Frustrated with consumers not understanding farmers, one German farmer took it into his own hands and sat down one day in January last year to write a passionate letter that will also resonate with many Kiwi red meat farmers.
“Dear Consumer… ” Dr Willi Kremer-Schillings started his letter. “I’m completely fed up today. This morning I caught a glimpse of my neighbour’s invoice for french-fry potatoes outside of his normal contract. One truckload = 25 tons = €250 (around NZ$388). For those of you who can’t do math, that is one cent per kilogramme. And, you all know what a kg of frozen french fries costs. Someone’s stuffing his pockets with that! ….”
The letter goes on to say cheapness is not compatible with consumer demands and consumers do not have any idea of what is involved in farming and the levels of paperwork involved. He also argues that food has no value for the consumer who wastes it and hypocritically demands quality when “what you read are the discount grocery store’s promotions”.
A friend put it on the internet where his emotional tone really hit a nerve. The reason it was so successful, he was told by a contact at the Huffington Post, was because: it was a farmer who wrote it; “we didn’t know farmers could write letters”; and it was very emotional.
Now it’s been read over eight million times in countries all over the world and translated into many languages including English and Swedish (read an English translation here). Bauer (‘Farmer’) Willi is now a celebrity and appears in radio and TV broadcasts.
The sensation caused an editor at Piper Verlag publishers to call him and asked him to write a book giving normal farmers a voice and educating the consumer on “cheap food and our power as consumers”. Sauerei (translated as ‘Mess’), for ‘those who really to know where their food comes from’, was published in January this year. Farmer Willi takes a critical look at the agricultural sector, the food retail sector and the consumer and says his motivation is to bring desire and reality back to agriculture. He also invites consumers to enter the dialogue at his Facebook page (@derbauerwilli). He now has 13,000 “so-called friends,” he says, and over 89,000 talking about it.
“Who buys a chicken for €2.79 euros at the supermarket checkout and has the right to complain about factory farming?” he asks in the book.
Unfortunately, it has not yet been translated into English, but it’s only a matter of time, we’re sure. Read more at www.bauerwilli.com.
Who is Farmer Willi?
Now possibly Germany’s most famous producer, 62 year old ‘Farmer Willi’, was on hand during the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists’ (IFAJ) World Congress in Germany last month. He was guide for sustainability tour groups around the impressive and successful Buir-Bliesheimer Agricultural Cooperative, for which he has been chairman since 2008.
Born in Rommerskirchen in the Lower Rhine region of Germany, the articulate and knowledgeable Dr Kremer-Schillings first gained a PhD in agronomy at Bonn University, before working in the plant protection industry, then moving to a Rhineland-based sugar company in 1990. There, he was a department head of agricultural commodities and markets, before partially retiring two years ago.
He had been managing his parent’s 500 ha farming operation since 1983 in cooperation with a neighbour, but has recently handed that over to the next generation, his son, who is now running the farm.
The Buir-Bliesheimer Agricultural Cooperative now has around 1,150 members and 2000 agricultural clients as well as many end-use customers for its energy products, seeds and animal feed.