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Size Matters: Smaller is Sometimes Better

Which is better: The large agribusinesses that seem to be taking over the world (and killing off the bees) or small, (often organic) local farmers? AND sociologists say that small businesses, unlike chain retail "big box" stores and large manufacturing plants, are better for our communities, because they have more at stake when it comes to the well-being of employees, customers and other local citizens.

In fact, the greater the number of small businesses, the HEALTHIER the population of a region is (probably because they can WALK to them).

What about small farms? On the Nation of Change website, John Cavanagh and Robin Broad write: "It was small scale organic farmers growing rice for themselves and local markets in the Philippines who first convinced us that they could feed both their communities and their country. Part of what convinced us was simple economics: these farmers demonstrated substantial immediate savings from eliminating chemical inputs while, within a few harvests--if not immediately--their yields were close to or above their previous harvests. From these farmers, we also learned of the health and environmental benefits from this shift."

Cavanagh and Broad are advocates of what they call "agroecology," which means ecosystem friendly, locally adapted agricultural systems, including techniques like crop rotation, topsoil management, and watershed restoration. These types of farms may not grow MORE food than the large industrial farms, but they grow BETTER food, that most consumers seem to prefer (and many are willing to pay more for).

But the question is, do we need big agriculture to feed a growing world population? The answer may be no: they quote Belgian law professor Oliver de Shutter as saying, "Recent (agroecology) conducted in 20 African countries demonstrated a doubling of crop yields over a period of 3-10 years.

"We won't solve hunger and stop climate change with industrial farming on large plantations. The solution lies in supporting small scale farmers' knowledge and experimentation, and in raising incomes of smallholders so as to contribute to rural development. Each region must be able to feed itself."

We sure do wish that this website could feed itself, but alas, we need more than that. We know there's a recession on, but times are tough for us, too, and we're just not getting the support we need. You can keep using going for less than a latte a WEEK: Less than $12 gets you a 3-month subscription. So what are you waiting for? Drink your coffee at home and Subscribe today!

And if you want to find a healthy place to live, find a place where you can WALK to those nice, local businesses. One of the best ways to stay healthy is eating right and exercise, which can be as pleasant as a brisk daily walk. In Anne Strieber's diet book, she has a special chapter on exercise titled "The Tyranny of the Body," in which she states unequivocally that walking is the very best exercise there is.

I live in North Central Florida where record drought and huge water withdrawals from the Floridan Aquifer are causing many of our lakes and world-famous springs to dry up, not to mention people's wells.
The biggest consumer of water in the county where I live, Levy County, continues to be large-scale agriculture. Huge dairy farms and row crops draw tens of millions of gallons of water per day, and there are tons of nitrates from fertilizers and animal waste that end up in the aquifer, thanks to these large corporate farms, which really don't do all that much for the local economy, especially when you consider that the biggest economic driver for the area, and the state, is tourism. People mostly come to Levy County for its springs and rivers ( the famous Suwannee River runs through part of the county). One of our springs is the most polluted of 58 springs monitored by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Currently, the spring, which used to draw hundreds of thousands of tourists each year, is about half way to the point where the water is completely unsafe for consumption.
Nitrate levels intesify as water levels drop, and flow for the springs that are still flowing has dropped by more than half. Still, huge water permits continue to be issued by our area's water management district, which has a board with members all tied to big agriculture or development. The other pisser is that this board, a taxing authority, is not elected. Members are appointed by the governor, and if you know anything about Florida's current governor, Rick Scott, you know he's all about breaks for the rich and dismantling Florida's once-beautiful ecology.
So, yes, big farms are a problem.

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