Fear and Loathing on the Farm

Chris Newman
5 min readFeb 28, 2023

Why farmers are scared of their own customers, and how it’s holding sustainable agriculture back

via Getty Images

I’ve worked with about a half-dozen farms over the last six months as part of a Skywoman effort to help them get profitable, collaborate with other businesses, and advance the work of regional food sovereignty. In the course of that work, one thing has stood out above all else:

Farmers live in terror of their customers.

And I mean it. Farmers are working outrageous hours, pursuing unprofitable lines of business, burning themselves and their land out, sacrificing friendships and marriages, taking on second and third jobs, all out of fear that if they don’t fit the idealized model of the farm-to-table farmer, their customers will walk and leave them destitute.

What’s the idealized model of the farm-to-table farmer, you ask? Here’s a few attributes:

  • Grows everything him/herself
  • Involves the family in the farm
  • Grows a great diversity of products in order to “mimic” nature
  • Is physically accessible to the customer via farmers markets, farmstands, on-farm stores, etc.
  • Has a business that isn’t terribly big or sophisticated
  • Grows heirloom/heritage/unique varieties of…



Chris Newman

Building a new, accessible, open, and democratic food economy in the Chesapeake Bay region @ Sylvanaqua Farms