Farmers need more respect.
And, consumers need to be prepared to pay more for farm-fresh produce so farmers can make a living farming, according to Donna Dennison of Little Creek Dressings, on Westside Road.
She was speaking Monday as part of a panel discussion at the first Okanagan Meet Your Maker event in West Kelowna, where chefs, grocery store managers, importers and food producers spent a day meeting each other and talking about food. More than double the number anticipated by organizers Farm Folk/City Folk registered for the event, which attracted more than 100.
“People are willing to pay $5 for a cappuccino,” Dennison pointed out, yet they’re not willing to pay what a head of lettuce is worth.
“We take food for granted,” she said.
She told a story about people who came onto the farm to buy fresh produce but they wanted to get it for a lower price than the farmer was asking.
“Most often, that farmer is driving a beater and living in a run-down house, because people aren’t willing to pay him for his work.”
“Farmers need to be paid more,” she said.
Dennison first created her salad dressings for her husband Dale Ziech’s gourmet organic salad greens, but he’s stopped growing because he said people just weren’t willing to pay enough to make farming worth his efforts.
It’s important that everyone support local producers, she concluded.
Chef Roger Planiden said members of the Okanagan Chefs’ Association are huge supporters of local producers, but what’s needed is a distribution system that would more-efficiently transport products from one end of the valley to the other, and to users like stores and restaurants, without such a huge carbon footprint.
Angela Reid-Nagy of GreenStep said she believes that increasing fuel prices will eventually turn those not already embracing local, to move toward purchase of locally-grown food. “Cost is the only way we’ll convince some restaurants to go local,” she commented.
She would also like to see an agriculture land trust formed in the Okanagan, which would allow people to put land in an endowment to lease out for farming. That would provide a way for young people to get into farming, and could provide capital for farmers to continue farming, despite the development pressure on land costs.