Some people ask me if small farms can produce enough food to feed the world. Asking this question lets me know they’ve already been inoculated with the idea that they can’t. The current industrial food system is good at messaging, and they’ve been successful in proliferating this misconception. In addition, I’m not alone in my feelings. Most of my information comes from this report which was submitted to the UN General Assembly Human Rights Council by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter.
According to the FAO the world currently produces enough food to feed everyone. In fact, we produce 17% more food than we need right now. However, starvation and malnutrition is happening in developed and developing countries. Thus the problem lies not in production, but in distribution and access to food. It is an economic problem whereby the poorest people in the world don’t have the resources to obtain adequate nutrition. In addition, if food production were the underlying factor, if you think that we produce all this excess now because of the big corps, “The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) estimates that, even accounting for the energy value of the meat produced, the loss of calories that result from feeding cereals to animals instead of using cereals directly as human food represents the annual calorie need for more than 3.5 billion people.” (UN Report) In other words, we could feed half the world simply by not feeding grain to animals (corn to cows, pigs and chickens). Many small farms do feed grain, but the more sustainable ones don’t and don’t have to (buy 100% grass-fed beef for the love of God!).
Finally, “only by supporting small producers can we help break the vicious cycle that leads from rural poverty to the expansion of urban slums, in which poverty breeds more poverty.” (UN Report) The poorest people in the world, the ones that are starving, are FARMERS. Supporting localized, sustainable food systems around the world means funneling money towards the people that need it in order to buy food. You might think it strange that farmers don’t have access to food, but many of these farmers don’t actually own the food they grow. They work for corporations, which own the crop that is barely edible anyway for people (feed grade corn is not the sweet corn of late summer). If we buy more food from small farmers we empower them to grow a more diverse crop, increase their profit and our money comes back through the local economy in the form of jobs (construction, labor, mechanics, trucking).
Feeding the masses means getting money into the pockets of the world’s poorest people. It requires the redistribution of wealth from the few to the many. It requires the re-education of two generations of non-farmers and the establishment of a supportive farm economy. It requires the support of friends and family, community, to keep the few struggling farms we have. Go to your farmers markets, buy food from farmers you know and help feed the world’s hungry, improve the local economy and feed yourself real, healthy food. Not only that, but you will feel awesome too.