With small farms proving to be more sustainable, productive, and environmentally sound than their industrial counterparts, it’s clear that they are the backbone of America.
Unfortunately, being a small farmer equates to having less land, which means small farmers receive much less funding from government subsidies than large, corporate farms do. The funding given to these large farms sometimes allows them to sell goods at an even lower price than their production value — even though the farms are inefficient and unethical in their operations. On the flip side, smaller farms are often family owned and find it difficult to compete without financial assistance. Still, they operate their farms with far more devotion and care, in an effort to benefit consumers now and for generations to come.
Two million small farms remain afloat in the United States, many refusing to forfeit their ethics to make themselves more price-competitive.
Because so many factors endanger the integrity of our food supply — posing risks to our health through the quality of our food, the welfare of our environment, and having an adequate amount of food and resources for posterity — it’s not a questions of why we should support small farmers, but rather a question of how to do so.
Here are 5 ways you can support small farms and make a difference in the preservation of our food supply:
1. Buy Organic
Eating organic does way more than benefit your health. In a report published by the UN Commission on Trade and Development, the UN admonished that organic and small-scale farming is the answer for “feeding the world,” rather than GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and monocultures.
A monoculture is a single crop grown in a field. It may yield a large quantity of that crop, but it doesn’t use its space or resources efficiently. Large farms have monocultures because they’re easier to mechanize. Organic farms embrace a diversity of crops and cultivate a mixture of plants that build up top soil, and do not employ synthetic chemicals and practices that create erosion.
2. Buy from Businesses that Support Small Farms
Business that use organic and sustainably sourced ingredients for their products often do so at a sacrifice — sourcing higher quality ingredients for a better product and a better world, often at the cost of raising prices and thereby losing some customers. By supporting these companies, you are indirectly supporting small farmers.
3. Buy Local
Buying from local farms — through farmer’s markets or farm stands — saves you and the farmer the cost of shipping foods from one state to another, as well as the packaging for the product during transport and shelving. Buying local often means you’ll pay less, support your farmers more directly, and have fresher food on your table. This also equates to less use of fuel and generation of less pollution.
4. Volunteer at a Small Farm
Whether you have time to devote to spending a summer abroad on an organic farm, or just want to volunteer a weekend a month somewhere local, most farms would be extremely grateful for the help — either working directly in the field or even doing some office work for them.
5. Dine Local
Locally owned restaurants are more inclined to support their communities — the food is of a higher quality and therefore tastier, and a growing number of chefs are passionate about sourcing from ethical vendors. To check on the integrity of a restaurant, you can try talking to the manager or owner about the relationship their restaurant has to your community. Many times, local restaurants will list farms they work with on their menu, because it’s a point of pride.
By supporting small farms, you’re actively uplifting your community and working toward the betterment of society as a whole. While it may be less expensive to patronize stores and outlets that source from large-scale, industrial farms, you inevitably end up paying the price with your health, the planet, and future generations.