NORTHUMBERLAND — Leaders in the Valley’s agricultural community came together Thursday to talk about the different types of operating systems for farmers and producers - all of which have positive and negative aspects, as well as lessons to teach each other.
“We all really work well together,” said Bill Deitrick, district manager of Union County Conservation.
Jeff Schaum, president of Kreamer Feed discussed the growing organic trend in feed and livestock production. The trend shows unprecedented growth, Schaum said.
“The demand is inelastic,” he said. “People are paying the prices if they can afford it and have a taste for it.”
However, the USDA certification process can be laborious and expensive, Schaum said, which is what adds to the higher end price for consumers.
There is also no known health advantages to eating organic, Schaum said.
“It’s really a lifestyle,” he said.
But Kreamer Feed, which just opened a new organic mill, is “really excited,” about expanding production.
Dietrick discussed “all natural, direct marketing” production, which puts consumers directly in touch with food producers, who may only need a few tweaks to become an organic producer, but choose not to be certified organic.
“For one reason or another they choose not to go that route,” he said. “For some it may be cost or the need for emergency animal medication (etc.).”
Much of the motivation for consumers to support these types of operations comes from a desire “to connect to the land and the people who work with the land,” Dietrick said.
“And farmers know they need to maintain a relationship with their consumer base,” he said.
The final type of production is conventional, as explained by Jim Adams, president and chief operating officer of Wenger’s Feed Mill, based in Lancaster County.
In this model, the farmer owns the building and housing, while the company owns the animals and final product, allowing both entities to “do what we do best,” he said.
It provides a secure income for farmers and an affordable source of food for people around the world, Adams said.
“The conventional side is not there to feed the niche markets,” he said.
But all three are going to have to work together to figure out how to continue to feed the world’s growing population and deal with changing climates.
“I see the conventional side using the latest technology,” Adams said.