Saturday, September 4, 2010

Change the Price of Food?

On a flight to Chicago this past week I experienced a bit of divine intervention. I was seated right next to a gal, Kate, who was about my age. She appeared to be well-traveled, educated, and friendly. Having recently watched Food Inc., once she found out I was a farmer, she was full of REALLY GREAT questions and one in particular has got me thinking.

"When you go into a grocery store, do you wish you could change the price of food?"

My response was ","
I fumbled over my answer a bit because that is one loaded question, but then a great conversation ensued about the following points:

1. If increasing the price of food in the grocery store meant that as a farmer I would make more money, then, well sure that would be nice. Wouldn't any business person trying to make an honest living want to increase their profit margin? YES, but it's not that simple.

2. Here in the United States, we enjoy the LOWEST food costs in the WORLD. Only about 10% of our disposable income is spent on food. In some countries that percentage can be as high as 55%. Can you imagine what you would have to chop out of your household budget these days if you had 45% less money to spend? Say goodbye to your SUV, electronic gadgets, vacations, nights out on the town, even "spendy trendy food". You'd just be trying to get the biggest bang for your food buck. So in that respect, NO, I would not want the price of food at the retail level to go up. Our entire economy benefits from our current food affordability.

3. The price farmers receive for what we produce really doesn't change retail food prices very much. As you can see from the illustration below, farmers only receive about 19 cents of every dollar you spend on food (Source: Corner posts at

4. I'm a shopper too. On our farm this year we are raising corn, wheat, soybeans and pinto beans. I do cook quite often with our pinto beans straight from the field. This just involves picking out small stones, rinsing off some dust/dirt, and they're good to go. They make GREAT soups/stews. However, everything else has to be processed before it is in human edible form. So, in that respect, NO, I do not want food prices to increase, because I'm just like every other Mom out there trying to stretch the family dollar.

5. Now this point I stewed on after my flight had landed and I had bid Kate farewell and I hope the good Lord will forgive me for this one. Some part of me wants to say YES, if I could change the price of food, I would charge an arm and a leg for the food my family produces, but only to those who are leading anti-agriculture activist groups that are making millions of dollars by selling fear of modern farming to the American public and duping people out of their hard-earned dollars. Ironically, people have so many of those hard-earned dollars to donate to the anti-agriculture fundraising machine because innovative farmers have kept our food so affordable...Hmmm...

I know that might sound mean, but please hear me out. It takes a pretty thick skin to take a verbal lashing from the media every single day, where farmers are blamed for everything from obesity, cancer, diabetes, health care costs, the price of food and fuel, etc. We're doing our best to stay focused on the task at hand- producing safe food in the most environmentally sound and efficient manner possible. My family works so very hard to raise our crops and to make sure our soil is healthy for generations to come. Even tonight, Saturday night of Labor Day weekend, my husband is working long past sunset, seeding cover crops to protect our recently harvested wheat fields.

PLEASE be like my new friend, Kate, and ASK A FARMER next time you're wondering about how your food is produced.

If you have seen Food Inc. and have questions/concerns and don't personally know a farmer, the American AgriWomen put together a GREAT document to set the record straight about the myths in Food Inc.

Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend everyone. I hope you'll remember to THANK A FARMER when you're sitting down to eat with your family and friends.


  1. Sarah, great insight and I hope more people ask farmers about how they are producing their food. Farmers have great stories to share and nothing to hide. I am thankful every day for farmers raising affordable and safe food for our country and the world. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Sarah, very thought provoking. One thing to keep in mind it sometimes is just a few cents more to a farmer can make a difference. We dairy producers sell our milk by the hundred pounds and there are 8.6 pounds in a gallon. Just $0.02 cents more per pound would make a big difference on the farm. That is $0.17 per gallon. If you buy two gallons per week that is just $0.35 per week. Just using one coupon would make up that $0.35 Great nutritional value !