Knowing Your Roots

Posts tagged ‘economic sustainability’

Fresh and Local – Wisconsin Potato Growers: Innovators in Sustainability

Blog 51

Central Wisconsin is the prime growing region for Wisconsin potatoes and vegetables; it has it all–pristine landscapes, great outdoor activities, and valuable farmland.  Thankfully, due to the innovative work of the industry, these lands are striving to be sustainable for the long-term.

In 2013, the Wisconsin potato industry developed a proactive approach to document the sustainability of how the growers manage their farms.  Working through the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA), in partnership with the National Initiative for Sustainable Agriculture (NISA), the industry assessed the sustainability of the practices currently used on potato farms throughout the state.  The assessment used an entry-level NISA approach to generate maximum grower engagement in the sustainability arena.  Seventy-one growers returned assessments representing 56,785 acres of potatoes (90% of the total Wisconsin acreage).  Growers from the fresh (20,400 acres), chip (17,900 acres), frozen (10,400 acres), and seed markets (7,400 acres) participated in the assessment to provide an accurate representation of the industry as a whole.  Since the NISA survey process includes a detailed documentation of sustainable practices used by growers across the whole farm enterprise in addition to the potato crop, this assessment represented over 200,000 total farmland acres.

Of the assessed Wisconsin’s potato farms, 100% are family owned with an average of over 53 years farming.  On average, 2 to 3 generations of family members are actively working and involved in the farming operations, which is an encouraging sign for the continuing sustainability of Wisconsin’s vegetable production industry.   (more…)

Fresh and Local – Finding the best value for our dollar…

Blog 46

When the cost of produce goes up at our local grocery store, it directly impacts our weekly finances, and we all want to know who is to blame. Is it the farmer? The grocer?  The weather? It’s easier with other products, for example gas for our cars. We can blame the oil cartels or some faraway pipeline problem. Either way, we usually end having to find a way to make it work.  We start to look for the best value for our dollar—start biking to work, clipping coupons, evaluating our food choices. At the end of the day, we want to make sure we are not the victims of greed.  We certainly don’t want to make someone rich while they are making us suffer!  Do the big oil companies really need more profit?

With produce it’s a different story. Usually when the price of produce goes up, crop failure due to weather conditions is to blame. The retail prices increase when the supply decreases.  And the ones who take the greatest risk are the farmers.  So they must also reap the greatest rewards?  Actually, no.  By the time the retail cost paid by the consumer is broken down into what it costs for each link in the chain from the farmers field to the grocers shelf, the farmer actually gets a very small percentage of the profit. Statistics from a National Farmers Union report from 2013, using data from the USDA Economic Research Service, shows that on average, growers get back only 15.8 cents of every food dollar spent in the United States—only about 15% of each dollar spent! Looking at the data closer, more than 80 cents of every food dollar (80% of the cost) goes to the transportation, distribution, marketing, processing, wholesaling, and retailing of our food.    (more…)

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