Monday, July 18, 2011

A Cowshare- Business As Usual?

The cowshare program to which I belong is having a bit of difficulty lately.

The whole thing dates back to when the health authorities in Ohio and Kentucky along with their Federal counterparts began harassing the farmer for delivering what the cow owners were expecting, just plain, raw milk.  

Cowshares work a little differently from a normal dairy whereas the farmer sells shares of his cows to a group of people.  Very much like a syndicate would own a race horse or other property.  They then pay for the maintenance and care of the property and receive a dividend of the product which results.  For a racehorse that would be a share of the purses won but in dairy cows it would be the milk produced.  That is produced daily.  For me, my two shares result in two gallons every week  Sometimes it is sufficient, sometimes it is too much.

Our farmer is an Anabaptist from Mississippi who raises cow and other farm animals for the simple joy of producing the highest and best quality food that people can buy.  To him, farming is not a business where the bottom line is profit or loss, it is a living where he can work hard, provide for his family and others and do what the Creator put us here to do.

This mindset and philosophy runs contrary to the general direction of the world today and that is where the cowshare program begins to have difficulty.  Several years ago, when they were located in Northern Kentucky and the harassment took place, our local agencies sought to remove this type of program and/or force it to be like all the other agri-businesses.  Despite all the talk of the movement toward locally grown food or the organic foods movement, the state and federal governments only want them to conform to the big business model.  Our farmer was forced to sell the existing farm(at a loss), file bankruptcy, move the herd and establish themselves on a leased farm.  In effect, to start over.

Again, our farmer (and we of the cowshare program by extension) are being forced to look for a new location.  A location where the farmer can put down roots and continue to provide the nutritious food that we members want and expect.  This is whee it becomes real difficult.  Because of the current financial situation, banks are not willing to lend to farmers who are not really operating as a business, the ones just getting by but still paying the bills.  Trying to operate within such a narrow, confining box is proving very difficult for us all.

Our farmer reminds me of a Mennonite, although I guess that he could be called a "Mennonite Lite" as he drives a truck and they do use the Internet, and the way they approach farming is somewhat reminiscent of the Amish.

I actually learned today that the Amish population in America is growing (10%) and growing even better in Kentucky (15%) in the last two years.  Studies reveal that new Amish settlements are established about once every three weeks.  The states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Delaware which are usually known for their Amish communities are actually losing out to states like Kentucky and New York.  The truly unfortunate part of the foregoing information is that roughly only 10% of the Amish today receive their primary income from farming.

Might they be another example of how our big business before farming attitude is eroding the country?

No comments: