How Can Local Food Businesses Be Recognized As An Essential Service
Communities have come together to support one another, ensuring we take proper measures to protect ourselves and our families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Agrilyze remains in operation, and we will continue to do our best to support our customers through this challenging and unprecedented time.
Today we launch a new blog feature called Guest Spotlight, where we showcase content written by farmers, for farmers. Our first guest is Happiness by the Acre.
For this post, they have shared a letter speaking about how farmers will be impacted by the Albertan government closing down farmer’s markets completely. Have a read, and as we know, the COVID-19 pandemic affects everyone – from growers to producers to consumers – we would like to hear what your experience has been as a farmer. Contact us if you’d like to share your story and continue to stay healthy and safe! We will update you frequently with new content, and if you have a topic to explore, just let us know.
Please visit the Happiness by the Acre website (https://happinessbytheacre.ca/) and their Instagram account (happiness_by_the_acre) – your acknowledgment is a contribution toward supporting local food and farmers!
I am including you in this open letter because you are a farmer, family of a farmer, or a good friend of a farmer. Right now, across Alberta, small family farms are getting hammered. The restrictions on movement and gatherings have sent a lot of us into a tailspin. As my wife, Sarah, said tonight, “every 8 hours we are facing not just another detour, but a total roadblock.”
As I am writing this, the province of Alberta is moving towards closing Farmers Markets completely. The announcement today that all community associations and mass gatherings of over 50 are shut down has closed 3/4 of the venues for farmers markets, and staffing alone at most farmers markets would take the gathering count over 50. For the Alberta local food scene, this is an economic disaster. Local farms rely on the short summer and autumn farmers market season to make the majority of their income for the year. We have 20 weeks. At this point, it looks like we will be shut down, at best, for half of that, most likely the entirety.
This is going to cost farms dearly. Many local farms will vanish, probably forever. Our farm, Happiness by The Acre, needs to sell $1,200 per week through our markets for 20 weeks to turn a profit. We are looking at a loss of $24,000 just on farmer’s markets alone. If things get more restrictive, as they limit delivery services and travel, we would face shutting down ALL of our sales channels. This would be a further loss of $30,000 – $40,000 in sales. How many households do you know that can survive a $60,000+ loss in income?
For many farms, this will come down to whether or not they operate at all this season. For farms like ours, which deal with livestock, the expenses don’t stop when you choose not to plant. Livestock operators have to keep feeding that livestock. Or end their lives. That’s not a path that any farmer with livestock wants to walk down, but that is the harsh financial reality of this situation. This is as bad as a severe drought, and in those times, you destock, or you go broke.
At the same time, we are experiencing supply chain failures, mass crowding, food shortages, and panic at our grocery stores. While local farms, with food under production, are having to compost or garbage what they have because they can not get it into the hands of customers. YYC Growers & Distributors, the growers cooperative our farm is a proud member of, is flush with product and struggling to get it to customers.
This is the reality of treating local food hubs, farmers markets, and small local farms as non-essential services. This is the reality and fragility of our food system, which fails to stock shelves while food rots right next door.
I know this is a long bit of reading at this point, and there is a point to this. Small farms and farmer’s markets can adapt to safety procedures in ways Costco and supermarkets simply never could. We are ready, willing, and able to keep our families and the families of our customers safe, healthy, and well-fed from the local food larder. What we need, as farmers and local food businesses, is for the government and leadership involved to recognize us as essential services during the Covid-19 pandemic.
So, the ask is for you to forward this letter, or something like it, on. Send it out via social media. Email it to your family, and ask them to share it. Send it to bloggers, influencers, journalists, and politicians. Ask them to include small farms, local food hubs, and farmer’s markets as essential services in the Covid-19 pandemic emergency.
Farmer, Food Activist, Theologian (in training)
Happiness by The Acre
About Happiness by the Acre
Happiness by the Acre is a small family farm located on the edge between the Alberta foothills and the open prairie. Dedicated to providing healthy, fresh, local, and ethical food to consumers, they believe that what you eat, and what you choose to support with your purchases, directly impacts how the land is used and how healthy the soil will be.
For more blog content on growing and raising happy food, visit the Happiness by the Acre website at https://happinessbytheacre.ca/
Sarah and Marcus Riedner