So whats acupuncture got to do with farming, anyway?
Some of you may know, some may not, that here on our little micro farm our actual business is in the practice of acupuncture. For the last 12 or so years, we have made a living treating people in a small town in vermont.
How did we begin to grow our own food, why do we have chickens, why do we go out and squish potato bugs, and the evil tomato hornworm, off our lovingly cultivated plants out in the field when we don’t have to?
After our first 2 children were born, and i was pregnant with our third…i was dying for some fresh greens, some local lettuce, just a big salad for dinner, so i dragged the children to the farmers market with the 15 dollars i had in cash … i was completely dismayed to find out that my $15 would only buy me 3 little sandwich sized baggies of greens…put together, would barely be a salad for (big ole pregnant) me. Somehow, it had never hit me before how freaking expensive food was. Until our family began to grow, as we tried to eat local, healthy, without pesticides and whatnot…it had never really hit me how EXPENSIVE eating healthy really was. (dont get me started on the price of organic tomatoes, my son picked one up…that after being weighed, would have cost $9…aaaagh)
I actually cried, chalk it up to pregnancy hormones..
But I (we)realized that we really needed to begin to grow our own food, if we wanted to eat healthy, as most of the organic/local stuff was just beginning to get further and further out of reach for us economically.
So in came the chickens, 12 to start. In came the raised beds, in the driveway of our acupuncture practice/house. As we became more and more interested in being more self sustaining, marc built hoop houses to extend our season, and we began raising meat chickens.
We were offered the opportunity to rent a house our friend had purchased, with almost 2 acres of land behind it, so we moved! Now we were able to have our little homestead, and keep our practice just a practice (do patients like shooing chickens off the walkway when they can come in? Im undecided, but i know some thought they were entertaining..)
And our 4th child was born. The greenhouse was up, the gardens expanded. The meat chicken population went from 50 for us, to almost 300 last year. We invested in chicken processing equipment, to make the process more efficient. Marc built a walk in refrigerator in the barn, so to be able to store the abundance when it all is harvested at the same time…
I learned how to pressure can, and dehydrate
As this evolved, the acupuncture practice stayed the same. One person at a time, around $75 per treatment, which is generally how most acupuncturists we know roll. How we were taught in school.
And then i read a book called ‘the little red book of community acupuncture’, which i can’t really sum up in a small neat little paragraph, but it opened my eyes about the fact that due to the way we operate, the way we were taught to operate…it makes acupuncture inaccessible to around 90% of the population. Some can afford it, yes. But many, most, cannot.
Here I was, crying that I cant afford an organic tomato…and 2 ounces of fresh spinach, and I was charging what now seems like exorbitant prices for something that somebody might really really need. MEDICINE. Relief from pain, illness, stress. And they need to come in often to get the most benefit, to get relief. Sometimes even a few times a week! Who can afford to come in and get 3 treatments a week, for $225? The same person who can afford a 9$ tomato perhaps. A small percent of the population. But not me. And how can we charge prices, that we, ourselves, my husband and i cannot afford to pay?
[sidenote, in latin, and my lesson in economics this year: ‘res tatum valet quantum vendi potest’
meaning, ‘a thing is only worth what someone else will pay for it’]
We won’t anymore. We want people like us, working people, struggling people, people who really need treatment, to be able to afford it. To be able to have access to a medicine that for some reason has been set up to be out of reach for the average person. Acupuncture is not just for those who have a lot of money, it is for everybody. So we have changed our price structure to a sliding scale for treatment, so people can pay what they can. And if you cant afford that, we will treat you too!
I refuse to be a $9 tomato. Delicious. Healthy. Completely out of reach.
I haven’t solved the problem of the $9 tomato. But I’m working on it. And i’m open to suggestions. Until then, we grow our own. And we are willing to share.
Thank you to Lisa Rohleder, for the inspiration.
And for writing ‘Little Red Book of Working Class Acupuncture for Practitioners”
And for all the work POCA has done. (www.pocacoop.com)
And to Jennifer Woolf, for leading me here..
(The new, soon to open on farm clinic below..www.thevillagecommunityacupuncture.com, will be online shortly)