any purchasing manager at Chipotle and they will tell you that the problem isn't on the demand side, it's on the supply side.
So this project is about a whole lot more than buying a few extra cows & pigs. We need to create a matchmaking and education system for aspiring young farmers and a funding system to get them onto farms that are in danger of disappearing. All the while replacing a Long Food Supply Chain with a Short One.
This effort is not simply about Chris Baggott & Tyner Pond Farm, this is about effecting change that spreads across our entire society. Who better than Chase Bank to help us?