Times reports on insurance challenges facing small farmers

While it's a little premature to start thinking about where the Co-op is going to be sourcing its products, it's likely that the member-owners will express their desire to focus on food that is grown locally and either organically or with an eye toward sustainability. With that in mind, it's always helpful as consumers to familiarize ourselves with the food "system" in our region and our country. To put it simply (very simply), there are big, thousand+ acre, industrial, single-crop concerns and there are small, single-proprietor or partnership-run, multiple crop farms. The "system" (man!) favors the former in many ways even down to the nomenclature. For example, fruits and vegetables are legally known as "specialty crops." (Unfortunately, for most Americans, they're also a specialty food!) But one of the major hurdles faced by the small farms is that fact that the system of federally provided crop insurance - the safety net in case of weather or pest-related disasters - is designed for the large farms. The New York Times' Green blog explains this issue quite well in a piece that was posted on Tuesday. (Note: The article mentions CSAs as one alternative that small farms have turned to since crop insurance is basically unavailable to them, which of course requires me to point you to our FAQs for a refresher on the difference between a co-op and a CSA. You might already know the difference, but you'd be surprised how many don't. Hence it's appearance as an FAQ.) As members of a Co-op, we become more than just individual consumers. We're a group of people banded together with the potential to effect positive change by the choices we make as a group. If one of those choices is to make sure our shelves are stocked with foods from local farms and producers, then we should also be prepared to advocate for policies that benefit (or at the very least, don't harm) those producers. Otherwise, we might find that one day there are no small, local farms left! This also means that agricultural issues - like the Farm Bill - touch us as city folk just as much as they affect our fellow citizens in the rural parts of the country. Therefore we need to let our elected representatives in Congress know that we expect them to be up on these issues as well.