Showing all posts tagged: local food
Economic realignment in the industrial agriculture world — based on a shortage of migrant workers, due to the economic growth of Mexico — means that local, smaller scale food production is becoming more competitive in price, and that is stabilizing the capacity for production. As a result, more money is flowing into local food producers hands:
Small-Scale Farmers Creating a New Profit Model - Kirk Johnston via NYTimes.com
A looming shortage of migrant workers, with fewer Mexicans coming north in recent years, could create a kind of rural-urban divide if it continues, with mass-production farms that depend on cheap labor losing some of their price advantages over locally grown food, which tends to be more expensive. From the vineyards of California to the cherry orchards of Oregon, big agriculture has struggled this year to find willing hands. Local farm sales are becoming more stable, predictable and measurable. A study last fall by the Department of Agriculture said that local revenues had been radically undercounted in previous analyses that mainly focused on road stands and markets. When sales to restaurants and stores were factored in, the study said, the local food industry was four times bigger than in any previous count, upward of $4.8 billion.
More predictable revenue streams, especially at a time when so many investments feel risky, are creating a firmer economic argument for local farming that, in years past, was more of a political or lifestyle choice.
“How you make it pay is to get closer to the customer,” said Michael Duffy, a professor of economics at Iowa State University, capsuling the advice he gives to new farmers in the Midwest.
Labor, as it has been for generations in the United States, is still the big wrinkle for local growers. But in many cases, experts like Professor Duffy say, the local food system is increasingly going its own way, differentiated from the traditional labor pool of migrant workers that the United States’ mainstream produce system depends on. Many larger local farms hire Hispanic workers, but at more farm stands and markets, buying local also means, in subtle or not so subtle ways, buying native.
“A byproduct of local food is that local hands are more likely to be producing, harvesting, packing and marketing it, especially for new farmers on small-scale farms,” said Dawn Thilmany McFadden, an agricultural economist at Colorado State University who is part of a leadership team for a training program for beginning farmers.
And of course, with the local money effect, the money is spent locally. In industrial agriculture, the farms are in — for example — California, so when you buy a tomato at your Philadelphia supermarket, the money moves out of the local community. But if you buy a local tomato at a farmer’s market, that money gets passed around locally, increasing the resilience of the local economy.