Misconception Number 34: Buying organic does not help maintain small family farms since most of the organic food available in the market actually comes from a few large-scale organic farms, often located far from the point of sale.
Summary of Counter-Arguments:
Details of Counter-Arguments:
It all depends on what we call big! In North America, the average size of an organic farm is around 180 ha, including pastures and non-cultivated areas. In France, the average size of an organic farm is about 50 ha. Clearly, depending on the locality and the production system, a minimum size is required to be viable, but this minimum is often smaller in organic than in conventional agriculture. The majority of organic farms are family farms employing primarily family members. Organic certification does not guarantee that the product is coming from a “small,” local family farm. If consumers want to be sure to help maintain small, family farms, they should look for additional buying criteria other than organic certification. For instance, they can buy organic food through a local Participatory Guarantee System in which small, local farms participate, or they could buy directly from the small-scale, local organic farmer.
Many organic products imported from developing countries (e.g., coffee, cacao, cotton, sesame, and groundnuts) are actually grown by very small producers. Buying these products organic helps to sustain the livelihoods of these farmers through premium prices and promotion of sustainable production practices. Group certification systems that are used to certify these smallholders collectively include quality management systems that, when they are managed by the producer organizations themselves, contribute to empowerment, capacity building, and community development.
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