By Dan Lobbes, Vice President of Land & Watershed Programs
Planted by hand. Nurtured by hand. Weeded by hand. Harvested by hand. Hands – and the caring, determined hearts behind them – are what bring our delicious, organic vegetables to hundreds of families each week. And we wouldn’t want it any other way.
When our community invests in us and become “shareholders”, they are trading their hard-earned dollars for our locally grown, organic vegetables. How does one know whether it’s a good deal, a fair trade? Purchasing a share of the harvest is, on the surface, honestly pretty pricey—but looking deeper you’ll understand what’s behind that price – the whys – and the benefits of investing in this produce (especially comparing dollars-per-nutritional wallop!).
As the director of the Green Earth Harvest program for The Conservation Foundation, I’m in a good position to know just where every penny goes and I thought I’d give you a glimpse into that today.
Mid-sized farms depend heavily on people. Nearly three-fourths of our expenses are attributed to our crew’s pay and benefits. All those hands that plant, nurture, weed and harvest, belong to our farm managers and crew members. Take a look at the breakdown from this last year:
More than 71% of the dollars we bring in go to pay the people who grow the food and run the program. Another 23% goes toward the equipment and supplies needed for the plants, and all other expenses (training and development, insurance and office expenses) make up the remaining 6%.
Since taking on the program, we’ve been focused on taking care of all those people whose hands grow our food. In the past 4 years, we have raised farm crew wages by 60% – but we’re still not yet able to pay what is considered a fair and livable wage. And that’s what we all want, isn’t it? For ourselves, for our friends, for our kids? You should also know, when we increase our prices, it’s simply to break even. As my boss often reminds me, we do not make a profit on this program. In fact, we have been working hard to break even every year since we merged with Green Earth Institute in 2018.
A few other benefits for your buck that aren’t on the spreadsheets or in the chart: Buying your seasonal vegetables from a local farm reduces the miles traveled, retains your food’s nutrients and conserves resources. We use crop rotation and cover cropping to add-back the nutrients our plants use to produce this food. When you turn on to the farm’s drive you see exactly where your food is grown and you know and trust the farmers who do the growing for you. As many of our shareholders have told us at pickups, you can taste the care taken in growing our vegetables — well-cared for soil results in nutrient-rich and truly delicious vegetables.
So, we’ll keep working on it all. It’s a delicate balance, to provide for the hardworking people who provide for us, while not pricing ourselves out of the reach of our community…or even out of existence. I hope you can now better understand what we’re trying to do, and that you will consider trading some of your hard-earned dollars for some delicious, hand-planted, hand-weeded, hand-harvested organic vegetables for your family.
Call or email me if you have any questions, and enjoy the day!