Editor’s note: This piece ran today as an opinion in the Wanganui Chronicle. It is in response to some complaints by the (radical) right that there are too many ‘libral’ columnists. This should give you a laugh.
Any small-scale organic farmer or market gardener knows it’s very hard to make anything more than a minimum wage unless one has unprecedented access to a population that is willing to pay fair prices for high quality food. Paradoxically, the land values near these population centres are extraordinarily high, basically preventing small-scale farming or market gardening.
For the rest of us, it is a hard slog for the moment. I have three pieces of advice for the aspiring market gardener who wishes to make a fair wage for their skills and time: 1) find a niche product; 2) be first to market with a common product; 3) grow the best of the best of anything.
Finding a niche product, however, can be hard so I’ll focus on the other two for the moment.
Last year I beat everyone to our local market with fresh, local, organic tomatoes by over three weeks. As such, I could charge a premium for being the first, and then drop out of the competition when everyone joined me and prices fell.
Being first to market means planting early varieties and getting them in the ground early.
It also means planting these early varieties in the hottest spots.
I would not call garlic a niche crop, but I will say that discriminating cooks will pay for the best garlic.
We will sell and give away about half, save a quarter to replant, and eat a quarter ourselves.
Over the last three years I have searched and searched for one single elected Councillor or Council employee who has an understanding of or commitment to sustainability. I have sought to engage those who on the surface would appear to be likely candidates (no pun intended). I have sent emails. I have left handwritten notes. I have attended meetings of up to 20 community members and asked the question: “Is there a single person associated with Wanganui District Council that I can meet with about sustainability issues?”
After all of this time I’ve never had a single name come my way, unless “Useless” is someone’s name and I didn’t catch on to it at the time. “Useless” came up often, but never a Tom, Dick, or Harriet.
This would appear to be the case because from what I have observed over 36 months is that more often than not our Council works against sustainability. Just when I thought the pinnacle of idiocy had been reached, it is surpassed again and again. How can they be so backward?
The latest example comes from yesterday when I walked out to collect driftwood on our oversized beach to find my rates paying to bulldoze sand into the Tasman Sea. During my photo shoot (see below) the dozer driver came over with an angry look on his face. I greeted him with a handshake and a smile. We were having a nice conversation when the excavator driver walked over to see what we were on about. He joined in our pleasant conversation. They were just nice guys being paid to do a stupid job.
I told them I’d get out of their way, and walked home to scribble out the following Letter to the Editor:
Here are some recent shots of our permaculture property. The main design strategies we’ve embraced are integrating fruiting perennials, native perennials, and annuals amongst one another – and using fowl to mow and fertilize what is left as grass.