Farming Is Hard; Writing Is Easy
It's a lot easier to write about a food system than to build one. Two lessons making that point arrived today. Lesson 1: A Look Back, A Path Forward: Lessons Learned From the Food Hub Vanguard—Grasshoppers Distribution—a recorded session illustrating lessons learned from the the extraordinary efforts invested across nearly seven years in Grasshoppers, a now-shuttered Louisville food hub.
As it closed, Grasshoppers transparently invited analysis of its work and history. Good researchers at the University of Kentucky, including Lily Brislen (now the director of Food Connection at the University of Kentucky), Tim Woods, Lee Meyer and Nathan Routt, obliged. A link to their full study is included in the description surrounding the presentation.
Part of the analysis reveals the positive contributions a right-minded business makes, the positive legacy it leaves even when it cannot continue. And another part of the assessment underscores the difficulty of making a farm-based enterprise pay for itself, pay the farmers, pay the enterprise, pay back loans and stabilize as a business.
I remember seeing some Grasshoppers leaders at a meeting about 6 years ago, literally gray from exhaustion and stress. How generous of all the owners, investors, board, staff, and producers to take part in a final harvest of learning from the experience of trying to build a platform for a local/regional food system and then build the businesses on top of that platform that must succeed.
Second lesson: Farm Fresh, a short, truthful video about farmers and new food economy leaders Michelle Johnson Howell and Nathan Howell of Hickory Lane Farm near Bowling Green, Kentucky. Kudos to Western Kentucky University student Neil Purcell, who produced this thoughtful work.