By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“Farmers are the foundation of rural life,” said Michael Tweiten, a volunteer for Citizens for Local Food.
“If someone has a small orchard, or some bees and makes a few thousand dollars a year selling honey, they are a more vibrant community member than someone who isn’t doing anything with their land,” he said.
Tweiten and Rick Doherty addressed about 30 people at the luncheon meeting of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, and presented the results of a recently completed farmer survey.
Doherty said the survey included input from 57 of the 88 farms in the county.
Doherty said local farmers “had a strong desire to be heard” and that they were generally better educated than many other community members, although the data were not collected to prove that point.
The survey respondents ranged in age from 22 to 89, and included 42 percent women.
The majority of the farmers are between 50 and 79 years old while the second-largest group, 20 percent, are people in their 30s where women make up nearly half.
Profitability has a wide range with the lwargest group, 40 percent, reporting no profits or loss and achieving the goal to be “sustainable.”
Only seven farms, or 14 percent, reported profits between 51 percent and 80 percent.
“Most of the farmers, 97 percent, have some kind of off-farm income,” Doherty said,
“They would not be able to survive without it.”
Doherty said a lack of demand is the biggest barrier for local farmers’ success, and that everyone in the room could make a difference if he or she consciously bought locally grown food,
The breakdown of product distribution finds the largest amount, 32 percent, going to direct sales followed by retail, 23 percent, wholesale, 22 percent, farmers markets, 17 percent, restaurants, 5 percent, and fairs and events, 3 percent.
This led to a comment from Chamber of Commerce President Dominic Svornich, who is also a restaurant owner, opening the Cellar Door earlier this year.
“When we opened our restaurant, we made it our mission to serve locally grown food,” Svornich said.
“There are 41 restaurants in Port Townsend and most of them don’t serve locally grown food. This could make a tremendous difference.”
Some of the data aren’t available, such as the percentage of local food sold in Port Townsend, as the large supermarkets don’t provide such information, Doherty said.
Also unavailable is the premium paid for locally grown food, although this is data that Citizens for Local Food would like to collect, according to Doherty.
Those who care about freshness and nutrition should buy food from local farm stands, farmers markets or the Food Co-op, where local produce is indicated.
“If you are interested in nutrition buying your food locally is a great way to go,” Tweiten said.
To read the complete survey go to http://tinyurl.com/pdn-foodsurvey.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.