Thursday, March 25, 2010

Why Food Miles Matter – Part 2

Local Economies, Communities, and Workers Rights:  The rising demand for local foods has increased the number of small farming operations which are better equipped to cater to the local food outlets like farmers’ markets, local groceries, and other specialized outlets.  The traits of towns with lots of these local small farms versus towns with large corporate farms were documented in a well known study in 1940 by Dr. Walter Goldschmidt.  He found that towns with family farms had income that circulated among local businesses because in some cases they will get up to 100% of the food dollars, or income from the food they generate, which created jobs and a healthier community.  These towns had better services, higher employment rates,  and more civic participation.  Because the operations are smaller, some part time labor may be hired but a majority of the farmworkers are family members who receive the income and benefits of the farming operation.  On the other hand, corporate farming communities had incomes that went to other larger cities.  The average corporate farmer receives only an average of twenty cents of every food dollar with the rest going to marketing, distributing, and input suppliers.  Becj0399521ause less money circulates in these local economies, there are lower employment rates and generally less healthy communities.  Although this research was performed some time ago, recent studies have confirmed that these trends still remain true.  Large farming operations tend to employ workers that are not within the family.  These individuals were paid an average of $6.75 an hour in 2008, which is among the lowest wages paid for unskilled occupations.  These individuals have a higher dependency on Food Stamps, Medicaid, free school lunches, and other social service programs.  The U.S. Census Bureau’s demographic profile for farmworkers shows that 80.9% of these workers are men, 91.7% are white, 62.2% of them have U.S. citizenship, and only 20.7% have some college education.  According to the National Agricultural Workers Survey, an estimated half of all hired farmworkers are unauthorized, meaning they do not possess citizenship with legal work papers.   

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