Does Organic Farming Present Greater Opportunities for Employment and Community Development than Conventional Farming? A Survey-based Investigation in California and Washington

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Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems

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Organic farming may present opportunities for job creation over and above those provided by conventional agriculture; this study is one of a small number to have empirically examined this proposition. We compared countywide averages of hired farm labor from the USDA’s 2007 Agricultural Census with data collected through a mirrored survey of organic farmers in the same counties in Washington and California. Based on mixed-effects linear models to estimate differences (if any) in employment between organic farms and countywide farm averages, our analysis indicated that organic farms employed more workers per acre (95% CI: 2–12% more). Further, a greater proportion (95% CI: 13–43% more) of hired labor on organic farms worked 150 days or more compared to the average farm, suggesting increased labor requirements—and potentially more secure employment—on organic farms. We conclude the present study by considering possible policy implications of our findings with regard to organic agriculture as part of regional economic development strategies.



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