The Hands that Feed Us started with a sense of injustice: Farmers can’t make “a living” from farming alone, most need off-farm jobs to pay the bills. That sense of righteousness launched me into my journey with a great deal of momentum, and it has carried me a long way. As I’ve learned more about how farmers live, my thinking about the problem has shifted. I’ve grown. And I’ve realized that focusing on how much money farmers make misses the bigger picture.Read more
There’s a question that haunts me when I’m lying in bed pondering what The Hands that Feed Us is really about: Are we at risk of reverting to feudalism?
My fear is that we will end up in a situation where land is owned by large, absent land-holders who demand a tax from the farmers who actually live and work on the land. Roughly speaking, this feels like feudalism, where land was divided into fiefdoms owned by lords who were supported by their vassals — the people who actually worked the land.Read more
Recently, I came across this article worrying about how people will afford to eat once CERB, the government’s COVID-19 support program, dries up. The article takes an attitude that has become de rigueur iRecently, I came across this article worrying about how people will afford to eat once CERB, the government’s COVID-19 support program, dries up. The article takes an attitude that has become de rigueur in the past few years:
The reason households or individuals go without food is they simply don’t have enough money in their pocket to buy it.
“It’s not a food problem; it’s an income problem. It’s not that we don’t have enough food, or even cheap food”…read more…Read more
If farming worked the way ordinary businesses work, starting a farm would be a matter of making a business plan, approaching a bank or an investor, and coming to an arrangement about how ownership and profits are split between the farmer and the financial backers. This is the general way that we imagine businesses are supposed to work, and it’s the way of capitalism. An enterprising young farmer with no money (capital) partners with a backer (a capitalist); the farmer invests time and labour, the capitalist invests money, and if all goes well, both farmer and capitalist split the profits.
The statistics are shocking. Multiply the size of the average B.C. farm (365 acres) by the average cost per acre ($5,321) and you get an average farm value of $1.9 million. Divide that by the average net profit for B.C. farmers ($26,000) and you discover that, it takes 75 years for an average farm to recoup the cost of its land — and that’s if it spends every penny of profit on the land and the mortgage is interest-free. As my pitch video for The Lands that Feed Us loudly states, “the average farmer will be dead by the time their land is paid for.”
It’s very headline worthy. It’s also not very good information. To be sure, all the stats are accurate (at least for the year 2016) — they come from Statistics Canada. But the picture they paint is … misleading. read more…Read more
One of the first rules of business I learned was this: Pay yourself first. The money you earn from working on your business — your salary — is different from the money you make by virtue of being the business owner — your profits. Which is to say, a business isn’t profitable until after it has paid your salary.
My first exposure to the business of farming was vicarious. My girlfriend at the time was taking a course in farm business models, and one of her assignments was to create a farm business plan. Naturally, I asked if I could see it…read more…Read more
What would it look like to live in a world where farmers didn’t struggle to make a living? How would it be different from our world right now? This gets right to the heart of why The Hands that Feed Us matters: Canadian farmers struggle financially because the business environment they exist in is not a healthy one.
Which begs the question: What does a healthy business environment for farmers look like? I found the beginnings of an answer talking to Eden Yesh about his work at the BC Community Impact Investment Coalition.read more…Read more
In my quest to find out why farming is such a tough business, a workshop for Food & Ag Entrepreneurs by a local Angel Investment Network caught my eye. It was a short, half-day workshop with potential investors that promised to explain the process of raising money for food businesses. Perfect! I signed up to be a fly-on-the-wall.
Post-workshop, I can safely say that I still don’t know how farmers can find investors. read more…Read more
Before The Hands that Feed Us was a campaign, it was a short, 12 minute documentary featuring Arzeena Hamir and her family on their organic produce farm in Comox, B.C.
The farm works because it’s a family and a community, where love and commitment outweigh the financial rewards. read more…Read more