If you are concerned about hunger and food insecurity, about making sure that everyone has enough to eat, you should also care about independent, sustainable farmers.
Within our lifetime, hunger has never been a more pressing issue. Over 20 million Americans are unemployed because of COVID-19 and food banks across the U.S. have seen record demand. The COVID Impact Survey taken in April showed the highest level of food insecurity compared to data from previous years, including an unprecedented rise in food insecurity among young children, increasing by 460% since 2018.
Those of us who are alarmed by these numbers should do all that we can to understand how industrial food systems exacerbate this problem and how supporting sustainable farming can help to solve it. You should care about independent, sustainable farms—here’s five reasons why:
Reason #1: Farms feed people! You probably already knew this. But did you know that more independent farms are donating to their local food banks to help give food to those who need it most?
Reason #2: The pandemic has disrupted supply chains and has caused some industrial meat plants to shut down, showing the frailty of an industrial food system. Cultivating a truly resilient food system that will not buckle under the weight of a pandemic means supporting independent farms that are more nimble and can meet the needs of their local community quicker with shorter supply chains.
Reason #3: Food from sustainable farms is more nutrient-dense, and eating farm-fresh food helps food insecure adults and children become healthier and stronger. As our diets have changed to incorporate the ever-increasing availability of so-called “cheap” meat and dairy products and highly processed food, devastating diet-related diseases—like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some diet-related cancers—have reached epidemic levels in the U.S. The comparative health benefits of pasture-based and grassfed beef against feedlot beef, for example, are already well documented. As well as having less total fat, saturated fat, calories and cholesterol, research shows that grassfed beef has more vitamin E and C, beta carotene, and health-producing fats like omega 3s and CLAs.
Reason #4: Climate change makes food insecurity worse, and low income communities are more likely to be in areas disproportionately affected by pollution and climate change. In addition to being one of the top contributors of harmful greenhouse gases, industrial livestock operations produce vast quantities of concentrated waste–a toxic concoction of heavy metals, antibiotic and other drug residues, growth hormones, animal waste and harmful bacteria such as E. coli. Independent farms using pasture-based sustainable practices, on the other hand, help fight climate change by mitigating carbon emissions and preserving important carbon-sequestering ecosystems.
Reason #5: Low wages and poor working conditions for workers at large industrial farms and plants increase rates of food insecurity. People who work in the U.S. meat processing industries are among the lowest paid, with few rights or benefits—despite high rates of injury and illness.
While “big farms” are certainly not always “bad,” it stands to reason that independent farmers who aren’t beholden to the whims of corporations, who own and are directly responsible for the management of their livestock and land, and who serve and employ local people are more likely to be invested in the well-being of their animals, their environment and their neighbors. They strengthen rural economies, feed their communities, help to reduce food insecurity—and generally make the world a better place! If you care about making sure every person has enough food, supporting independent, sustainable farmers is an easy way to do that.
If you want to learn more about sustainable food systems, sign up for our email list here. If you want a concrete way to support an independent farm right now, we encourage you to give here to one of our certified farms that is donating fresh milk to a local food bank to feed families in need.