Why we REALLY NEED more small farms

We've had a tough year on our small farm. Without going in to details, let's just say that due to some extreme weather, this season will not total up as a winner. We took all our usual precautions, but in the end Mother Nature decides.

However, New Terra Farm will continue, because I believe there will come a time when communities will REALLY NEED small local farms to survive.

Here's why I encourage and support small farms however I can:

1. Industrialized agriculture collapses rural economies in the same way Big Box stores collapse small town economies.

Big Farming and Big Business operate the same way; by driving out the 'small operators' that are the foundation of our communities. The 'web' of interdependent small businesses and small farms is destroyed, and replaced by cheap goods and cheap jobs. Money no longer stays in the community and circulates; and sometimes profits are exported to foreign ownership.

A number of years ago an anthropologist named Walter Goldschmidt conducted a study that compared two communities in California, one surrounded by small-scale family farms, the other encircled by large corporate farms.

He found that “in towns surrounded by family farms, the income circulated among local business establishments, generating jobs and community prosperity. Where family farms predominated, there were more local businesses”

” Small organic farms required between 20 and 100 percent more labor per hectare than large factory farms, thus hiring more people and creating more jobs. Smaller diversified farms provide more support for community food retailers, farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture projects. They also ensure biodiversity”

In other words, small farms are good for the local community, and good for the environment as well.

2. Food scarcity is closer than you think

Here's a quote from a recent newspaper article: "The British government has a new strategy to ensure a sustainable, secure food supply for the next 20 years. Canada’s political leaders, by contrast, haven’t even begun to talk about this."

The article goes on to say that demand for food continues to outstrip supply, driven partly by the changing diet of countries such as China.

What this means is 'developed' countries like Canada will soon no longer be able to rely on cheap food imports to feed their population.

The article also mentions that agriculture — particularly conventional fertilizers and livestock production — is a major contributor to global warming, which in turn threatens crops, land quality and water supplies. The concept of “food security” must now include environmental sustainability.

3. It's not lack of food, its food distribution that's the problem.

An April 2008 report from the UN condemns industrial agriculture, and calls for small-scale organic farming, More than 400 scientists crafted the 2,500-page report, which is a sobering account of the failure of industrial farming.

The report calls for a fundamental change in the way we do farming, to address soaring food prices, world hunger, social inequities and environmental disaster. The key message of the report is that small-scale farmers and organic, agro-ecological methods are the way forward to solve the current food crisis and meet the needs of local communities.

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So, IMHO, the handwriting is on the wall. Industrial 'agri-business' is the way of the dinosaur. Small, local and sustainable is the future. We can either choose that path, and ease the transition, or wait until environmental and economic disaster force it upon us.

I don't have a lot of faith in the vision of our elected leaders (reference the article above). So it will be up to communities and small farmers to work cooperatively to create the future food supply model. And if you can't BE a small farmer, support one by joining a CSA or shopping at your local farmers' market.

See also:

Can organic market gardening feed the world?


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