Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers Markets, Local Food and Saving the Family Farm
by Forrest Pritchard
Pritchard is a seventh generation farmer from the Shenandoah Valley who set about saving his family farm after returning home from college with a degree in English literature—sound familiar? We have another Joel Salatin here, an innovative pasture-based farmer who writes beautifully, and who can serve as an ambassador for the agricultural paradigm of the future.
Pritchard tells his story with great skill; in fact, the reader is on the edge of his seat as Pritchard describes his first attempts at pasture farming, his first trip to the butcher, his first farmers market. Every new venture was a learning experience—both painful and amusing. The first butcher he used did a sloppy job and, he suspects, did not return all his meat; his first farmers markets were a bust, not bringing in enough to pay for his gas. But eventually Pritchard found a great butcher and bustling farmers markets full of customers who appreciated his product.
The new model—pasture-based with direct-to-consumer sales—requires three distinct skills, says Pritchard: the actual farming; marketing; and finance and bookkeeping. Usually these three are parcelled to different members of the family, but when a farmer is starting up, he often needs to attend to all three himself.
As an example of the finance and bookkeeping category, Pritchard describes how he did a cost-benefit analysis on making and gathering hay. When he added up the labor costs, including time spent mending equipment, and the loss of pasture for his herd to graze in, he came to the conclusion that it was actually more economical to purchase hay. The decision left him a lot more time to do important things like attend farmers markets, and gave him more grazing land to increase his herd. Every activity on the farm needs to be subjected to this kind of clear-eyed analysis.
The thumb is UP for this interesting and inspiring book.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2013.