We already know organic and locally grown food is good for our environment and good for our bodies. Organic food is produced by growers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and conservation of soil and water in order to ensure environmental quality for future generations.
Now a new book, published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and the U.S. Federal Reserve Board of Governors, shows that local and organic farming also help revitalize rural economies. The “creation of new or the enhancement of existing jobs and businesses provides a path for economic growth” states the book’s forward.
The book also includes articles by experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, universities and nonprofits. The chapter on organic agriculture notes that, on the average, median household income rises by more than $2,000 in counties with high organic activity. Increased organic agriculture helps create local lower- and middle-income jobs and at the same time supports businesses. Growers can sell higher value crops and spend more money in their communities, stimulating the economy. This frequently results in the conversion of more land to organic.
A 2016 study found that Sacramento-area farmers who sold at least some of their produce directly to consumers purchased approximately 89 percent of their materials locally, compared with 45 percent by larger, wholesale-oriented farms. For each million in revenue, local farms created nearly 32 local jobs, compared with 10.5 such jobs for those that used exclusively wholesale channels.
A tectonic shift in consumer preference is occurring, reflected in the USDA campaign “Know your farmer, know your food.” When you buy directly from the farmer, you are establishing a connection between the grower and the eater. Sales to local food customers also reduces the distance food is shipped, enhancing freshness and nutrition and lowering costs.