We should support our local farmers

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By Brad Bowman

Last week I met and talked with a few local farmers. I interviewed tobacco and corn farmer Mark Roberts who works on a large production scale; and people on the smaller scale like Ed Nelson, who sell at local farmers markets. Nelson considers being called a farmer a compliment.

Paul Tokosh is in between the large and small production scale. He works 16 acres growing pears, apples and asparagus. He also grows blackberries, strawberries and blue berries. He sells to Hilltop produce in Shelbyville and goes to several other counties before also selling here.

We ship and sell our commodities to other places, but we don’t enjoy the resources and revenue produced in the county. This is a lack of vision for the future and our own county’s legacy.

Bear with my rant before you disregard it as liberal frippery.

We are all guilty of this and there is no system set up to expedite my proposition. In a tobacco warehouse in 1978, I sat on piles of tobacco my family had raised and then sold to a buyer from another state. My grandfather, who farmed the tobacco, then bought cigarettes sold by a company in North Carolina the same day. Does this seem illogical to anyone else?

We have agriculture programs like Kentucky Proud, which is funded by tobacco relief money. The program gives grant money to cover advertising and promotional expenses. But it is a flawed vision as well, as any marketing plan that “...features the Kentucky Proud logo is likely eligible.” This means a big box grocery store like Kroger could get the grant money instead of a local farmer.

Instead of paying $4 for a pound of asparagus raised here in the county, we go to a big chain that sells Peruvian asparagus for $2 a pound. The chain cashes in while we blindly skip down the aisles thinking we saved ourselves money.

What if major tobacco, corn and beef producers in the area could sell their goods to county residents as they do now to big companies? Could we design hyper-local markets that sold just goods and services from here in Henry County?

I would rather pay higher prices for the sake of community now than suffer the cost of losing ourselves later.