For me, I am inspired by people trying something new. That's what I like to read about. When someone saw something neat, or maybe they saw something that everyone said was too hard or impossible, and they tried it anyway. That's what inspires me.
About the big vs small farm thing. I think large farms are important. I also think it's important to know that most large farms have too much invested in the current style of agriculture to risk a sudden change to other methods that may or may not work for them. But what they can do is make small changes if those changes are seen to be worth the effort. Try something on a small scale, then if it works, scale it up slowly over several years. My personal feelings are that a family or small group of people can manage a few hundred acres quite well, so long as they take the time to observe the land
under their guidance.
As I move towards Gerthood
, I find I interact less and less with people. I'm really not a people person, so in many ways, I don't mind. However, I also feel I'm failing my social responsibility. I'm doing some pretty nifty things here, regionally adapting plants and creating landraces, growing squash (a high water
crop) with zero irrigation in a drought. Stuff like that. As I discover more and more things, I think I would like to work with a large farmer to develop these ideas on a larger scale.
The summer before last, our city
water supply was running out. It was hot, it was dry, it had been 8 months since the last rain and we very nearly went on a full outdoor water usage ban. Several cities did do that and it was havoc. The construction industry couldn't make cement, the farmers couldn't water their crops, that sort of thing. During this time, I drove by several organic CSA farms. They all had their sprinklers going at full force, every time I went by. I thought to myself, if the water is shut off, then most of these people will lose their farms. Here I am, growing a huge bumper crop of squash on 5 minutes of drip irrigation every second day because I choose the right variety of squash to grow and I grew it in the right conditions. This recent summer, they needed zero irrigation.
I thought to myself, how can we get larger farms doing stuff like this?
I thought, wouldn't it be great if one farmer tried one new thing each year?
Maybe it could work like this:
- I try something and get a general idea down on how it would work. Basically, I do the initial research for the farmer - since it's something I'm doing anyway.
- The farmer dedicates 100 square feet to trial this crop
- if it succeeds, the farmer dedicates a quarter acre
to this crop the next year
- if that works, then the area expands.
- maybe each year the farmer shares 5% of the harvest of crops I helped develop with me or maybe such and such a percent of the income in recognition of my continuing contributions to their farm. It becomes for me a residue income/food stream.
What if he tried three new things each year. 300 square feet dedicated to experimentation. What if he dedicated a quarter acre to 13 new things each year. What if two of them worked really well so he gave each of those things a quarter acre of their own to see if they would work on a larger scale.
We will have more drought again and the next time it may be that these farms have no outdoor water usage. All these farms, organic and otherwise, that depend on irrigation will have zero harvest. But maybe this intrepid farmer who dedicated an acre of his land to working with a Gert
like me, will harvest squash. Maybe that squash will be 10% of their potential total harvest in a good year - so not worth much at all. (so for example, they are growing all their regular crops, but 10% of the crops are this new squash based on my research - but due to drought, all the other crops fail).
But maybe, that 10% will earn him (or her) more money than a good harvest in a good year.
During peak season, local
, organic squash sells for about 25 cents a pound. If you can harvest squash early (which I did last year, the year with zero irrigation, I harvested squash TWO MONTHS earlier than other farmers), then the price for local, organic squash is about $4 to $6 a pound. On years when we have crop failures, local produce will at almost tripple the off season price. So, one could conceivably get $10 a pound for local, organic squash - and people would pay it!
Last winter, a head of cauliflower was $12 during peak season when it's usually only $4 a head. Organic, not-local cauliflower was almost $16 a head - and people were buying it! There was no local cauliflower but it was the time of year when the local cauliflower harvest would have happened. But what if there had been local cauliflower? How much could that have fetched?
But then we get back to the original problem. I don't like interacting with most humans. I don't know how to go about finding a large farmer to work with and how that kind of relationship would put food on my plate, or better still, money in my pocket. I worry, as a small-time amateur researcher, I would just get taken advantage of. Even if I could find someone interested in partnering with me, how would I know it's worth the effort?
I don't even know if it would work. I don't even know if I'm on topic anymore.
But what I do know, is maybe sharing is a starting point. At the very least, it will get others curious, so they try new things, which maybe they can share with us, which will inspire me... it's enlightened self interest to share what I can.