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Local Farms vs Large Agribusiness - Ideas for Change

In an ideal world, each community could produce all of the resources it needed. Unfortunately, our society has become so urban that it's economically impossible to do so.

We need to find a balance between ideology and economics, where we rely at least a little more on local production. At the minimum, the government should not be subsidizing large, conventional farms that harm the environment, local economies and food quality.

There are some innovative solutions to promote local, small farms:

Marketing and distribution co-op

Organic Valley is a great example of small farms pooling resources to nationally market and distribute their organic products, and returning profits back to each individual farm.

972 farms across the country produce mostly dairy products for sale in each individual region. Their single, national brand, Organic Valley, is promoted using their pooled money for marketing and packaging.

This model presents a brand consumers can trust, while avoiding the common corporate pitfall of stripping profits from the farmers and local communities.

Retail co-op

In Europe, farmers have also formed co-operatives, in which they combine resources to reach new retail customers. Some have collectively opened retail stores that supply only their own organic, locally grown products. Others have started up mobile market stalls that sell farms' produce to areas lacking convenient farmers' markets.

Partnering with new markets

Farms can also partner with markets that are predominately untapped, such as schools, independent supermarkets, food co-ops, restaurants and hotels. Farmers reach a new customer base, and another niche gains affordable access to fresh, organic produce.

Government incentives

A European community legally requires schools to serve organic ingredients in student meals, and in the UK, a plan was recommended to give tax breaks to stores that devoted a section to sell local farmers' produce.

Supermarket incentives

In U.S. supermarkets, a New York-based chain gives incentives to store managers who exceed quotas in stocking local produce.

Fair Trade

When buying products that your local region doesn't provide itself, look for Fair Trade Certified products. The TransFair organization connects small farmers in developing countries with the international marketplace. They're ensured fair market prices for their crops as well as health benefits and education.

Fair Trade also promotes natural, artisan farming methods, which end up being predominately organic and beneficial for the environment.
More about:
Om Organics' Farm-to-Restaurant Program
Benefits of Organics