11 December, 2016
Five years ago, American James Faison could not imagine what he is doing today.
Faison worked in the state of Florida as a lawyer for large companies until 2012, when he moved to Virginia to start a farm business. But now, instead of raising crops, he is raising the earnings of local farmers.
Faison seems at ease with life on a farm. Members of his family have been farming for many years. When his grandparents died, he and his brothers and sisters inherited their farm. He says that began the process of trying to decide what they were going to do with it.
Four years ago, Faison left his job as a lawyer in Miami and returned to the family farm in Virginia. Slowly, he began to learn about the economic issues farmers face.
"A lot of small farmers are struggling. And they're working very hard, but they're not able to drive the income from farming to sort of make it economically viable. The issue with agriculture in America is we only spend 6.8 percent of our income on food, which is the lowest in any industrialized nation. And so, since we spend so little on food, we expect food to be inexpensive, which means in order to make a living doing it, you have to have really, really big volumes. And so having big volumes of, of, of anything can be very expensive in terms of having enough cattle, having enough hogs or having enough infrastructure to support having those animals."
Faison said he met with several farmers who raise animals naturally -- in other words, they do not give them hormones, antibiotics or steroids.
After the meetings, Faison created a company called Milton's Local, named for his grandfather. Today, his work day is very different from his work as an attorney.
Milton's Local markets and transports all-natural meat from local farms to stores and restaurants. Faison says the company helps farmers increase their earnings, supports the local economy and satisfies the buyers of these meat products.
"When you're eating locally, you're able to sort of support that farmer who raised it, you support that store who sold them the feed -- where you're keeping more dollars in your community. The other part I, I think is people are really concerned about what's being put in, into animals. So I think about 73 percent of all antibiotics used in the U.S. are used on animals. So that's a really big problem -- especially in terms of antibiotic resistance. So I think that both movements will, will continue to, to grow and hopefully we'll be able to grow with ‘em."
Milton's Local products are sold at MOM's Organic Market in Arlington, Virginia. Chris Wolfe is the head of the store. He says it and other stores like it seek to sell all natural, organic products.
Milton's Local products have been sold at the Arlington store for more than a year. People like the products, not just because they are natural but because they come from local farms.
"The farm is growing because we are demanding more because our customers are demanding more."
That is good news for James Faison. He now works with more than 30 small farms in Virginia and North Carolina. He hopes Milton's Local will expand, become more profitable and help more small farmers.
I'm Jill Robbins.
VOA's Faiza Elmasry reported this story. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
viable – adj. capable of succeeding
volume – n. an amount of something
infrastructure – n. the basic equipment and structures (such as roads and bridges) that are needed for a country, region, or organization to function properly
hormones – n. a natural substance that is produced in the body and that influences the way the body grows or develops
antibiotics – n. a drug that is used to kill harmful bacteria and to cure infections
steroids – n. a drug that is sometimes used illegally by athletes to help them become stronger and more muscular and by farmers to help their animals grow larger more quickly