Sustainable Agriculture; Farmers vs. Plastic
We all know that one of the biggest issues right now is single use plastic & that everyone in the world needs to participate to fix this. As farmers, we need our environments to be the best that it can so that we can keep feeding the world, but we are seriously struggling with this situation and here's why.
Why do farmers use plastic in general, not just single use?
Increases yield & crop protection. (bio-degradable plastic)
Health Code Mandates it (ex. sale of certain crops & products)
To attract customers at markets.
Why don't farmers switch to paper bags?
We would love to! But small scale farms, like us, take a huge hit in their budget for this...
Cost of plastic. $0.012/bag. Cost of paper. $0.52/bag.
This may not seem like much of a difference, but when you're buying thousands of bags (most companies demand you buy a minimum of 1000) it costs a lot more !
1000 bags x $0.012 = $12 for Plastic
1000 bags x $0.52 = $520 for Paper
Businesses can combat these increases simply by increases their product prices! Farmers, especially smaller scale, can't swallow this pill as easy...
PROBLEM A: We do not sell as much as McDonalds, so when we raise our prices, our much smaller customer base stops buying our meat and produce. When customers stop buying from us... we don't make money. Everyone should know what happens to a business when it doesn't make money.
PROBLEM B: Heath inspectors and researchers for food safety have scientifically determined certain produce/foods are e.coli magnets! For an example we will use lettuce. This item is handled so much that it's extreme absorption of bacteria causes illness if not properly separated from physical contact with other items. Right now plastic is the only product that successfully prevents lettuce from absorbing e.coli. If we do not follow food safety laws, we can be fined and shut down. Solution- Farmers don't grow lettuce! New problem, consumers get mad and don't shop with us anymore, then we make no money and shut down...
PROBLEM C: Farmers Market Customers; This is a big one for the small scale farmers. It is difficult to attract consumers to farmers markets in the first place b/c produce always tends to be SLIGHTLY more expensive than the grocery store. So we need to do everything we can to make the consumer happy as these people are what keep our business a float. Most farmers offer plastic bags so that people will be more likely to shop (proven marketing method). Solution: We offer re-usable bags and baskets for customers to buy or rent, thus ending plastic bags. Refer back to problem A; customers are now faced with buying another item. What happens is customers forget to bring their own bag & don't want to buy one b/c they have 10 at home. They now leave our Stand and don't purchase any produce. When our small number of customers don't buy our produce...we don't make money...we shut down.
So, farmers are not stuck between a rock and a hard place, but between a flimsy piece of plastic, killing our earth and a potential loss of more than just money.
We care about our environment and want to make a change, but we need to find a solution that doesn't close the farm down.
We ask for a little more understanding from consumers now more than ever when it comes to plastic use & pricing. That being said we also understand that for you as consumers, due to SO many taxes now (especially for our own home province of Ontario..) that you don't have a lot of extra dough left over after bills to always support local. But one we will find a balance.
Just a little farm for thought on how farmers got problems trying to solve the bigger problems!
- Cooper's CSA Farm