Our Writing 6 students spend the term practicing research skills. They then learn to integrate research on their chosen topic into a university-level research paper. One of last term’s Writing 6 students, Ana from El Salvador, delved into the economic impact of growing food organically on farms and consumer. We know you’ll be as impressed as we are with her final product!
According to Karl Weber, organic food has healthy benefits over conventional food mainly because it is harvested without toxic and synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, genetic engineering, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, and irradiation; for this reason, on an individual level, organic food can help to prevent illness in the future. Furthermore, on a macro scale, organic food is a good way to save the earth from air pollution and global warming due to reducing the fossil fuels and chemical that are used by conventional farms. Thus, “organic is more than food. It’s about survival” (Weber, 59). In addition to the positive effects of consuming organic food, there are challenges for the economy of families and farms impacted by high price, time, and management of this type of healthy food (Fromartz, 240).
Therefore, is organic food the best option to eat healthily as well as support the economy of families and farms? This research paper will explore the impact of organic food within the context of families and farms.
II. Background and Economy of Farms
Organic food is growing fast mainly in North America, where the United States is the most important organic market. As a result, the agriculture and the customer consumption of this type of product has increased (Plaias). For example, consumers can find organic products available in nearly 20,000 natural food stores. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) estimates the U.S. organic food sales occur through farmers’ markets, foodservice, and traditional supermarkets (Greener). Due to the fact that people have more knowledge about organic food, and according to the analysts expect that the market of this type of food will give positive growth where farms have an opportunity to increase their business (Kortbech).
Indeed, some of the positive effects in the economy are by encouraging the growth of organic farms are the following ways first, farms create more jobs; for example, the employees that organic farms need is 15% higher than conventional, as a consequence, there a fountain of jobs (Rodale, 151). Many conventional farms prefer using chemicals because it is easier and saves more money than having a person that cares for the crops (Rodale, 166). Second, with the world under a climate crisis that impacts the human health and consequently the economy, organic food is a good way to save the earth from global warming as it reduces the fossil fuels and chemicals that are being used for conventional farms (Weber, 59). Because organic crops require 30% less of fossil fuels than conventional crops, also fewer chemicals protect the planet from carbon dioxide (Rodale, 152).
Even though the market of organic food is growing, there are some challenges for farmers. First, the regulation for organic includes that the farmers use cultural, biological and physical methods in protecting crops without chemicals and fertilizers, as well as the careful management of animals. Thus, the cost of all factors mentioned before is added to the price of the product. The organic customer decides want to pay for organic products. An example of this can be the cost of 6 oz of organic yogurt, which is the same for an 8 oz of conventional (Weber, 54). Second, usually the farm size is smaller than regular farms, so when the space is smaller the occupied space is more expensive based on economy of scale. Finally, they don’t receive incentives like conventional farmers do; as a result, the organic food is more expensive than conventional farms (Ferring). Farmers should be compensated for how much time and money they spend caring for the earth through crops without chemicals (Weber, 55).
According to Rudy Kortbech, factors that could impact the organic product price negatively are the following. First, farms or suppliers absorb the cost of the new quality standards with a loss of profit. Second, the competitiveness with the conventional farms could be a challenge because it is estimated that in the future, standards will control chemicals on conventional farms, meaning they will harvest with fewer pesticides. As a result, the consumer may not understand the differences because in this new scenario the conventional farms will not use the same quantities of chemicals. Finally, there are cases of fraud; some sellers exhibit non-organic products with high prices.
Recently, the Obama administration expressed the desire to support organic farms and local food systems. However, in 2009, just the 10% of the $15 billion in subsidies went to farms. Some ideas that can provide a solution to the cost for organic farmers can be, subsides or tax cuts for hiring employees. Additionally, programs that teach a better administration in the transition to organic could be how protect crops from weather situation, how apply for subsides, and the best way to sell their products in natural food stores, price strategies, how to be more competitive in the market. Moreover, sustainable growth required more land space for each animal; USDA would provide loans for land acquisition for work sustainable on the farm. Finally, almost 84% of the small organic farmers are in or near from metropolitan center; a way to help could be expanding to nearby school zones increasing the space and the opportunity to sell more products (Potts).
It is important to support initiatives that motivate organic food purchases from local farmers. One of the best examples of this is a “buy local organic” campaign from Marin Organic in Northern Carolina. The farms achieve the national organic standard and soil conservation, fruits and vegetables are produce locally in Marin County. People know that consuming Marin Organic products they are helping to local farms and the most important reason to buy is helping the economy in their County (Cuddeford).
Some factors that can drive the organic industry are when young families increase their consumption, the price gap between the conventional and organic food reduced, and knowledge about the risk of consuming pesticides and chemical is propagated (Fromartz, 255). Thus, the family is an important role for the economy of organic food.
III. Background and Economy of Families
Why is organic food the best choice for the family? First, selecting organic food can help improve family health and prevent chemical consumption. A high percent of Americans who consume organic food said they prefer to consume healthy foods to prevent sickness in the future. These people think that eating healthy food helps to decrease medication and doctor visits later “Save your health and your money” (Fromartz, 240). According to the US Department of Agriculture and The Food and Drug Administration, the level of contamination for pesticide can be reduced by buying organic food and preventing illness (Sandbeck, 97). Second, for many, organic foods is a trend, a synonym of ‘healthy lifestyle’ (Fromartz, 241). They think that eating organic will make them feel good (Fromartz, 241). For these types of consumers that look for organic food, the store Whole Foods is an option to buy natural products free of antibiotics and hormones. They know that Americans love foods so they try to improve the variety of organic products (Fromartz, 242). Third, some people desire to support local farms; they appreciate the hard work and prefer consuming natural products (Plaias). Finally, many respect the way organic farms carefully create their products from animal resources without hormones, thereby protecting animals (Plaias).
Although there are healthy reasons for consuming organic food, there are some challenges such as high prices, low distribution of product, ignorance about the benefits of organic products, comfort with traditional food, and disinterest in changing habitual meals (Plaias). The reasons for these challenges include, first the cost of the product; for example a regular 365gr of pasta costs $0.79, but organic costs $1.29. Therefore, the price can be a barrier (Fromartz, 243). People usually buy organic food in cases when they think they have clear benefits especially children’s food because it’s more important and valuable for them. This means that they may mix conventional and organic product purchases (Fromartz, 249).
In addition, if people think more about how the food that we buy is produced, as well as the methods of organic and conventional food that include antibiotics in meat or pesticides in the vegetables and fruits that they eat, they will become more aware of what is better for their health. Spending less money in the checkout for conventional food might not be the best option for the future possible consequences to their health (Weber, 56).
Another challenge is the low distribution of the product. It is difficult to find in any place (Fromartz, 242). For example, if you are looking for a restaurant that sells organic food, it is very difficult to find because of the cost. Also in the regular supermarkets the organic area is smaller than the conventional and sometimes they prefer not to sell it because it expires faster.
Finally, sometimes people do not know about the benefits of the organic food. They feel comfortable with their habitual foods because in the short term they spend less money. They are not interested in preventing future expenses for their health (Plaias). Also some think that organic is merely a “hippie” concept that is not necessary for improving their eating habits.
Even though the cost presents a challenge in the economy of families there are some solutions for acquiring organic foods. According to the Hartman Group survey, it demonstrated that most organic customers are women, and the higher rate of consumption is by a “single woman with one or two children, with at least a college education” (Fromartz, 246). Though the price of organic food is high, “more than a half of ‘heavy’ buyers of organic food earned less than $30,000 a year” (Fromartz, 246). It is not necessary have a big salary to acquire organic food, as many people think that only organic products is for high class, this argument is not totally true because a big portion of heavy users earned a middle economic class, and usually women feel worry more about food (Fromartz, 246).
Another alternative is mix products as explained before; people buy organic baby food or items that they think are more valuable. Many farmers’ markets offer better prices than the supermarkets. For example, on Saturdays mornings the Franklin Farmers Markets could be a good option for families who want to compare prices. For example, each organic apple cost $3.65 in Publix supermarket, but in the farmer market costs $3.0. There are a lot of fruits, vegetables and beef options that people can buy during the farmers’ markets.
To sum up, this research paper shows that organic food is growing due to the many benefits for health and the economy over conventional food. In addition, farmers help the environment with good methods for growing crops. However, the economy of organic food has a premium cost in the purchase moment where the consumer needs to evaluate spending less money in the checkout for conventional food as compared to the best options for the future possible consequences for their health (Weber, 56). Even though there is a high cost, there are solutions for acquiring organic food at a better price – for example, in the farmers’ markets.
Furthermore, it is necessary that the government support the growth of organic farms through subsides or tax cuts, as well as programs to teach a better administration and expanding land. In addition, the government and families should support initiatives that motivate organic food purchases from local farmers.