89.1 WEMU

Issues Of The Environment: Washtenaw’s Food Network Provides Resilience During Times Of Crisis

Mar 18, 2020

Argus Farm Stop
Credit Argus Farm Stop / argusfarmstop.com

Many services have felt the sting of the coronavirus outbreak.  In this week's "Issues of the Environment," Kathy Sample, founder/owner of Argus Farm Stop, joins WEMU's David Fair for a conversation about the importance of local food during this unprecendented time.


Overview

  • 99.7% of food in the US is purchased indirectly from producers.
  • Food travels long distances from farm to table – on average 1,500 miles.
  • The current food system is dependent on high levels of fossil fuels and is vulnerable to climate change, oil shortages and other disruptions. 
  • 0.3% of food is purchased directly from producers through channels, such as farmers' markets and CSAs.
  • Direct connections between farmers and consumers.
  • Higher margins for farms.
  • Limited by weather, seasonality and lack of convenience.

How local food businesses play into protection against weaknesses in the supply chain

  • We have been working on building a resilient food system for many years here in Washtenaw County.  
  • Argus Farm Stop’s model brings another option for the small farmer where they own the goods and receive 75% of the sales.
  • This COVID crisis has shown us how many people like to know who is growing their food.  
  • People are beginning to realize that the freshest food comes from local farms, and that our food system is in trouble.
  • Customer and farmer feedback over this past week in particular makes us sure that we are doing a service here to keep our food system even more resilient and that we have something special here.
  • We hope to continue to modify/flex our business to meet the challenges of this COVID crisis.
  • The connection between the farmers and the consumers has never been more evident to us than lately.

Take Away Messages

  • A vibrant local food economy is a crucial part of a well functioning local community.
  • The pendulum has swung too far in the direction of industrial agriculture, where food is produced far away from where it is consumed, and economics are stacked impossibly against small-medium sized farms.
  • The industrial model favors huge stores selling food from huge, distant producers.  This is putting our communities and local food systems at great risk.
  • Innovative approaches are needed to making shopping local easier in ways that economically sustains farms.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu