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Small Farms Make Good Food And Good Economy

Food from small farms not only tastes good, it helps boost the economy.


Photo: Keven Law (flickr)

Not only do small farms provide us with healthy, more humanely raised meat, but this study shows that they can help the economy, too.

Iowa’s Small Farms

Small farms not only tend to produce healthier food, better protect their environment, and treat their animals more humanely than their big-ad counterparts, a new study argues they also benefit the economy.

According to Dave Swenson, a professor of Economics at Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture, small farms help create jobs and boost their local economies. In his study “Exploring Small-Scale Meat Processing Expansions in Iowa,” he looks at costs and profits of small farms in relation to large farms.

Iowa is one of the leading states for animal processing.

A large farm has at least 200 cows, 37,500 chickens, and 750 pigs, and can have over 700 cows, 125,000 chickens, and 10,000 pigs or more, according to the EPA.

More Money, More Jobs

For every one million dollars of meat produced, a large farm needs 4.7 employees. By contrast, a small farm employs 13.3 jobs. That means $464 million in labor incomes would be paid by small farms to Iowan workers for the same amount of meat produced on a large farm.

Swenson finds that 56 percent of Iowa’s processing establishments have fewer than 10 paid employees.

Challenges For Small Farms

Small farms are threatened by large farms because it is difficult to compete with the cheap eggs, milk, and meat they are able to produce.

However, it is in Iowa’s and the country’s best interest to support small farms so that the wealth produced from ethical food production can be spread to more employees.

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Julie Rooney

Julie Rooney is a vegetarian, musician, and artist who primarily works in video and new media. Currently she is the director of Low Road Gallery, a non-profit contemporary art gallery located in Greencastle, Indiana.

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