Op-ed: Due to the collapse of Israeli agriculture, farmers don’t have enough money to transport their goods to supermarkets. As a result, farmers have been turning to Facebook in an effort to save their farms and entice people to buy poduce directly them.

Shiri Yakovar-Blikov 05.17.16

In an unusual step, a farmer opened his tomato fields to the public so they could pick their own tomatoes for free, highlighting the collapse of the Israeli agriculture sector.

It turns out that the amount of money he would have made for his crop wouldn’t have even covered the cost of packaging and shipping. Thus, instead of destroying his hard work, the farmer decided to invite the public to his farm to pick the tomatoes for themselves.

This sad initiative received thousands of shares and likes on Facebook, and a huge wave of people, including families with their children, went to the farmer’s fields equipped with gloves and bags to learn the difference between cynicism and Zionism.

Realizing the power of social media, another farm decided to sell its nectarines directly to the consumer from its farmhouse. They were sick of earning a shekel and a half on every NIS30 of their product sold in supermarkets.

The farm planned on having the door to its farmhouse open to customers until late in the evening. But so many people travelled to the remote grove out of a sense of solidarity with the farmers, that by early afternoon, all that could be found was sign written empty nectarine crates reading “sold out, sorry for the inconvenience.”

Farm to table sales began about two years ago on a small scale as an initiative by farmers who were sick of having their livelihoods destroyed by predatory taxes, increases in water and labor costs, and fees for harvesting and transportation. The trend has been gaining momentum recently not only because the farmers have perfected the method through a unified and collective effort, but also because the general public wants to leave its immediate surroundings and travel to these farms to buy direct.

This willingness has even led to farmers markets in various city centers, thus skipping over the long lines of greedy middlemen and coupon cutters.

While the dominant business model was “high stocks, low cost”, the cost of the” high stocks” of fruits and vegetables has lead to their destruction in Israel. On the other hand, today, everyone has access to social media. Instead of fighting with distorted calculations, political lobbyists, and outrageous taxes, the farmers are using Facebook, and creating quite a stir within the world of Israeli agriculture.

Consumers receive direct messages, share information with friends, and tell each other about where and when the next farmers market or “open field” will be to go buy and pick fresh produce.

While people won’t be joining the “tomato protest” in the streets anytime soon, there’s hope that it’ll bring more consumer awareness. This week, during one of my rare sojourns onto my near empty Facebook page, I came across an add by a farmer from the Mt. Gilboa area in the north of Israel. He was calling on the public to come and buy peaches at an almost laughable price. In the next few days, I plan on packing my kids up in the car and going out to pick some of those colorful, sweet fruits.

At the end of the day, I’ll end up paying the same as I would had I went to my neighborhood supermarket. If I include the price of gas, it might come out being a bit more. Yet, I’m happy to pay it all the same. Not because my family loves peaches, but because we love the fact that there are people who are willing to do whatever it takes to maintain their livelihoods when all the odds are stacked against them.