LWF Q and A
- What is the history of LWF? How long has your land been farmed?
- When did the LWFN start? Why did you start the LWFN? Were you inspired by other distribution systems or farm networks?
- Take us through a typical week at LWFN. When do you take orders, pack orders, deliver orders?
Orders come in all the time, over the phone, email, and online. Inventory review, placing orders with our network farms, and writing of newsletters all happens the week before a delivery. Then, two days before we hit the road, we gather all the items we will need from our various storage locations.
We pack the meats and other frozen items neatly in about 20 coolers, chilled items are segregated in the walk in cooler, and pantry items are all promptly labeled and packaged by site. The coolers spend the night in on trolleys in the big walk in freezers, and come out into our main packing room the day before delivery.
We pack the meats site by site, customer by customer. There is a real art form to packing the boxes so they will stay cold until distribution. We like to think of it as our own form of Tetris. Nancy has earned the nickname ‘Melty Hands’ over the years, for her knack for making the impossible fit where others can’t.
All the chilled items, eggs, milk and cheese, are packed by site and labeled for each individual customer.
Nancy, Alan, and Ryan load up the van between 2 and 3 am, depending on how many stops there are, and off Alan and Ryan go on their way to you!
- What are the benefits of eating local foods, environmentally, economically, and personally?
When it all comes down to it, eating local food, made by people you can talk to, is the only way to know what’s in your food. Certifications and labels like ‘cage free’ have been taken over by big agribusiness and food retailers, and we think knowing your farmer is the only way to really know what you are getting. As farmers, we really do know our food. We can give you as much (or as little) information as you want about what you are eating.
- The CSA model of agriculture has been steadily gaining ground. Can you talk about the ways that it’s changed since you started? What are the challenges and benefits for you as a farm?
In our opinion, and the opinion of many CSA farmers we know, the movement has peaked. Natural and organic food is so much more accessible now than it was in the early 2000s. There are more Farmer’s Markets, and big chain stores like Whole Foods, and delivery services like Fresh Direct have all come to capitalize on the food awareness created by the Slow Food movement. Convenience is King, and lots of people like the order it today, get it tomorrow lifestyle.
These big businesses are not really equipped to support the very small farmer, who only has 10 beef a year, or only makes 5 cases of Apple Butter, from apples harvested in wild orchards. We know there is still a place for our model in the CSA and natural food world, but we too have had to adapt to the changing marketplace. We used to have each farm deliver only what was sold for each delivery – meaning you had to get your order in about a week before delivery. In order to respond to the growing desire for more immediacy, we now store the majority of the product we sell here on the farm, meaning we take on more risk, more work in maintaining and tracking inventory, and more storage costs. The upside is that Nancy can fill an order that comes in at 10 pm the night before delivery (but she does it at 2 am, so please don’t wait that long!)
- What can CSA members to support LWF and the network, other than purchasing products?
- Both your cows and pigs are pasture-raised. Can you talk about why you feed your animals that way, and the role that rotational grazing plays?
Our cows are contented, because our entire herd lives and moves as a unit, as they are moved daily to fresh pasture. We have 38 separate fenced fields. They live a low stress life, getting lots of grass, sea kelp for selenium, and fresh running water. We can reduce feeding costs for pigs, as they eat everything they can find in their 10 acre pastures, which lets us buy NO GMO feed, and reduce a little of the roundup that is ever present in the food chain.
We also find it has the added benefit of producing a much more flavorful, healthier meat. Cooking techniques need to be adjusted a little for pasture raised meat, but the added flavor is worth it. We get lots of Europeans, South Americans, and Asians telling us our pork tastes like it did back home, and not like what they can get in US grocery stores.
- 2016 has been a very dry year in New York State, with some parts of the state considered to be in a state of “extreme drought”. How has the lack of rain affected LWFN farmers? What can urban people do to help?
Urban folks can continue to expand their understanding and appreciation of all the various challenges of farming and small scale production.
- If you could pick three ideas that you think are really important for urban people to know about rural communities, what would they be?
Washington County is primarily a dairy county. The local economy has been affected recently by low milk prices. This affects many local businesses and consumer spending. We’ve been through this before, but it still difficult for many people in our area. Farmers often struggle to find markets that pay what they are asking, and we can do that for them, and that helps to keep farms going.
We know that distances are relative. Eight blocks can move you through a whole neighborhood in NYC, but here, you might live eight miles from the nearest store, or only see the light from five houses at night. This makes us a community of self-reliant people– you keep jumper cables in your car just in case someone else needs a jump. If a tree falls across the road, and you can’t get to your driveway, chances are someone will show up with a chain saw and get you home. Fire departments around here are all voluntary – and the state requires many hours of training.