Agribusiness or Family Farms?

Grant Torre, Staff Writer

   There are two major types of farms in the US today: corporate farms and family farms. Each type is distinct and has a very different agenda. Corporate farms often sacrifice quality for quantity. The more they produce, the more they can sell cheaper. On the other hand, family farms are local businesses which aim to sell the highest quality food, while still making money. The problem is, how can a minute family farm compete against national corporations?

   Local farms produce food with care and precision, often requiring more time and effort than that large farms make their food with. According to the US Department of Agriculture, “8.8% of the farms in the US had annual sales over $250,000” but they supplied for 73% of US farm sales. The remaining 23% of sales were divided up between 91.2% of farms in the country.

   Why do people buy food sold buy corporate farms more than food produced locally? Price. Big name farms can offer a lower price than the small businesses which operate locally, and many people will choose to pay less even if that means giving up quality. What local citizens do not know is that factory farms often use inhumane methods to kill animals. Only Arizona, California and Florida have laws requiring that animals on a farm have enough space to turn around a stretch. The space required for these animals by law is still barely enough, but many other states have no laws regarding the housing of farm animals.

   In addition to the inhumane treatment of animals, many corporate farms have a negative impact on the environment. Factory farms have higher greenhouse gas emissions and litter the surrounding land with pesticides. The scattered pesticides can also end up on our plate if we purchase products from these large companies.

   On the other hand, family farms contribute to the local economy and have a better environmental record. In recent years, “organic” and “natural” foods have been on the rise, and family farms often guarantee organic, pesticide free products. Also, with gas prices on the rise, large name farms are being forced to raise prices and soon locally grown food may be a more competitive option than it has been. If the local produce is slightly more expensive, embrace small businesses and help them thrive by buying their fresh food.

   With many more Americans going hungry, the debate intensifies. Why pay more when food is food? The debate will never end, with both opponents and proponents for the family farm versus the corporate farm. No matter what your stance is, make a change and try to contribute the local economy by purchasing food from local farmers markets where the produce is almost always fresh and from local businesses. Start stocking your refrigerator with locally grown produce rather than grocery store food from national suppliers. Not only will you be receiving healthier, fresher food, but you will also be supporting the environment and humane treatment of animals.