Lifting up the local farmers and food producers who are pioneers in sustainability is a fundamental pillar of our work. These farmers are protecting our waterways from runoff and erosion, providing for the well-being of farm animals, raising food without harmful chemicals, and making wholesome food available for us to eat at local farmers’ markets.
Unfortunately, these farmers face many hurdles and threats that were unheard of a few decades ago.
Today’s agricultural sector is largely one of corporate concentration – a few corporations have control over most of our food system. This concentrated corporate power has made small, independent farmers vulnerable to unfair practices and other forms of abuse, and forced many off of their land. Independent livestock farmers in the area, for example, have virtually no options for the slaughter, processing and distribution of their products. This unchecked power hurts rural economies and threatens our health, land and waterways.
Small-scale farmers are also disadvantaged in obtaining farm subsidies. According to a study by the Heritage Foundation, subsidies are disproportionately given to industrial-sized farms over smaller farms. These subsidies ultimately benefit large agricultural corporations more than the actual farmers that sell to them. According to the US Department of Agriculture, in 2014 only one-fifth of commodity payments that year went to small sized farms; the rest primarily went to mid-scale and large-scale farms.
Local farmers across the region face hurdles making it even more important to invest in practices and policies that alleviate these challenges, while rewarding good stewardship and sustainable practices.
In Maryland, Fair Farms has supported volunteer days and championed a number of legislative initiatives and regulations that support farmers who are farming sustainably. For instance, the Food Donation Pilot Program will allow farmers to donate their leftover foods at the end of a farmers market and receive a tax credit in return, with double the credit for organic produce. Another piece of legislation we supported will create the Healthy Soils Program, which will promote agricultural practices that increase the biological activity and carbon sequestration potential of Maryland soils. Our goal is to provide incentives and financial support for farmers who implement healthy soils practices. In addition to protecting our soils and increasing the nutritional value of our food, these practices will also and sequester carbon, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.
We also aim to support new infrastructure projects that give farmers more options to process and distribute their food locally. Every farmer needs access to these facilities and equipment to harvest, store, process, and sell their products in a sustainable, fair and efficient way.
Fair Farms celebrates resilient farmers throughout the region who are farming against the grain – in spite of these major, system-wide challenges. Supporting these farmers is critical to achieving a sustainable food system and ensuring a healthy food supply for future generations to come.