When a person buys food in a grocery store, only about 16 cents of every dollar spent goes to the farm where the food was produced. The vast majority of the money spent on food goes to pay the retailer, transportation costs, advertising and other “marketing” expenses.
But when a person buys food directly from the farmers who raised it (at a farmer’s market for example), all those “middlemen” costs are avoided and the farmers can receive the full benefit of their work.
We sell our produce wholesale at times, but almost all our sales are retail. And when we do sell wholesale, we usually charge the same price as we charge our retail customers. It’s hard enough to be economically sustainable on a small diversified farm without having to deeply discount the price of the food.
Having said all that, we see the value in farm to table restaurants. Remarkably our community doesn’t have one now, but there is one in the works, set to open this summer, and we’ve agreed to be one of the initial participating farms. The chef is also a farmer, and we’re expecting he will do some great things with our produce. It will be good for people in our community who want to eat in a restaurant to have the option of one serving locally-raised food.
My advice to those who want to help keep the movement for sustainably grown food alive and strong is to try to buy directly from farmers whenever possible. If you’re choosing a restaurant, look for one that is locally-owned and serves locally-grown food. While there isn’t anything wrong with buying food from Whole Foods or Chipolte, and it’s good that those kinds of options are available now, keeping your food dollars in the local economy and keeping as many of them as possible in the farmers’ hands, is crucial to the success of the movement.