One of the problems with commodity markets

  • , by Jacob Wolki
  • 6 min reading time
One of the problems with commodity markets

If you have ever come on a Wolki Farm tour or listened to a podcast with me guesting, you will have heard the Wolki Farm origin story.

As a young boy I used to wake up and call for my father. He would come into my bedroom and peel the bed sheets off my legs. I would scratch my itchy rashes in my sleep to the point my legs bled, and the sheets would stick to me.

Beyond highly irritating (seasonal) rashes, I also suffered from allergies. After institutional testing I was pronounced allergic to dust, pollen, grass and hair. Great! Imagine being told to go about your life avoiding the above 4 things!

After desperation in my late twenties with an extraordinarily bad hay-fever season, I went to a GP and told her that I’d had enough. I explained that I was a snotty mess, always sneezing and constantly itching my eyes. My allergies would have me on the couch multiple days a week in peak pollen season, feeling like I was recovering from some exhausting and painful task.

I asked the GP for the steroid injection that I had heard other people say gave them reprieve. I told her that if we couldn’t nail this once and for all that I was going to have to find a way to sell my business and move my family to an area that I could live in easier - 2 things that I really didn’t want to do.

To her credit, she held the line and didn’t write me a script for the steroid shot. I really tried. She quoted my young vigour being an asset to handling this situation and the long term side effects of the steroid shot not worth the gamble. I now agree, but when people are desperate… they are DESPERATE! (Side note, my acquaintances that quoted great results from the shot said it waned and disappeared after a few seasons, meaning they are now on the treadmill of shots every couple years).

My Doctor did, however, write me 3 new scripts. Increased strength in my nasal spray, eye drops and tablets. I cashed them in immediately and I threw the new super potent nasal spray up my nostrils before I’d even left the chemist. While still in the chemist both nostrils started pouring blood down the front of my shirt. I had a big sneezing fit. Defeated.

This is where my wise wife started to lead me on my food healing journey. From 14 to 28 all I thought about was work. I woke up - work. I got home - work. Weekends? For work. I absolutely loved it, and I don’t regret a minute of channeling my energy, enthusiasm and passion towards being productive and building a start for my family.

What did take a backseat was my health. I’d realise I hadn’t eaten mid afternoon when one of the young staff in our bicycle store was heading the KFC or Noodle Box. I’d throw them $20 and tell them to get me what they are getting. Iced Coffees, burgers, noodles - you name it I ate it and LOVED IT. But it made me fat (103kg at my heaviest) and caused lots of health concerns that I didn’t even know about! I now spend my days analysing my livestocks manure to judge health and diet - I wish I had the knowledge to do this to myself 10 years ago!

Ann, my wife, has always had fantastic intuition about health and vitality. She always bemoaned my chubby lifestyle. Now was her chance. I was desperate and willing to try anything. She started to reel me onto the exciting path of claiming back my health and eating to thrive.

This crash course of dietary knowledge led me down rabbit holes such as low carb, chemical free, organic gardening, no till, permaculture, grass fed, antibiotic free foods. If there was a book, I thumbed it. If there was a YouTube channel, I watched it! I started hunting for grass fed and finished chemical free beef. Sadly, I couldn’t find it. There was marketed “certified grass fed beef” at the supermarket but I knew from my research that these animals were likely treated with drenches etc - I wanted meat as clean as possible. (I also now know these certifications are less reliable that one would hope.)

I went to my local farmers market and spoke to producers there. A couple grass fed options, but again - producers were stuck on having to use drench to control worms.

I dug my heels in and thought “fine, I’ll do it myself” - Wolki Farm was born.I kidnapped my fathers cattle and chickens on his hobby farm and started doing my best Joel Salatin impersonation, moving these animals around the farm daily.Our first steak from our farm was so good! Placebo effect? Sure. There is nothing better than well earned dopamine.

Back to the title of the blog, “One of the problems with commodity markets”.

I have told this story many times and I’m sure producers around the world roll there eyes at my statement that “I wasn’t able to find the food I wanted, so I grew it myself”. It’s not meant to be an inflammatory or offensive statement, but I can understand how some house proud producers can interpret it that way. I casually dismiss their families skill and speciality of raising beef or lamb. I then walk into a paddock with zero experience and pronounce that I'll do it myself. (Which I have.)

Over the last 5 years I have met so many TREMENDOUS farmers who raise the exact beef I wanted, and at scale too! I’ve met farmers with hundreds, some with thousands, of cattle. They practice holistic management, run their pastures chemical free, steward unmedicated livestock and produce a tremendous product and service for consumers around Australia.There’s only 1 problem. You can’t buy their meat.

Well, you can. Every now and then the consumer at our supermarkets get lucky - really lucky. Othertimes, not so much.

Their commodity beef gets purchased at the sale yards by the highest bidder and soaked into difference brands and channels - losing it's unique offering and traceability.

I have mixed feelings for these farmers. I’m sorry that they don’t get rewarded better for their incredible production. Maybe the satisfaction, ecological health and farm resilience is enough for them.

I’m frustrated that their product isn’t more easily accessible to the many consumers around Australia that want it.

I’m excited that there is this untapped resource facing a unsatisfied market. I feel like a pioneer in a new land.

I went from an;

  • Uninformed consumer - completely complacent with the state of production

To an:

  • Informed consumer - completely disheartened with the state of production 

To an:

  • Informed producer - somewhat encouraged and motivated with the state of production
How do you source food for your family?


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