Small is Beautiful: The Benefits of a Decentralized Food System

Seasonal, gluten-free, farm-to-table eating never tasted so good!


| July 2015



Small Farms

"Small-scale sustainable farms that use organic growing techniques are better for the planet."

Photo by Fotolia/marcuspon

On her farm in Massachusetts, nutritionist Diana Rodgers has found a way back to a healthy, active lifestyle with a focus on nutritious and delicious eating, raising animals, growing vegetables, and balancing work and play. With over 100 seasonal Paleo recipes, guides to growing your own food and raising animals, and inspiring how-tos for crafts and entertaining, The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook (Victory Belt Publishing, 2015) is a guide not just for better eating, but for better living—and a better world.

You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook

It’s probably no surprise that fresh, local produce is more nutrient-dense than produce that was harvested a week ago, sat on a truck for days, and then waited in a supermarket bin before you brought it home. But the reasons to buy from small-scale, local farmers who use sustainable practices go far beyond nutrition.

It supports local communities

When you spend your money at a small local farm, more of your dollars stay in the community, since small-scale farmers generally purchase their supplies (seeds, machinery, tools, and so on) from local businesses. That helps to generate local jobs and stimulates the economy right in your community.

It’s better for the farm workers

According to the National Farm Worker Ministry, the average income of a crop worker is between $10,000 and $12,499 a year. To give you some perspective, the 2014 federal poverty line was $11,670 for an individual and $23,850 for a family of four. Cropworkers are often paid “piece rate” wages, which are based on how much they pick, instead of an hourly wage. The piece rate for oranges in Florida, for instance, is $0.85 per 90-pound box of oranges. The average productivity for a worker is eight boxes per hour. This means that during an eight-hour workday, a worker picks about sixty-four boxes of oranges, 5,760 pounds. For that day, the worker receives $54.40— $6.80 per hour, which is less than the minimum wage. Paying workers this way also creates an incentive for them to take fewer much-needed water breaks, and on large farms, rent for housing for farm workers (which often means overcrowded trailers) is automatically deducted from their paychecks.

Children are particularly vulnerable when it comes to farm work. There are an estimated 500,000 farm workers under the age of eighteen in the U.S. Farms are exempt from many labor laws, and these children suffer extreme working conditions: infrequent water and food breaks, high temperatures, pesticide exposure, and dangerous machinery (70 percent of all tractor injuries involve children). The kids are also often subjected to intense emotional strain due to unstable home lives, as families follow the harvest and pull kids from school. Young girls are especially in danger of sexual abuse from their bosses in the fields. And all that’s just in the U.S.—working conditions in other countries can be far worse.





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