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In Support of Local Food

Posted 3/29/2016 7:21am by Tim Livingstone.

Why should you support a local farm?  What difference does it make anyway?  Here's some food for thought or is that "Veggies for thought"

My wife and I worked 20 years before we bought our farm.  Since buying the farm, we've never made so much money, never spent so much money, and never had so little left in between!  Where does this money go and what does it do?

For a $2.00 bunch of local carrots bought from a local farm, 50% of the money you spend or $1.00 goes directly to supporting the farm wages of those seeding, picking, weeding, harvesting, shipping, and other jobs related to producing the carrots.  25% or $0.50 goes toward seed, supplies, and the other things required to grow the carrots.  The remaining 25% or last $0.50 goes toward the other farm expenses including tractor fuel, insurance, parts, electric, phone, accountant, and a whole host of other farm expenses that are mostly paid to local businesses. 

The fact that your money stays local creates what is called a "spin off" effect.  The person picking the carrots buys a coffee on their way to work or buys parts from the local auto part store for their car.  The accountant takes his wife out to a nice meal at a local restaurant.  Carl Wilken, an economist with the Raw Materials National Council of Sioux City in 1944 estimated the economic spin off from farms to be 7 times.  In today's world where more is sourced globally the spin off is often measured at closer to 2 times but it is still a very significant figure (see sources below) and remains especially high for smaller family farms that are more labour dependant and source much of what they need locally.  

Buy buying this $2.00 bunch of carrots from a local farm, you have improved your local economy by at least $4.00 and probably much more.

Compare this, however, to a $2.00 bunch of carrots grown in California and bought from the Supermarket.  Only a small percentage of that $2.00 stays here to support the store and staff.  The majority of the money leaves the region going to where the carrots where grown, to the shipping company who brought it here, and to the corporate headquarters of the Supermarket.  The local spin off from buying a $2.00 bunch of carrots in the Supermarket is therefore negligible and more than likely a net negative. 

So often we fail to realize that a cheaper price does not save; it costs.  We eagerly buy that hamburger (which came from a feedlot in Alberta) that we saw in the sale flyer for just $4.99 per pound without realizing that it just cost a local beef farmer their job.  The local farm shuts down and suddenly the tractor supply store is in trouble.  The tractor supply store is in trouble so now the mechanic is out of a job.  The mechanic is out of a job so he goes out West to the oil patch - Oh wait, the price of oil is down.....

On and on goes our love affair with cheap prices and imported product all the while we complain about no jobs, poor economy, and everyone having to go west to find work.  It is a cycle that will repeat itself again and again until we realize the basic rules of money and economics.  We either have to be in a region where we are exporting lots of products in order to bring money in (Alberta during the oil boom) or we have to have a system where what we buy supports our local community.  The latter is a much more stable and prosperous way forward.  

Yes we always need exports because there will always be imports we need, but lets supply as much locally as we can and support our local economy.  How many other investments can claim a 100% increase in such a short time?  

So next time you are considering buying cheap imported food, just remember that by buying from a local farm or business, you may be providing your daughter or grandson with a local job that they would otherwise have been unable to find.

More References:

http://sustainontario.com/2012/07/04/11208/news/multiplier-effect#_edn7

http://content.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1903632,00.html

http://www.sustainabletable.org/491/food-economics

 

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