$2.49 Each January 2021
For the past year, I have been heavily involved in the sale of agriculture and its related properties. This experience has been quite an education. My learning has revealed the requirements of successful farming. By successful, I mean at least marginally profitable. If I told you that you were going to spend $60,000 to farm eight acres of avocados this year in Fallbrook and at the end get $15,000 for the crop, with a $45,000 loss, would you do it? Maybe, if next year was likely to be better (that is called gambling).
On the supply side, successful farming relies on abundant and inexpensive land, water, labor, and machinery. On the demand side, there is the desirability of “locally-sourced“ and “organically-grown“ food. Chemically fertilized and sprayed pest-protected food is less and less sought after. Tomatoes picked green and ripened on the truck during their four day trip are even less in demand.
The cost of government regulations and taxes must be considered. We have some of the safest food in the world partly because of food laws but mainly because farmers take pride in what they grow and then deliver. The administration of these regulations is also a big expense.
Next is what God provides or prevents: a plant-killing freeze and just enough rain. The lack of scorching heat, and the arrival of hail, locusts, or other pests are in His hands. Virtually every book of the Bible talks about what God does for crops. It is so pervasive that many of Jesus’ parables are told around the culture of food-bearing plants. We must also account for the food-processing chain of harvesting equipment, trucking, warehousing, wholesalers, grocery stores, and finally you the consumer. Each step involves workers and has to be profitable to be sustainable. The farmer gets very little of the $2.49 we pay for an avocado.
Turning our attention back to your farm in Fallbrook, we can easily see land is not cheap in San Diego County, nor is water, fertilizer, or labor. You may be able to lose $45,000 a year but for how long? Why would you want to have what is ultimately a very expensive hobby?
It breaks my heart to see hundred-acre orange groves in Valley Center dying because the owner can’t afford the costs. That is food going to waste and ultimately makes the supply less “local” as other sources are sought. The solutions for this challenging situation are complex. As individuals, we can harness the power of prayer to lift up our farmers. As citizens, we can vote for encouragements and vote against stumbling blocks. As consumers, we can buy close to home at places like farmers’ markets and food stands along the way.