October 12 is National Farmer’s Day, a day that officially calls attention to the overwhelming awesomeness of farmers. At Scratch and Peck, we’re closely tied to farmers, and quietly celebrate them every day. When Matt from Foothills Farm rolls in on Mondays to bring us our workplace CSAs filled with fresh, organic green peppers, leeks, and chard, we ooh and ahh as he unloads the baskets from his truck. When we get a delivery of organic, non-GMO barley from Stahlbush Island Farms for us to use in our feeds, we’re thankful not only to have access to barley grown in the Pacific Northwest, but to work with the first farm ever to be certified sustainable by the Food Alliance.
When our founder, Diana, was first starting to build the business, she met face to face with farmers to learn more about what they do, what struggles they face, and how she could work directly with them to provide the types of high quality whole grains she knew she wanted for our feeds. She knew that farmers have a wealth of experience and information from which she could learn, but what she didn’t anticipate was how forthcoming they were to share their knowledge, and how quick they were to bring her into the fold.
Throughout the years, Diana has taken away a multitude of wisdom from her conversations with farmers, and learns more every time she meets with one. As a company essentially built on agriculture, we wanted to know what her top takeaways have been from farmers. So, in perfect Diana style, she was happy to rattle off the Top 10 Things Learned from Our Farmers, in her own words. Enjoy! Oh, and make sure to thank your local farmers for their hard work, of which we all get to reap the rewards. Our food system truly starts with them.
- Patience – my initial, naive questions, were answered with patience, kindness and openness. I suppose when so much of your work depends on the whims of weather and the growth cycles of plants, patience is a necessity. Which takes me to my second lesson:
- Acceptance – Mother Nature is in charge. Farmers can’t turn off torrential downpours, nor can they make a basil seedling turn into a leafy, herb-giving plant overnight. Farmers require their own level of Serenity Prayer.
- Organic farmers are really dirt farmers and take land stewardship very seriously. They have everything mapped out to the last inch on their farm, and know that if they treat their land poorly, their livelihood will crumble.
- They LOVE what they do and love telling others. I’ve walked through many fields with farmers as they fawned over their crops with the same sort of love as a mother with her newborn baby. Don’t believe me? Walk up to a farmer at your local farmers market and ask them, “What does farming mean to you?” You’ll see that sparkle in their eye.
- Farmers are friendly, honest, fair and grounded, which is why …
- Your word, with or without a handshake, is as good as a written contract. My early grain purchases were done with trust. Farmers did not know me but trusted that I would pay them.
- It means a lot to our farmers to know where and how their grains are used. When I talk with farmers about Scratch and Peck, they want to know not just about the products of our company, but also the ethics and essence of it. When you spend so much time nurturing something, you want to see it thrive in its next life.
- In almost every case, there is a solution to every problem. That is a lesson that I have referenced over and over again both in my work life and my personal life.
- Farmers are excellent mechanics and trouble shooters. MacGyver’s got nothing on them!
- Farmers are the quintessential risk-taking entrepreneurs. See #2.