The revitalization of family farming does not poll highly; it does not generate much political “heat.” However, I will continue to preach the importance of family farming to our future for no other reason than it creates jobs. But as I originally stated here:
If we lose our ability to feed ourselves, we will not only become held hostage by global food prices, but we also become entangled in foreign government interests and agendas. Our national sovereignty and security would be sacrificed.
In addition, we have seen recently the fragility of our food supply expressed on headlines from the egg recalls.
I believe revitalizing family farming is a critical element of a complex answer to not only the agricultural crisis facing this country but also a host of other headline-grabbing crises.
In addition to others, I advocated one specific policy modification from the beginning to restore family farming:
Each school, prison, and public hospital should purchase a percentage of its food from local farms and ranches. We could rapidly revitalize local, family farming if a percentage of every school lunch was grown within its county’s borders. Consider the impact on small farming operations if each prison purchased all its food from nearby.
A recent study from the University of Minnesota corroborates this policy direction (ht to my mom). According to the study:
Filling school lunch trays with fresh, locally grown foods that are easy to incorporate into school menus can contribute as much as $430,000 annually to a regional economy, according to new research from University of Minnesota Extension.
The study focused on five rural counties with only 20,840 students and examined the potential economic impact of farm-to-school programs. According to the author, “a $400,000 annual impact could support two to three full-time farms.”
$400,000 could go a long way in east, central Alabama too. Combine this $400,000 with the monetary velocity of money spent locally, the impact multiplies to $1.6 million. Remember: for every $100 dollars spent locally, about $68 stays in the area while only $43 of that $100 stays in the local economy if spent on a large multi-state distributor.
Let’s dedicate ourselves and our energies to this important policy area. After all, our agricultural and food production policy impacts so many “sexy” areas: energy independence, economic resilience, terrorism, health care, national security, education, food-safety and international trade.