When you’re a farmer in Texas, one of the first things you learn is to roll with the punches. Mother Nature often packs an extra wallop here, with droughts, floods, storms, bugs, unexpected freezes and blazing temperatures making pretty regular appearances. The crisis we’re in now feels a little different though. Once COVID-19 arrived along with chaos, fear, uncertainty, and stay-at-home orders, the food supply was the first to feel the effects. “Our restaurant sales dropped dramatically,” Gabriel Ringger of Ringger Family Farm, says. At the same time, “retail sales, including farmers markets, have increased. We’re trying to be flexible to adapt to the temporary changes in our customer needs.”
Globally, farmers have reported having to plow under and destroy a staggering amount of food, but having an adaptable and flexible local supply chain is a big part of what has allowed our farmers to quickly accommodate the chaos. Becky Hume at VRDT Farm explains, “Local supply chains are more adaptable and resilient. Case in point, Farmhouse was one of the first to advertise being able to adapt and accommodate new needs of contactless delivery. By supporting local farms, it grows local capacity which I believe makes us more resilient as a community.“
The most recent local food movement gathered steam over a decade ago – “farm to table” is a phrase now familiar to pretty much everyone. Over time, the movement wandered away from its roots, which were planted in a desire to build local economies, save food miles, support family farms, and regenerate the earth. “Local” became a buzzword, with everyone from home cooks to fast food outlets searching out food grown nearby. But as Joel Salatin, locavore elder and sage, says, “Every factory farm is local to somebody.”
We didn’t have a label to differentiate local food grown on small farms, using sustainable methods that enriched the earth, from giant operations that destroy habitat, pollute waterways, and farm with questionable methods. At Farmhouse, all we could do was get to know the farmers we partnered with like family. We weathered crop losses with them, supported them as they grew, brought new famers into the fold, and visited every farm we worked with. We knelt with them to smell the rich soil of their fields, alive with microorganisms and organic matter. We saw butterflies, bees, birds, and other pollinators flitting around in the sunshine, free to do nature’s work safe from harmful chemicals. We saw clean water and happy animals and thriving families breathing clean air. We saw cover crops that replenish the earth rather than intensively-planted mono-crops that deplete it. We knew we were doing our jobs – to connect our customers with stewards of our planet willing to feed us all the best food there is.
The past month has been rough on farmers. Recently, Becky told us, “Honestly, it’s just the uncertainty. It is hard to make good decisions while the world is changing on a daily basis. But I am grateful to be farming and now more than ever want to provide my community with the best produce I can grow.”
When a crisis struck, our farm partners were doing what they always do: feeding us. They’re still out there, growing food and doing the big job of taking care of this big, blue planet we all share. Here’s what we’d like to tell them today: We see you. This Earth Day, our big Farmhouse Family celebrates you, honors you, and stands by you – now and always.