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Why Don’t Farmers and Ranchers Get Paid Well For the Food They Produce?

By   /  September 19, 2016  /  5 Comments

Jack gives a history of how we got to where we are and offers a solution for at least one area of the country. It’s not the only answer. What’s yours?

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This piece by Jack Lazor was originally published as an op-ed in the VTDigger. We’re sharing i
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  • Published: 5 years ago on September 19, 2016
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  • Last Modified: September 20, 2016 @ 9:55 am
  • Filed Under: Money Matters

About the author

Jack Lazor is co-owner of Butterworks Farm in Westfield, Vermont, with his wife Anne. They raise a herd of Jersey cows and make organic Jersey-milk yogurt, buttermilk, and other dairy products available throughout the northeast USA. He is also co-founder of the Norther Grain Growers Association and author of The Organic Grain Grower. A nationally recognized speaker and teacher, Jack Lazor has been a student of agriculture and and a farmer for nearly half a century.

5 Comments

  1. Great read, Jack. Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge on dairy farming in Vermont. I think the challenges you mention are shared broadly across many, if not all, sectors of agricultural production.

    The mechanization, commodification and chemical cocktail usage (and now biological manipulation) is wrecking havoc on ecological processes. Until we can find a way to make sound ecological stewardship more economically viable for farmers, I fear this trend will only worsen.

    There are a lot of promising developments beginning to surface under the broad banner of “Regenerative Agriculture”. It seems many people are identifying the value of the intersection between Economy and Ecology and how supporting healthy ecology can have major economic benefits. And, conversely, allowing ecological function to erode is just like watching your future economic potentials erode.

  2. Chip Hines says:

    Jack, like the others I really appreciates the dairy history you presented. And, with john’s post. We in the cattle industry were also led astray by our land grant universities. It began with the assumption that if we sell weight, that more weight is more profitable. The universities made no economical analysis to prove or disprove that assumption.

    John is correct with this quote. “The current fascination of the academic world with deciphering the DNA sequence, embryo transplant, specific EPDs, and on and on has virtually nothing to do with assisting farmers succeed or making the earth a more pleasant place.”

    Our universities have forsaken nature with their focus on technology. This has to change for the cow calf beef producer. Nature and technology are bitter enemies. Nature is attempting to continue as it did for thousands of years. Technology is trying to bulldoze nature into a minor role.

  3. Ben Koldyke says:

    Thank you for such a clearly written breakdown of the history. I am starting a small cattle operation in northern New Mexico and your piece is encouraging, where most are bleak or self-satisfied. Cheers.

  4. John Marble says:

    Jack: thank you so much for your thoughtful writing. Many of the issues you identify also apply to the beef industry. As a grazier, I find myself increasingly disappointed with my land grant college. The current fascination of the academic world with deciphering the DNA sequence, embryo transplant, specific EPDs, and on and on has virtually nothing to do with assisting farmers succeed or making the earth a more pleasant place. The folks working at our research facilities (largely funded by Dow, Monsanto, etc.) should be required to take a class or two in Ecology and Economics, followed by a year or two milking cows or chopping weeds.

  5. Paul Overby says:

    A small state like Vermont with much larger urban markets near by may actually be able to pull this off. You could implement some standards of conservation/sustainable/regenerative (or come up with a new name) agriculture that includes but doesn’t mandate organic to create buy-in from farmers. I wish you well!

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