Food for Thought: A Local Farmer’s Insight
In trying to be more sustainable in my own life, I have read article after article about how important it is to “Shop Locally!” or to “Find those Farmers Markets!” but I have never asked a farmer for their own input.
That’s why, for this post, I decided to interview Tim Huth, owner of LotFotL Community Farm. LotFotL, for everyone wondering, stands for “Living off the Fat of the Land” and that name alone shows this farm’s focus on living harmoniously with the land and the greater community.
Owner Tim Huth decided to start farming towards the end of college, where he got an “environmental awakening” and started to really think about humans’ place in the world.
Tim told me that he couldn’t decide the question many of us have: “What do we do after college?”
Tim saw some other organic farmers in some of his courses and started working at a food pantry, starting gardening and then eventually bought his own land and started his business right outside of Delavan, Wisconsin.
Below are some of the questions I asked Tim:
What are some ways you practice sustainability on your farm?
Tim shared that his farm is a “Certified organic farm, which requires them to justify their practices to third party individuals who have a lot of power to decide if they get to label their farm ‘organic’.” This ensures that they are following strict guidelines about their practices. But, Tim also explained that you can be an unsustainable, crappy organic farmer!
On Tim’s farm, he tries to practice sustainability by keeping the land healthy. He keeps nutrients cycling in the soil, without letting the ground sit bare for a long amount of time. Tim’s value on keeping the soil healthy and stable shows how much he values space and the land itself in the entire farming process.
Likewise, Tim uses animal-based manure that cycles through different plants and production practices. He buys mainly organic seed, which is significantly more expensive but as he put it, definitely worth it. He mentioned that all of his practices are “balanced on the idea of trying to keep things sustainable.” In our interesting conversation, I asked Tim about the differences between non-GMO and Organic. Does non-GMO have the same meaning? Far from it. I learned that “non-GMO” crops still use registered chemicals (usually just older chemicals) and are frequently not sustainable. This was shocking to me, and as someone trying to support sustainable groups and farmers, it made me wonder about a lot of the food I have purchased at supermarkets that have a glaring “NON GMO” label.
What are challenges you face as a local farmer?
Tim explained that when money is tight, it is tempting for farmers to take out treelines, act unsustainably, etc. He shared a question that many farmers worry about: “What would happen if things get bad enough and we have to get out of this?” Tim said that as farmers, many often need to get creative to make things work, and for some people, that can trip them up in taking sustainable practices.
Despite the temptation of switching to less sustainable practices, there are many long-term models that suggest that there are huge benefits for sustainable practices! I learned from Tim that planning for around 7 years out and working on longer rotations that include cover crops (crops planted to cover the soil rather than be harvested) have really positive effects for the soil and can actually be profitable. Tim shared that for many farmers, it is tempting to grow quick and “easier” crops for quicker money because “making sustainable decisions doesn’t always pay the bills.”
Despite the difficulties faced by Tim as a local farmer in Wisconsin, he opts for sustainable practices because he wants to continue being connected with the land and the community through his farm, and the use of sustainable practices will make that a reality for years to come.
What are the benefits for shopping locally?
In our conversation, Tim pointed out how systemically beneficial shopping locally is.The first obvious, glaring example is instead of a large, expansive food system, shopping locally creates decentralized systems: every town having their own produce and meat markets. In a world where the food system is more decentralized, people would obtain their food and goods from their own town and area. In this situation, a food-related illness or outbreak would not affect the entire country, which we frequently see today. Instead, it would be contained within a smaller area.
A recent example of this problem was when there was a spinach e coli outbreak about 5 years ago. The spinach that caused the outbreak was from a small spinach farm in northern California (where a pig pooped on the growing spinach), but many different places and transporters came in contact with it, therefore spreading it to other places in the country.. The entire country’s spinach was shut down because of one pig in a single field in California. If it was just the locals eating it, this scale of tragedy would never happen.
Most importantly, Tim shared that buying local food is really fun! You get to know and see who grows your food and physically where it was grown and harvested.
Ultimately, buying locally is an important component of living and existing in the community you live in. There is no community from buying mass-produced goods from a chain-supermarket. When buying locally, you get to know your neighbors, meet new people and experience your food and community in a hands-on way, rather than with a click of a button.
Shopping locally has many benefits, from less packaging, to supporting the local community, to using less fossil fuels (used in transportation of the food we get in supermarkets) and it was incredible to hear about shopping locally from a farmer himself.
From our conversation, it was clear that Tim was passionate about his farming. He helped me realize that buying locally allows you to become part of the story of your food and your community. The little story that stuck out to me most in talking with Tim was the following:
“For people that have been buying my food for years, and have kids, I get to see those kids grow up. And I think, I helped grow those arms, those legs, that person.” The food we eat is a major part of who we are and how we live, and I am more dedicated now than ever to shopping locally and supporting the farmers in our communities.
With that, SHOP LOCAL!
For more info, check out LotFotL’s website!
On the right: a photo from the farm! Check out their website or Facebook for more!