Size Does Matter


Unlike employment or resource development, housing or energy, when it comes to the food sector practitioners of community economic development and social economy seem bent on scaling down, not up. We have grown intensely aware of the impact a massive, impersonal food system has on the environment, nutrition, animal husbandry, and even the human spirit.

Unfortunately, this hypersensitivity to Big Food is tempting us overrate the capacity of Small Food to get thousands of Canadians fed. Too many food initiatives are confined to securing produce as cheaply as possible from local farmers to supplement the diets of low-income households. To make local food systems work (as they did until the 1960s), every initiative must serve to increase the share that farmers receive from each dollar that consumers spend on food.

Two strategies are essential. First, small, specialized farms must integrate vertically to take charge of entire supply chains, from growing and processing through to packaging and sales. Second, local food initiatives must reduce per unit costs by engaging far more partners and consumers, especially among medium- and high-income groups. If Small Food is not "big enough" to compete with giant food corporations, they are sure to take its market share.

We know how big is too big. But how small is too small?
Cabaj, Paul
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