I receive a phone call from my sister every few weeks asking me for the price of eggs at my local Walmart…it is her local Walmart, also but I’m about 11 miles closer to it than she is…I am in the store at least once per week (I absolutely loathe the fact that the closest grocery store to me is Walmart) and I know that the price of eggs there is absolutely cheap!!! We were recently both wondering why Walmart is selling Extra Large Eggs at $.90/dozen when the cheapest she had found at other supermarkets (she is a supermarket ‘stalker’) was about $2.50 to $3.00/dozen.
In doing research I learned that Walmart is very conscientious about how the eggs that they sell are ‘harvested’ and about the quality of the hens on the farms…Walmart has pledged to insure that all eggs that come out of any Walmart store will be cage free by 2025…a monumental promise. However, for the time being, they buy their eggs from a few very large ‘conglomerate’ farms…with visible oversight…but they use their eggs (and other dairy products) as loss leaders in their stores. If you notice that going into any Walmart…the dairy products are all in the back of any store…one has to walk through all the other food aisles to get to the eggs.
I’ve been known to buy 6-8 dozen at a time…jumbo, extra-large and large…depending on the use. I buy for myself and my family…when I take the eggs to them, I consider them a ‘house gift’…I also am a member of a CSA and pay for the weekly egg distribution, which comes to about $3.50/week. I find no difference in the eggs…in quality or taste. I’m sure that my CSA ‘hosts’ are given a far greater area to roam but I also know that Walmart is putting some effort into seeing that the ends will justify the means…
It is not just the price of eggs at Walmart that is hurting the smaller, family farmer…some of the family farms do quite well with their ‘organic’ or ‘cage free’ eggs at anywhere from $3.50 to $5.00/dozen….the organic followers will sometimes pay the price…I can’t and I won’t but that is a personal preference….I do so in the CSA (I’m not obligated; the weekly eggs are extra) because I feel it is a way to support my local family farmer…however, family farms can not survive on eggs alone …and that is where the problems lie (lay)!
Family farmers tend to have personal relationships with their ‘cows’…no matter what the lineage. Dairy farmers tend to feel that when selling off their ‘girls’, it is like selling their kids…looking and hoping that they will be treated with love and respect and given a good home.
The title of this BLOG is The American Family Farmer and the CSA. I wanted this to be a story about how our smaller farms are being usurped and eliminated by the very large conglomerate/corporate farms but how important it is to support those smaller farmers…that is where our economy will thrive…the more farmers that we have ‘thrive’ the better our economy will be. We are now down to 3.9% unemployment; a steady growth of jobs being added into the economy since 2009…this is about as good as it is going to get…we want to support all those farmers out there that are relying on the local customer/neighbor.
Large, conglomerate farms have been sending notices on a regular basis to small family farmers that they will no longer be sending a truck to pick up their milk. Walmart, the largest buyer of milk from some of these conglomerate farms, has vertically integrated with some of these farms and will now be processing their own milk. ***Watch the processing chain…a regional farmer, Dean Foods, weekly sent trucks to 140 small dairy farms in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio to collect milk and sell to Walmart. They have had to stop the trucks because Walmart has decided to produce its own milk. Now Dean’s has no avenue to sell those farms’ milk. After years of low prices, the owners of these farms will need to make some decisions that will affect the remainder of their lives.
***Most of these small, family farmers get up at 4:30am and are out at 5:00am feeding calves, milking cows and cleaning barns. Then after breakfast, they change their clothes and ‘work’ their 9 – 5 jobs before coming home to begin the evening chores and starting the routing all over again. Their farms would not be able to survive without the money these farmers bring in from their other ‘jobs’.
…And there is the accusation that America produces way too much milk/dairy products for its own consumption and some of America’s largest purchasers of American milk (Canada, for one) has made significant changes to what it will permit in the milk that is being purchased from the US…Trump has declared ‘war’ on Canada…another story for another time.
…Another issue is the tax subsidies that are being paid to the farmer from the US Government…Last October, the US dairy glut grew so great that the farmers were forced to dump 43 millkon gallons of milk down the drain…yes, down the drain. Around the same time, the USDA offered to purchase $20 million worth of cheese to help ‘bail out’ the dairy industry after revenue fell by 36 percent over a two (2) year period. Such surpluses help keep grocery store prices low, which Americans have come to expect, but they keep farmer incoms so low that taxpayers end up paying the difference anyways in the form of agricultural subsidies.
But, they a farm has to be ‘big’ enough to qualify for those subsidies. I’ve only touched on the issue of family farms but the bottom line is we want to keep as many people as we can gainfully employed. Let’s support our local farmer by buying at outdoor markets when they are open and available; joining a CSA, if your financial situation permits (around $25- $30/week for a box of fresh produce) but the money needs to be paid up front; supporting local town/city markets. I live about 20 miles from Lancaster, which hosts the oldest City Farmers Market in the country…open three (3) days per week…I can make the drive and buy produce, artisanal baked goods/cheeses, craft items, fresh flowers…all reasonably priced. I make homemade apple sauce a few times per year….the Amish sell me their apples at $3.00/bushel less than anywhere local…and adding a little bit of fresh ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, I make some of these best applesauce…with absolutely no added sweetener…
Let’s support the locals…make sure that they are following all local rules and laws as much as we can…our economy and our health will thank you for this.
If you have questions on employment and recruitment in this economy or would like to know more about the CSA’s around the country, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 484-718-3427.