[00:00:00] Speaker A: Om.
[00:00:27] Speaker B: Hi all. Welcome back to just a bite. In this episode, I talk with two amazing partners the Ohio association of Food Banks works with through the Ohio can program funded through the USDA's local food Purchase assistance program.
Jamie Pritchard joins us from Witt Farm, and Walt Bonham joins from the food lab and Richland grow up. We talk about the importance of local food systems, the historical context that makes it difficult for BIPOC farmers and other farmers left out of USDA programs to grow and scale, and how local farms are innovatively collaborating with one another to expand their reach and impact. Take a listen.
[00:01:20] Speaker C: Hi, Walt.
[00:01:21] Speaker D: Hi, Jamie. Thank you both for traveling to Columbus today and recording with us for this episode. I think it'll be a really good one. Let's start out by the two of you introducing yourselves. So could you share your name, what farm and co op you're affiliated with and how you got into farming?
[00:01:40] Speaker E: My name is Walter Bonham. I am the owner of the food lab. I am a farmer and consultant, and I am a founding member of the Richland Grow Up, a cooperative and located in Mansour, Ohio. I got interested in farming, kind of just, I knew some things that I wanted to do when I got older, but didn't know what I wanted to do now about five, six years ago or so. And I just decided that why am I waiting? Kind of took an approach of just deciding was going to quit the corporate world and build my own business and try to pursue some things that I was passionate about and took a bunch of classes around learning how to farm and food, just different things around food. Took some jobs that are treated like internship to kind of really introduce me into food and farming and catering road and so on. So it was a little bit of a process for me just coming out of the nine to five world.
[00:02:33] Speaker A: My name is Jamie Pritchard. I am the owner and operator of Wit Farm. I had a corporate job where I was just an office lady and decided, okay, I want to farm. So I just moved to the farm and I started farming and just figured it out as I went along and then was able to go full time about five years ago.
[00:02:55] Speaker D: That's awesome. I commend you both. I know that it is really difficult to go out on your own and start your own business, and especially in an industry that is so hard to get into and also operates on such small margins. So the Ohio association of Food Banks, especially Carrie on our team, have developed a working relationship with you throughout the Ohio can program. Jesse Byte actually highlighted this program last year when we interviewed Carrie and Ainsley from the Ohio Department of Agriculture. So we'll be sure to link that in our show notes for folks to listen after this episode. But this program has been funded through the USDA Local Food Purchase Assistance program, which was established in 2022 and goes through June 30 of 2025. The Ohio can program aims to work with local farms that are BIPOC owned, women owned, veteran owned, LGBTQ plus owned, small or beginner farms, and others that have been historically underserved and marginalized by USDA programs. This program allows food banks to purchase food from these farmers and develop relationships on an ongoing basis. We at the Ohio association of Food Banks really love this program because it has allowed us to think differently about procurement and has allowed us to support farmers who we may not have otherwise because of how we have historically operated as food banks. How has this program been for you, and what good has come out of this partnership and what can be improved as we push to make this more of a permanent program on the federal level?
[00:04:47] Speaker A: The program has been absolutely fantastic. It's allowed me to do a lot more in other parts of my business, just from the aspect of having a lot more meat going out, so I can do more specialized things.
Everyone that I've come in contact with, from Carrie to the food bank employees and everything, they've been wonderful.
[00:05:13] Speaker E: Yeah, I think the program has been very beneficial for me in our cooperative. Currently. Right now, too, I'm taking on a lot of sales work for our whole cooperative, and it's given us opportunity to be able to recruit more, and we are looking to take on more farmers. It's allowed us to be open minded about different items and things that we can grow. It's given us opportunity as a cooperative to get rid of items in bulk and en masse, which is very helpful. And then also it's provided some added opportunity for us to take some chances, kind of going into next year and being diverse with our crop plan, challenging our farmers more, and actually giving our new recruits and new farmers and things some real opportunity, too.
[00:05:59] Speaker D: That's wonderful. Do either of you have any improvements that you think should be made? I know probably a big answer would be more permanent funding, but anything else or anything you want to expand on with that?
[00:06:14] Speaker A: Yeah, honestly, for me, it's just if it's a permanent thing, that would be fantastic. Otherwise, I have no complaints. It's been just so wonderful.
[00:06:24] Speaker E: Yeah, I really don't have any complaints at all either. I think it's been extremely beneficial for us to be able to sell the produce that we do in our community and then also being able to sell to the food bank and see our produce be donated to our community members and things too. So I'm very excited about it. And another huge thing I like about it is also our diversity to work with different food banks in their area. I think that's really a wonderful opportunity and allows us to again be able to emphasize more on our recruiting and opening up new members to the possibilities of them growing and so on too.
[00:07:00] Speaker D: Yeah, it's all about local farms supporting local community and then vice versa. So that's something that's really special about this, I think.
Yeah, of course.
[00:07:13] Speaker C: Okay.
Well, I really appreciate you both talking about how the program has been for you. I know it's been a whirlwind. Jamie, you're the first person that I spoke to about this program before we even had the funding. She was so patient. My very eager friend introduced us, know, at least three months before we had, you know, every time it's like, okay, it's, you know, you both have been very patient with us in different ways. I was curious if you could go into a little bit more details just for maybe our audience who might not know exactly what do larger quantity orders do for your business. So like Jamie, we're bringing a lot of ground beef or ground product and then like with larger orders of value added products, how does that help you scale?
[00:08:07] Speaker E: Well, one huge benefit with it also too is that we work with a diverse mix of farmers and so some of our farmers have more land and property than others. And I think it allows us to be able to really pull from all of our farmers and moving into next year, we can actually crop plan for all of our farmers to be able to be a part of larger loads and things and so on. So with us having a bunch of micro farms, we actually can get people to aggregate multiple pounds of vegetables together so we can accumulate a 4000 pound order or above and so on of certain vegetables. So that's one of the huge benefits of being able to have the larger orders. It allows everybody to participate in growing certain items that can all go on the truck together. And then also too, with the value added opportunity as well, we were able to plan to grow close to about 8000 pounds of produce that could be dedicated just for value added and that was huge for us. So that's another opportunity that allowed our farmers to be able to walk on their farm, be able to literally take beds, take high tunnels and say, hey, we got all this sold we got all this sold. This is going here, this is going there, and it really allows us to be able to give our farmers some reassurance in what we're doing and what we're selling to on top of all of our local customers. So that's the other huge added benefit. It's like we were already having a lot of customers that we could sell to and trying to diversify who we sold to. And then having another player come on board that can buy things in such bulk like that allows us to really expand ourselves.
[00:09:48] Speaker A: Yeah. For me, it has given me the opportunity to hit a lifetime goal of supplying a high end restaurant. So right now I'm doing twelve hogs a month because I need six pork bellies a week for this high end restaurant.
Whereas before I just did not have an outlet for all of the other stuff. So now I can really work with big fluctuations where I will have somebody who wants all of my chuck rolls and all of my t bones and porter houses. But then there's all of the brisket left over and some of the other parts of the beef that, because you guys are taking such a huge quantity of ground beef and pork sausage, it doesn't matter if that restaurant switches over to rib roast and pork shoulders, because I can make anything into ground meat. So that has been phenomenal. And just knowing that I can budget ahead of time, I can schedule, that helps cash flow, that helps the whole figuring out what I'm doing next year and planning ahead instead of scrambling and being like, oh, I got to find how I'm going to do this. So it's been great.
[00:11:17] Speaker D: I have been on a couple of farms when we had a tour with USDA up in the northern part of Ohio, and I kind of saw the value of the program in doing exactly what you guys are talking about, making sure that farmers are able to plan ahead and not have to worry necessarily as much.
Like, what if we have a bad crop year or whatever it may be. Making sure that there's actual customers that can buy so much in bulk is helpful. So I'm glad to hear that's the same for you. Too many make assumptions, and agriculture is seen as white, male, and rural. It is also seen as intergenerational, where farmers learn farming from their parents and grandparents. It is also tied to large farms and big ag. However, this does not capture the diversity in farming. These assumptions are due to who has been systemically and intentionally left out of farming, and who has been historically encouraged to go into the profession by issuing loans to certain groups over others by making land more accessible for certain groups over others and other advantages.
This is entrenched in racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, classism and more. These barriers have not gone away. What else have you seen? That is a deliberate policy choice, in my opinion.
[00:12:53] Speaker E: I think that a lot of policies are just naturally focused on the way things have kind of always been traditionally done. It can kind of naturally kind of happen like that without people purposely paying attention to doing something different. And so with that being said, I think that it's kind of one of those things where we have to take charge and have to take a control of the narrative of how we are spreading out money, how we are spreading out opportunity. We have to take a better look at some barriers to entry and things, and then being able to also meet people where they're at. I think that farming is extremely difficult.
If you are not already raised into farming and things, I can tell you firsthand, right, it could be a difficult field to kind of just kind of start off from scratch.
There's a lot of things that are needed initially starting out the farming that create barriers to entry, such as land, land access, of course, financial access to money and loans and things to get you started and so on. So I think it's going to take more of an effort to purposely pay attention to those who aren't represented so they can be represented and then they can come to the table as well and be able to farm appropriately and be able to farm on the same scale that traditional farmers are.
[00:14:19] Speaker A: Yeah, totally agree with Walt, especially as a first generation farmer, and know I'm doing so much. There's so little time to get to the education about these things. So I know there's a lot out there about programs and free education and everything, but you have so little time to dedicate to that because your top priority is finding customers and learning how to grow and raise things. And it would be great if somebody could just give you a little packet of here's the organization, their programs, and what they can do for you.
Getting that out in front of new farmers is really what we're lacking. And then again, to agree with you is normalizing the diversity of what farmers really are now, because every tractor supply and truck commercial, still all middle aged white men. So just even in marketing, if we could normalize that more, it would be more in the forefront of people's minds.
[00:15:36] Speaker E: And I can definitely say, too, I'm very grateful. Part of my consulting work that I do and where my farm is actually located is with the North End community improvement collaborative, the NECIC. And they actually have a twelve acre site that they are allowing people to be able to come on and train. That's where we all trained out as the cooperative. And then also it gave us an opportunity to have farmland for us that didn't have land ourselves. So when I came into our cooperative and I started the program, I didn't even own a home, let alone being able to own any real space to be able to grow. And so by us all coming together and working with the NECIC, it allowed me, and also a veteran owned farmer and also a brand new business and a family owned business to come actually on the farm, have a site, have a location, put our high tunnels there, share resources, share water, share knowledge and those type of things. So I think the purpose, intent of the NECIC to be able to host a space that can allow farmers to come on and learn and things like that from all walks of life and things, is more what we need. And then by having a program like this in partnership with farmers, it gives them an opportunity to learn how to grow and to kind of get over that learning curve and things, too that it takes to actually become a farmer.
[00:16:55] Speaker D: Those are great answers. I love your point, Walt, about farmers coming together and thinking of innovative solutions to some of these problems, although the problem is so huge and we all need to do something about it. But I love to see farmers coming together and actually trying to do something about it to make their lives better and their communities better. So I thank you both for those great answers. The current supports, or lack thereof, make it hard to work in an industry that has such small margins and is so deeply impacted by external factors, like extreme weather events for anyone, but especially difficult for folks who have been systemically pushed out of farming, like black farmers, indigenous farmers, and other farmers of color, as well as first generation farmers, farmers who are LGBTQ plus and or women and more.
Is that consistent with what you have experienced? How has the lack of access and the lack of financial resources exacerbate a less diverse agriculture industry and community? And I know we kind of touched on this a little bit, but I'd love to hear more.
[00:18:10] Speaker A: I feel like I've been somewhat lucky but also have put myself in the situation of.
I don't get that very much because I don't surround myself with those kind of people.
I do get those comments sometimes of woman farmer and even had a bunch of guys say, oh, can you back your trailer in here? And I did it just fine. And then it was all great, but they see a woman and automatically I can't drive a truck or back up a trailer.
But I don't engage with those people. I don't surround myself with those people. So I do have a farmer that I collaborate with who is exactly what you think. He is middle aged, he's white, he's straight, he's 7th generation. So he is like the poster boy for farmers.
But he doesn't look to me as anything other than an equal. He asked me for advice. He provides advice. Instead of talking to my dad or my husband, who is with me, he talks to me as the farmer. So some of that is surrounding yourself with those people.
[00:19:34] Speaker E: I would say, in my experience, talking to other farmers since I started farming, whether it's at different conferences or different farm visits and things, and then even through some of my recruiting and even some of our members that have showed interest or been a part of our cooperative throughout the years, I think I've heard a bunch of different stories and different struggles and different challenges. And I think that's kind of one of the things that I appreciate about the rich and grow up in our cooperative is that we do meet people where they're at. And so we all started ten people who had never farmed before from completely different walks of life. So through that process, I was able to see a lot of what we're talking about and discussing and things, and then from meeting other farmers at OPA conferences and just different things and so on that go through these struggles. And it is very well, I think that it can't be generalized either. I think that a lot of these folks from these different walks of life and backgrounds have their own individual stories and their own individual struggles and things like that. Our cooperative is very diverse.
We are pretty much a woman owned cooperative with our number of farmers and things that we've had over the years and that we've taken on and things, too. So I think that it's something that's very present still. And I think there's not a one blanket answer to solving some of these things, as much as it is that we have to meet farmers where they're at on their individual levels and then kind of take them along the way to help them be successful overall.
[00:21:12] Speaker D: Absolutely.
Thank you both.
What barriers have made it difficult as a small to mid sized farm and or co op?
[00:21:23] Speaker E: Gosh, well, there's a huge learning curve, of course, that comes into farming, and I think that can be overstated enough. I joke around about that. It's not like playing the piano or anything, right? If I want to learn how to play the piano, I can practice that like every day until my fingers get sore. But learning how to grow crops, I get like that one season, or I get a couple of tries at it per year, and then you literally have to wait a whole another year in season to get started. So I think that one of the most difficult challenges and things has been the learning curve as far as a cooperative and things, it's operating all together with a bunch of strangers and things that can be extremely difficult. Some of the aggregation stuff gets extremely hard and things too. You got to really count on people to bring in the produce that they're supposed to be growing and so on, too. And I would say that another big challenge too would be, well, it kind of was like really finding those markets and things. Because when you're in a cooperative and all of us are growing and the cooperatives exist just solely to sell produce for the farmers, it does create those challenges. And when you do that work out there yourself, you don't want to be calling produce or you don't want to see produce not get sold and things too. So those are some of the biggest challenges.
[00:22:39] Speaker A: Yeah, I would say scaling and cash flow.
It's almost like every farm has the same kind of journey where you start and you sell a few things and then you're addicted, you immediately know this is the rest of your life and you're never going to get over it. And there's just a point in that journey where it is a big struggle, because, for instance, I've doubled my business every year for the last five years. And at first it's very easy because I'm making a few thousand dollars. It's not a big stretch to add more. But for example, just a few weeks ago, I had my butcher call and say, hey, I have an extra 15 dates in December, which I can never get any in December, so I have to jump on that. Well, that's over $10,000 to buy the pigs, to do the butchering, to do all of that. But I don't get paid for another two months because it's got to hang and it's got to be processed and butchered and packaged. And then I get it, I have to do all of my things, and then it's delivered, and then most of my accounts are net 30. So you just don't have tens of thousands of dollars just laying around to jump on an opportunity. But if you want to grow, you have to.
So for me, I was also leasing land for the first five years and just last year bought our first farm. That's a huge chunk of money that if you don't have the revenue coming in, it's a balancing act for sure. So, yeah, to me, those are the biggest barriers.
[00:24:32] Speaker D: Yeah, absolutely.
I'd love to talk about how farmers have worked really innovatively and collaboratively to kind of address some of these problems. So while I was wondering, how do co ops better set farmers up for success to access programs like Ohio can?
And how can co ops help smaller farmers sell together?
[00:24:58] Speaker E: I think one of the biggest things is sharing resources, sharing resources, sharing knowledge. One thing about our cooperative is we provide crop plans, we provide audits and things to help you write on farm. Any consultant work to help you get set up. We provide seeds and transplants, boxes and bags. We provide the kitchen space. Right. We rent the kitchen space out for all the members and so on. So there's a lot of benefits that come with conjugating and coming together. That is just basically sharing costs, sharing responsibilities, and also to just kind of lowering some of the demands that you would have on yourself as an individual farmer by allowing people to work for you as a farmer in the cooperative.
[00:25:46] Speaker D: Absolutely.
Maybe some of the things that you don't necessarily think about, like a farmer having to do or having to have on hand in order to make sure that they can sell and bring their product to market.
[00:25:59] Speaker E: With our farmers, we count on them to grow the best product they can, the best produce they can, and get it to the refrigerator. And once it gets to the refrigerator, then the cooperative handles it from there, so they don't have to worry about where it's going, how much goes to who, breaking down any poundages into smaller bags or any of that type of stuff. It's literally dropping in the computer, entering in your drop off information, and then the cooperative will take it over from there, and then 30 days later, you get to check. So we try to make it really simple for the farmers because no running around the farmers markets, no hassle about selling and things, no hassles about what you should grow and where it's going to go and all those type of things. We try to just eliminate a lot of that stress for the farmer.
[00:26:44] Speaker C: Land has come up a few times, and I was curious if you could talk a little bit about specifically a co op model. How does that creatively think of solutions to barriers to land, to land access, what size farms are part of your cooperative, and how is it different from them working on their own in terms of what they can grow versus with everyone.
[00:27:11] Speaker E: Collectively, we have farms as small as around about 5000 sqft. That's probably like around our smallest farms. That's what we actually consider a micro farm. And so with our cooperative and our approach was to create a bunch of micro farms and small farmers and get people into farming as a secondary source of income. We wanted people to continue to have their normal lives, whether they were teachers. We have a dentist farmer, we have just known to five farmers and so on, they can maintain their job and things and still be able to have a separate business and being able to farm and things. So by coming together as a cooperative and collective, people could even farm in their backyards, right? So some of our farms are even homestead farms, some people farming on their own land and things. And then we have a few of us that are farming off site. By coming together as cooperative, it has allowed some of our members to even expand their locations. And so we have one farmer, he takes on about like five different locations. And he literally goes around multiple places and farms throughout the day and aggregates things and brings it all back. So, like when you see traditionally a farmer farming on one large piece of land, we definitely do it a lot different in our cooperative model. And again, that's part of meeting people where they're at meeting people where they're at with the land that they do have and then actually providing space for people to be able to take a chance at growing.
[00:28:39] Speaker D: And I know, Jamie, you do not belong to a co op, but I know that you work with other farmers collaboratively. So how do farmers find kind of innovative and cooperative solutions to problems, even when not formally working together in that.
[00:28:57] Speaker A: Kind of farming journey, you realize you can't do it all, that there is no one farm that does it all.
You start networking and talking to farmers that you know and other vendors at the farmers market.
For example, I have a local feed farmer. So he grows all the grain and mills the feed for us.
And he also has his own meat farm and he does beef. Beef is not something I've been able to do a because not enough land.
It's a two year process. So it is a big chunk of money for a return two years later, which is very hard.
So he approached me about selling his beef sticks and jerky, so value add stuff. And I said, yeah, I'd love to. And then I came back and said, what if I just start buying a half a beef a month at your bulk beef price and I will do a retail.
And it has worked out so well, I'm up to two beef a month now, but I certainly don't have space for 50 beef on my farm. So I think we'll just continue for a while. And it's phenomenal beef. It is really good beef. So it has worked out really well. So now I also have an egg farmer where I do duck eggs sometimes, but I just don't want 100 hens. He's got all of this excess. And so through winter, I'm clearing out everything he's got, and then through summer, I will just be doing like a egg CSA. So, yeah, it's worked out really well to work with other farmers.
[00:30:50] Speaker F: I was just kind of thinking about when you're talking about how being a co op and all the different, you know, meeting people where they're at in terms of, like, the land they have and like, the micro farms, I was also just kind of thinking about it like earlier when we're talking about what the idea is of a farmer. It's typically rural and the Richland grow up is in Mansfield, it's in a more urban area. And yeah, I just think this idea of a co op kind of really is a really great solution for farmers in urban areas especially. And just kind of.
There's so much land out there, vacant land out there, and even though there's just kind of really small pockets everywhere, that doesn't really look farmable. Like changing this idea of farming into. We can have 5000 square foot micro farms and together that forms a viable network of really good quality products that can be distributed in large amounts to the food banks or to restaurants and stuff. So, yeah, I don't know if either of you had any thoughts on that or. I would love to hear more about kind of what you see as that being a solution to urban farms.
[00:32:06] Speaker E: Yeah, I think it's really cool that the Necic's urban farm site location has four farms on it and so four micro farms on it. And so the Necic houses three of those farms and then they are able to lease them out on top of them running the farms themselves.
And then my farm is there. So one of the beautiful things about that site is that it was a former brownfield. It was actually the former location of one of Mansfield's most famous companies going erupt. That is actually billion dollar company started right there where we were farming at. And now they're international now. And that lot has been sitting vacant for about a.
So just like you were saying, being able to actually take a former space that was very popular in our community, and then turn it into now another space that has become popular in our community has been huge and also the start of another new business. A couple of our farmers who have purchased lots from the land bank. So one of our farmers, her homestead farm is right next to her house off of five lots that she purchased from the land bank. And that's over time. She didn't get them all at once and so on. And then she was able to transform her area into a beautiful property. And then the other farmer that I spoke of, who has multiple lots and things too, he bought all of those off of the land bank. And it's really cool to see these high tunnels start popping up everywhere in the inner city. It even has led to us being able to create farming programs at my old middle school and my old high school, where I was able to build farms at right in the inner city. And another huge point that I didn't make is that our cooperative is actually made up of both, right? So we have rural and urban farmers in our cooperative. So that's one of the kind of cool things that you see is like, you see both kind of coming together and working together to try to for the same common goal, too.
[00:34:03] Speaker C: I feel like the bridging of the rural and urban divide is like something that we're seeing a lot more as we're reimagining farming and what it could look like.
I had a question to piggyback with you, Jamie.
So I believe you've worked with shared legacy Farm. With some marketing and thinking through those strategies, are you able to share a little bit more on. I feel like everyone expects a farmer to.
They're managing the business. They're not only farming, they're doing the books, they're doing the marketing. They're doing everything. You're driving, always driving.
Can you share a little bit about what that experience was like and how that shared knowledge of some other skills can look like between farmers?
[00:34:55] Speaker A: Yeah. So actually, Corinna, who is one of the farmers at shared legacy farms, she has an amazing podcast that you can learn so much about farm marketing. So she has a very large CSA, and that's her bulk of her work. You can put what she's teaching to any kind of farming, any kind of direct to consumer farming.
She also runs a marketing group coaching school, which I am a part of and have been since the beginning. And it is the most fantastic thing. So we have everything from, a lot of us are meat farmers, some of us are vegetable and meat farmers. There's a community supported fishery from San Francisco that's in there. It's like this amazing mind bank of all of this information and everyone is so willing to know, this is what I did, this is what worked for me. This is what didn't work for me.
In this school, every month we have a big project and she kind of teaches us.
The first session is kind of the basics of marketing and then we get into the details and we redid our website homepage and email marketing challenges and stuff and just, I can't say enough good things about Corinna shared legacy Farm and the whole kind of podcast and marketing school she does.
[00:36:32] Speaker D: That's awesome.
I know that you as farmers are doing your part, making sure you're spreading the word and creating solutions for you and your farms and your cooperatives wherever you can. I know that a lot of these issues are really systemic and large, meaning that they really need solutions that match the problem.
I was curious, what solutions do you think would benefit you and your farm and co op? And I know we've kind of threaded that throughout, but I'm curious if you have any other thoughts.
[00:37:09] Speaker A: So going back to my kind of barriers of scalability and cash flow grants and free grant writing resources, I've tried writing one grant once and it obviously didn't get it because I was very new at the time and didn't know what I was talking about. But again, I am so busy because I am doing all of the things and driving is 85% of what I do, which is horrible, but I think that could go a long way. So this whole program is based on a grant and it has been a game changer for my farm. So it doesn't just have to be directly for farmers, but co ops, food banks, anywhere in the farming system is really helpful.
[00:38:04] Speaker E: I think one of the biggest solutions to help us kind of overall is we need good food to be incentivized. Terrible food is highly incentivized, growing food for everything but eating it is incentivized, and growing food for oil production and whatever else is incentivized. And so it's actually kind of weird sometimes when you will see a grant or you see something that's focused on providing healthier alternatives or providing local produce or providing, they say like good produce or good food, I'm like, well, what is all the other stuff? It kind of makes you think and wonder, why isn't this focused on enough? So I think programs like this that are purposely incentivizing the proper efforts, the proper work being done amongst underrepresented folks and farmers does a lot of that representation that we need. You got to be mindful and meaningful about what you're doing and who you're trying to help and how you're trying to help them and things too. So I think one thing that we can do overall that would just help our whole systems from the top down, meat farmers, the food banks, the aggregation locations, and everybody is looking at and demanding more incentives be placed around some of the work that we do directly. Like why aren't more high schools and more daycares and more government agencies and things been incentivized to use more local produce or organic produce or from underrepresented farmers and things like that? So I think if we were able to create incentives, there's tax incentives for everything else, right? When you start lowering taxes and things, people start moving and companies start changing their policies and behaviors and things like that. So I think if we can create some emphasis around that, we can be again directly intentional on who we're helping, why we're helping them and what we're doing. And then we can see the change in the income change too.
[00:40:04] Speaker C: I think that was just so well put. And one really different thing about this grant was that it's incentivized to pay market rate, which is a very different world for food banks and I'd say a lot of institutional spaces. Can you and both of you feel free to answer this share why that's important, like not just bringing in local food but also paying farmers affair wage.
[00:40:35] Speaker A: Yeah.
For me it has allowed me to get more equipment, it's allowed me to hire another person so that I can sleep more than 3 hours a night and I can sit and actually eat a meal for all these people that I'm feeding. I never get to eat. It's horrible.
But yeah, when we are being asked to bring our prices down so low to match giant corporations, we are doing the work for free.
It's again back to the scalability thing. I don't have the equipment that large corporations have, I don't have the staff that they have.
It gets to the point where I am doing the work for free and that's not sustainable for anybody.
[00:41:29] Speaker E: I would say it makes a huge difference for us as a cooperative because through selling our produce and things I've really learned that I completely stopped trying to sell to people who I even had to compete with price because I can't. The way we work our processes, we don't have large farmer equipment and things, we don't have huge John Deeres and different equipment doing work for us and so on. And then a lot of us, we hire different summer help and different things and so on. But it is a lot of the farmers themselves taking on a lot of the work also through having a cooperative. The cooperative has to be sustainable, too. So the cooperative has to take a percentage of the produce sales to operate for the farmers. By capturing the true cost on what we should be paid for our produce allows us to regulate things better for our farmers and be more sustainable as a business. I think that that's another huge thing around we could look at policy wise, is that the true food cost isn't truly captured in the different things that people are buying from the grocery store. And if it was, then we could definitely compete more with some of those local prices and things, too. Because people wonder why food is so expensive, but they don't wonder why it's so cheap. And if they were able to just take a second to even look into why food was so cheap, then they could maybe appreciate paying a little bit more from buying stuff from local farmers. And then also, too, along the same lines, it's like when we talk about policy changes and different things, too in these different focuses, we don't focus on food miles. Wouldn't it be really cool if we focus on food miles, and the shorter distance that you purchase your food, the great incentives you can have and different things like that would be very beneficial, too.
[00:43:15] Speaker D: Great question and great answers. I think that leads us right into our next question, especially to your point about how cheap things are at the grocery store compared to the local food landscape and people are. I'm sure people get upset when they see how much local food costs, but don't really consider what goes into all of that. So how can listeners do their part? I'm sure shopping, local shopping intentionally, but I'm curious to hear your thoughts.
[00:43:49] Speaker E: Got you. Well, I'm definitely going to say visit all your local farmers markets, right? All your local small business stores and things. And I just would say overall, I get it. You can't necessarily go to a farm or a farmer necessarily, and get maybe everything you need. But I think you can make a vote with your dollars and with your energy and what you continue to make consistent within your buying habits and different things. So that's what I would just really encourage listeners and people to do, is to kind of challenge yourself to go outside the norm and visit those local small spots, visit those farmers and things, and then go purchase whatever else you couldn't get and so on. And I think by doing that first, too, you can maybe create some incentives around, maybe even changing your eating habits, paying attention more to what you eat, paying attention to more what you're doing and things, getting connected with other farmers who may have the produce and things and different items that you're looking for. So, yeah, I would say really just get in contact with your local farmer somewhere.
[00:44:48] Speaker A: Yeah. And I would say even beyond shopping with your local farmer, engage, sign up for the newsletter, get on their Instagram, Facebook, whatever it know, share the food that you're buying. Tell the person, hey, I got this meat from whit farmer. I got this produce from wherever.
Just normalizing local food will just catapult us into.
That's the normal.
It's easier to go to the farmers market because you can still get everything except for the paper towels and paper plates that nobody should use anyways.
But word of mouth is the first step to success on a farm. Realize that it doesn't have to stop with you and it doesn't have to stop with your family.
That's how I got my first high end restaurant is because one of my loyal customers said, you know, that's how I met Carrie through another farmers market vendor is because he said something to me about this.
So, yeah, just talk constantly about local farms.
[00:46:00] Speaker E: Yeah, go visit. I like that, too. Go visit. That can be a huge experience. One thing I do notice that we actually have a farmers market that is located actually at the urban farm, too. Right on farm. So a lot of times people get tours and things, and I think it's really eye opening to folks to kind of see this stuff grow and kind of see somewhat of the process and things too. And that can impart on the changes in your life as far as what decisions you make and things too, by just really getting into the experience of seeing what farmers do.
[00:46:34] Speaker D: Yeah.
[00:46:34] Speaker F: So many people just don't even think about the fact that their food actually grows in the ground or that comes from an animal that's being fed for months and months.
[00:46:46] Speaker E: Yeah, you'd be surprised. It's really kind of a cool thing to actually have people embrace their ignorance at the farm. So people are walking around, they have no clue what they're looking at or anything, but it's stuff that they eat and so on. So I think that's really cool, just embracing the ignorance and challenging themselves to think differently.
[00:47:06] Speaker D: Great points.
I want to end on what brings you hope. I know that it can be really easy to focus on the day to day or focus on the challenges, but I'm sure there are some good things and things you're looking forward to.
[00:47:21] Speaker E: Gosh, I would say what really gives me hope is really continuing to expand on all this stuff. Looking at where I started, where I started, and where I'm going and where I'm at now and where I'm going, it gives me hope to just continue to expand, to diversify ourselves more. To see our food going different places and even out of state and even out of Ohio really inspires me. So I just wanted to continue to do more expanding and more growing and allow us to continue to diversify ourselves even more.
[00:47:54] Speaker A: Hands down, the people, everybody from customers to chefs, food bank employees, butchers, hatchery staff, friends and family that eat what we produce.
Without them, none of this is possible.
I would have, I don't know, an acre of just meat sitting around if there was nobody to eat. You know, really, the people have been just great.
[00:48:24] Speaker D: Wonderful. Well, thank you both for talking to me and the team at Oaf and Oda. Could you share where the listeners can find you? Feel free to promote your website, social media, wherever.
[00:48:39] Speaker A: Yeah, so my website is witfarm.com. So it is witfarm.com. And then Instagram, Facebook, whatever is at whitfarm. Oh, so W-I-T-F-A-R-M-O-H. Yeah.
[00:48:57] Speaker E: And you can reach our cooperative. Our website is richland growop.com. So it's Richland then G-R-O op.
And then that's the same attack for our facebook. Also, too. You can come visit where I farm at and our local nonprofit North End community improvement collaborative, that's at 311 Bowman Street, Mansfield, Ohio, and their website, necic ohio.org. You can find out more about what we do down there. Also.
[00:49:43] Speaker B: I want to thank Jamie and Walt for chatting with me about this. I hope you found it informative. Check out the show notes to learn more about Jamie and Walt and their farms. If you are local to them, I encourage you to support their businesses and buy their product. Thanks all. We'll talk to you in early 2024.