Regular readers of our blog know that we can sometimes be critical of the “big voices” in small agriculture today, including the current biggest big man voice: Joel Salatin. Without going into detailed criticisms again (because this is just a quick blog post and not an essay), I just wanted to share the following direct quote from Salatin’s book You Can Farm. While there are many important point in this book that I think make it a ‘must read’ for all aspiring farmers, I will never forgive Salatin for this sloppy analysis of market gardening’s viable versus livestock production (emphasis added):
In order to move $30,000 worth of stuff, you need a lot of pounds of stuff, and you need a lot of customers. If the average person spends $600 per year on fresh vegetables (which I’m sure is a high estimate), you would need 500 customers in order to gross $30,000. Because the price per pound and average purchase is higher for animal proteins, we here at Polyface can do that volume with fewer than 100 customers, on average. That’s a hefty difference.
The problem with this analysis? $600 x 500 = $300,000!!!!!!! To make only $30,000, you would actually only need 50 customers paying $600 each. Big mistakes like this really bother me, especially when they’re paired with such a strong argument in favor of one thing over another … I just wonder how many uncritical readers have read this point and turned towards livestock production rather than fresh veggies.