Why Supporting Local Farmers is More Important than Ever
Nov 16, 2020 12:06 PM EST | By Ernest Hamilton
If you live in a large urban area, it can be easy to take for granted that fresh meat and vegetables will always be readily available.
But the truth is that small farms have been struggling for years against large multinational corporations that can use their economies of scale (and their lobbying weight) to secure lucrative contracts, expand into new markets, and buy up land.
As the coronavirus epidemic has fundamentally reshaped markets across North America, the pressures facing smaller producers have only increased. In fact, according to one study, one third of small farms reported that they could face bankruptcy by the end of the year.
Small independent farms are not only an essential aspect of a healthy economic system, they also serve as the backbone for rural communities.
If you want to ensure the family farm doesn't become another victim of COVID-19, here are three reasons to make a point of supporting local farmers in your region.
1. Local Farms Produce Better Food
There are lots of good economic and social reasons to buy local, but it also just benefits you as a consumer. Because the food doesn't have to be engineered to travel large distances to reach market, it tends to be:
Richer in flavour
Less reliant on preservatives
If you want to cook the perfect steak, you're going to be much better off if your meat comes from a cow that was raised in your home province or state and recently butchered than you would be buying beef from the other side of the country.
2. Local Farms Play an Essential Role in Local Food Security
One of the things the pandemic has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt is how vulnerable global supply chains can be to disruption, which is why small producers who raise livestock and crops for local consumption provide the basic infrastructure for food security in most parts of the world.
It is entirely possible that in the coming years, we will simply not be able to rely on foods grown thousands of kilometers away. Should this happen, we will be grateful to still have small-scale producers who haven't designed their business models around selling to foreign markets.
3. Eating Local is Easier Than You Might Think
Many people who support the idea of eating local in theory often respond to arguments like those listed above by saying that eating local is more expensive and more time consuming than simply buying whatever is on sale at the local grocery store.
The notion that eating local is a luxury available only to upper-middle-class urbanites is as widespread as it is inaccurate. The truth is that there are ways to connect with local producers that don't involve buying half a cow, or visiting a downtown farmer's market every Saturday morning.
The key is to find specialized services that connect you with local producers. For example, if you want meat delivery you can check out companies that provide affordable meat box subscriptions that source their cuts from farms in your province or state. Many communities also have year-round assorted vegetable boxes for home delivery.
As the year draws to a close, it is becoming clear that the largest companies in the world have seen their profits rise significantly during the crisis, while small family businesses bear the brunt of the lockdown and its associated challenges. This trend has also been true for the world of independent agriculture, which was facing significant challenges even before the virus hit.
If you value small independent farms and want to ensure their survival, prioritizing local products when doing your grocery shopping is one of the most concrete ways you can help.