Family sticks together – the rising cost of food and the family farm

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As Melissa blogged about earlier, the rising cost of food is getting a lot of play in the media and is weekly on the minds of everyone who does any grocery shopping – especially if you’re on a limited or fixed income.

Higher or lower, the cost of food is a struggle for many on both sides of the producer/consumer coin.  The people who grow it, ship it, store it, sell it and buy it all have an interest in how much food costs and what is good for one, may not be good for all.

We have shared our perspective already, with some words from John our executive director, as well as Tony, our Community Services Director.  Today we are going to share a few words from Trevor Herrle, a local farmer and businessman, who’s family has helped our organization tremendously.

You can learn more about the Herrle’s and their country farm market here, as well as read some blog posts by Trevor on the excellent Food Link blog here.  He is also an active tweeter (follow @HerrlesMarket) and provides some really interesting views into what it’s like to be a farmer.

He was kind enough to answer some questions I posed in between, driving the tractor, planting and waiting for the torrential rains of April to ease up a bit. So here we go:

Hard at work in the field. The Herrle family play many important roles in the community.

Matt: You business is food.  How did you come to be a part of this business?

Trevor: Currently my business is food, but it wasn’t always that way, and I was originally a Funeral Director by trade, when I married into the Herrle Family in 1998. I have always had a passion for farming and a great deal of respect for farmers.  I have been involved in the family farm business full time now for the last 12 years.  The Herrle family has a long and committed history of farming and helping in the community and I feel honored to be a part of this now.

Matt: What sets the food industry and related businesses apart from other ones in your experience?  What are some of your day to day challenges as a food retailer and farmer?

Trevor: When we deal with food, we deal with people’s emotions.  Food can be an excited topic of conversation, or a desperate plea for survival.  We never can tell if a customer is shopping for a insatiable craving or to have just enough to feed their family.  We try to provide our customers with the best and freshest quality product, at a reasonable price, knowing the amount of work and costs that have gone into growing that product. The biggest struggle I see is the amount of waste we as a business have each and every day.  This is not because of “sub-quality” product, but how selective some customers can be when there is a little spot on a pepper, a few kernels of corn missing, and a strawberry that may just not be the “perfect” fruit.  It’s these expectations of perfection that add extra costs, as well as the chemicals, labour, fuel, added fertilizers, and waste. I’m not stating that these expectations are un-realistic, it’s revealing of our culture and our society.  And we just try and do the best job we can do.

Matt: Organizations like the House of Friendship are lucky to have partners like you who are involved in the local community and interested in finding ways to help those who are less fortunate. Why is supporting places like House of Friendship or the Food Bank of Waterloo Region important to you?

Trevor: Without getting too spiritual, I believe very strongly that helping organizations such as the House of Friendship, and the Food Bank are, and should be,  a priority in our day to day activities and our businesses.  To help those who are less fortunate than us is our duty as a society – as a community.  When I deliver produce to either of these organizations, and see people, couples that I went to school with, it grounds me to a level I thought I would never get to see.  It is truly humbling, but also very nourishing to know that I have been able to provide my best for someone to eat healthy tonight.

Matt: Based on your experiences what are the main drivers of higher food prices in this region?

Trevor: Currently the main driver for higher food prices is fuel.  In March alone, fuel jumped 18.9%, for us, this increase is a concern for transportation and irrigation.  For a consumer, it means, should I make that extra drive out to the farm? Can I get all I need from the grocery store around the corner?  As a business we need to be aware of how we can provide as much product for a consumer to make one stop, without compromising our principles. (No, we won’t be selling toilet paper or shampoo!!)  Our community is extremely supportive off our local businesses, and our people as a whole.  It is important that we must never forget that Waterloo Region is a family, and a family sticks together and helps each other out.

This family focus is why we feel blessed as an organization in this community. The willingness to open your hand to total strangers and friends alike is what helps us work through troubled times as a community.  The many farmers that we speak to each summer echo these words in their own way and their generosity and care make a big difference.

So thank you Trevor for taking some time to answer our questions and to share your perspective on this important topic as our community struggles with the rising price of food.  Your words and your help make a big difference!

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