In early January, a fire devastated Pete’s Greens, an organic farm in Craftsbury, Vermont. Pete Johnson, the owner of the farm, reported significant losses, up to $800,000. Of these losses, only $300,000 was insured. Responding to the disaster, Vermont locals rallied to help the struggling farm. Craftsbury residents organized fundraisers, auctions, dances and dinners, all aiming to help Pete’s Greens.
In response to those outpouring of generosity, Johnson has pledged to match the $130,000 raised and to create a fund to help local farmers, distribute disaster loans, and help small farmers get needed capital to start or improve farms. Johnson hopes to start paying into the fund within the next two or three years, once his business is back on its feet.
Johnson’s experiences highlight the current state of local farming in the U.S. At a time when agricultural production is being increasingly concentrated in the hands of large agribusinesses, local farmers often find it hard to compete. Family owned farms have decreased over the last several years and the economic downturn has been particularly hard on small farmers.
However, local connections have allowed small farmers to thrive in the face of major national competition. Pete’s Greens, for example, has been heavily involved in community agriculture. Local consumers pay an upfront fee for a season of vegetables. Local consumers committed to purchasing local agricultural products have expressed their dismay at being forced to buy non-local food while Pete’s Greens is recovering. The outpouring of support and the steadfast consumer base is what allows local farms to thrive in difficult economic environments.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer