Think Small: A return to local, organic farming is the key to food security

Matt McGibbon is a fourth year Political Science and Sustainable Development student at SFU. He is an aspiring social innovator and entrepreneur with a passion for craft beer, live music and great food. 

Global food systems are feeling pressure on all sides. Rising populations and shifting diets are increasing food demands, while food production is increasingly at risk due to climate change and land degradation. The tendency is to suppose that the job of feeding the world falls to large-scale farms and agricultural corporations, who have long been trying to find ways to get more food out of less land. 

But is this right? Do small-scale farmers simply exist to feed themselves while large-scale farmers exist to feed the world? Simply put, the answer is no.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) refer to the plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology. GMO foods refer to the same thing - they are foods created by merging DNA from different species. The FDA approved the first GMO crop in 1994. Since then, GMO varieties of corn, soya, sugar beets and canola have become common crops in Canada. GMO crops, when first introduced, were touted as the answer to global food security and world hunger.

The argument was that by developing pesticide and herbicide resistant crops, farmers would be able to increase yields and decrease costs. Instead of this proving true, bugs and weeds have become increasingly resistant to the widespread applications of these chemicals, leading to increased use of both. More spraying means more costs for the farmers, more damage to the environment and more health concerns.

So what’s next?

Enter a return to small-scale farming and increasing demand for local, organic agriculture. Small-scale farming methods that include growing a variety of crops on smaller plots, rotating crops to maintain soil quality and avoiding the overuse of harmful chemicals are among the best ways to conserve land and ensure an abundant, nutrient-dense food supply. 

Here are just a few reasons why small-scale, local and organic farming is key to a more sustainable, healthy, and prosperous global future:

1. Small-scale, bio-diverse farming methods ultimately require fewer pesticides and herbicides to produce quality food, which means less reliance on multinational chemical companies to grow food.

2. Small-scale farming systems end up producing much more nutritious food with higher vitamin and mineral content as a result. This means a decreased human reliance on pharmaceutical drugs, hospital services, and other high-cost healthcare resources.

3. Local food production strengthens local economies by protecting small farms, local jobs, and local shops, thereby increasing food security. Local economies thrive when individuals are free and able to reap the benefits of the fruits of their own labour!

There is a global movement working to reconnect people with the land and people who grow their food. The resurgence of local farmer’s markets in towns and cities across North America coincides with this increasing demand for quality, sustainable food and other goods. People are concerned about where their food is coming from, how it’s grown, and the impact that its production has on not only their own health, but also the health of the natural environment around them. 

Rightfully so, food is the fuel that drives all that we do.

Stay informed, and support your local, small-scale farmers!

If you’d like to learn more or get involved with your local farmers and food producers, check out your local farmer’s market or click the link on our webpage to learn more about Embark’s Harvest Box program.

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