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should farm size matter in who should grow what?  RSS feed

 
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should farm size matter in who should grow what? for example if the bigger farms grew all the high profit crops that require little acreage to make good profit then would this mean that the 10 acre or smaller farms would be out of business? like should there be a regulatory body that says that if you own 100 or more acres than you should only be allowed to grow staple crops or do livestock while if you own smaller tracks of land than you grow the vegetables and fruits and other high cash crops? this way everyone stays in business? some bigger farms grow hay for example which requires lots of acreage.
 
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This is a political question really, how much should the state dictate what you do on your land? While there are some advantages  to the concept, in reality this reduce would farmers to state-mandated peasant status. Some nameless paper-pusher in a distant city office telling you how best to use your land. Maybe you can see an eroding hillside on your land that needs some forest? Pass it by the state officials and see if they say yes. Not an appealing idea to me.

I knew of an example small vs big years ago, in an arable farming district in NZ South Island East Coast, big flat easy land for cropping, there were a heap of big farms making small returns from grain production in a low return period.  Right in the middle there was an old shed with an acre or so, new owner put it all into flowers and dried them themselves,and made more income of 2 acres than the 1000 acre grain farm next door. To me the best option is let the market run to some extent, and encourage innovation and diversification. My feeling is the state should stay out of it except for environmental protection legislation.
 
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Most laws are put in place to fix a problem, that has gotten out of hand after calm phones calls and meeting.

Do you see a current problem of big farmers taking over the patented produce of small farmers?
Can you list a few, can you list other solution other than laws.
Because a law to protect the small guys is almost always amended in a few years to help the big guys and punish that small guy, who cant lobby.

But lets give the example of organic or food forest or silvo-pasture. Should we make it a crime for big farmers to use more cover crops and swales and intercropping, how is this helping society?

You said expensive farm product so maybe you meant berry, herbs, mushroom and flowers.
And really the money isn't made from the actual produce but from value added product, marketing and niche market.

Don't sell your water to the huge city dept of water to give to the poor part of town, for 1cent a gallon.
Sell it only in the richest part of town, call it alkaline and make it value added by infusing some blueberry flavor and maybe some water kefir probiotic. Now sell that water for $40/gal aka $5/bottle

If that can be done with water and wheatgrass you can do it with your produce.

That said the government was already thinking of you and made it where you the small farmer can trademark your specific cultivar that you have on your farm.
And when you label your produce you have laws that protect it, and whatever secret ways you process your produce to add value you can get a patent for it too.

Maybe the law should fine regular buyers who buy soda and organic food from big farmers. (A few cities are 'fining' tobacco and soda, so why not big/fake organic food)

I do get upset when big corp petition the government to add Allyl Isothiocyanate to the list of synthetic substance that can be added to my food and still qualify as 'organic'.
https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/Allyl%20Isothiocyanate%20Petition.pdf
https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic/national-list/a
 
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In principle, Big Agro fulfils the international commodity market, whilst small farms like market gardens fulfil local needs.

In practice however, some governments subsidise Big Agro farmers to grow uneconomic crops and may support dumping them on the world market. And/or, they put in place tariffs to prevent cheaper commodities entering their country – this screws all the countries that have a free market approach.

Subsidies and tariffs also kill innovation and R & D as it encourages complacency, driving  domestic farmers bankrupt in the long term when government can no longer support the grossly unprofitable and expensive practice.

Market gardeners were once the poor-cousins, supplying the basics to nearby towns, and maybe have a road-side stall to make a few extra bucks on the side.

But, in the last few decades, with the rise of the ‘clean and green’ movement, small acreage market gardeners can now aim to meet niche market demands – read: BIG money incomes. Things like micro-greens, growing fruit and vegetables that taste great because they’re not grown for ease of transport, and, pushing seasonal consumption of foods to gain the best flavours and nutrition. These things cannot be achieved by ‘in-bulk’ Big Ag. The city-farm (urban agriculture) movement is growing here.

So, farm size is an indicator of what a farmer should grow to be commercially successful.

I like Ben Waimata’s flower farming anecdote.

There is huge money in flowers, particularly the ‘fillers’ florists use to make a bunch of flowers pop e.g. silver, red, green foliage plants; ones with different textures and sculptural appeal. Also consider the humble Crocus sativus = saffron.

If a farmer neighbour decided to commercially grow flowers I’d probably propose marriage! Besides the inherent beauty of seeing the fields every day, those flowers will obviously attract millions of beneficial insects to improve my crops too – win/win.

Like traditional market gardens, modern permaculture is VERY similar to the ye olde pre-1940’s farming: there were many more farmers growing a broad variety of vegetable, fruit, grain, animals, or value added ones like sugar cane, to guarantee an income, safeguarded against weather and market prices.
 
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The way farm size works is on the principle of logistics, Take a standard "big" farm (these are in the 1 million acre range) for them to follow any form of organic farming would be impossibly expensive (which is why the USDA Organic standards include some sprays).
In California there are many vegetable growing big farms, some of which are currently under investigation because of the salmonella out break in Romaine lettuce. This points to some problems that have and do still occur when farms try to use cheaper items in their methods of growing.

I have, for years, read papers on how we must "feed the world", but when you look into the logistics of this mind set, it becomes apparent that the best way for the world to be fed is by local growers not by huge industrial farms, as the modern Ag. model insists be done.
Only when there is a local food supply, grown and taken to market, can the population have access to fresh food, which is mandatory for best nutrition value from any produce, the older any food gets, the less nutritional value it will have.

The small farmer can not only compete with the large farms that grow produce but they can actually out perform those huge enterprises simply because of the logistics involved.

Many of the 5 acre "market farms" are making better profits than the huge farms that provide the chain supermarkets.

Redhawk
 
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I think farm size matters but there are other things that matter more. Like the amount of labour the farmer has available (or is willing to handle), the capital investments (equipment etc.) the farmer is willing and able to make, lifestyle choices, interests and temperament of the farmer. Those are in my opinion more important factors than the amount of land per se.

There would be little point in forcing farmers to farm in a way that doesn't suit their interests or personality. For example, animals require a lot of year-round routine daily work and some people are just not that good at it. They can make excellent vegetable or berry growers though.
 
F Agricola
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:The way farm size works is on the principle of logistics, Take a standard "big" farm (these are in the 1 million acre range) for them to follow any form of organic farming would be impossibly expensive (which is why the USDA Organic standards include some sprays).
In California there are many vegetable growing big farms, some of which are currently under investigation because of the salmonella out break in Romaine lettuce. This points to some problems that have and do still occur when farms try to use cheaper items in their methods of growing.

I have, for years, read papers on how we must "feed the world", but when you look into the logistics of this mind set, it becomes apparent that the best way for the world to be fed is by local growers not by huge industrial farms, as the modern Ag. model insists be done.
Only when there is a local food supply, grown and taken to market, can the population have access to fresh food, which is mandatory for best nutrition value from any produce, the older any food gets, the less nutritional value it will have.

The small farmer can not only compete with the large farms that grow produce but they can actually out perform those huge enterprises simply because of the logistics involved.

Many of the 5 acre "market farms" are making better profits than the huge farms that provide the chain supermarkets.

Redhawk




Yes, I agree totally. I was having a discussion with a work colleague who is a fairly recent arrival from India.

Although I’ve not checked the validity of the data, he advised that India, with a population of about 1.4 Billion people, currently grows sufficient food to feed its entire population.

Statistically, about 40% of them are vegetarian, a large percentage ‘infrequently’ eat meat. Starvation is uncommon, though good nutrition is a different matter.

If the comment is correct, even near correct, then that is truly incredible: so, farmers not only grow sufficient food to feed themselves, they also grow enough surplus to feed the community.

The other amazing thing is, since it’s a poor country, farming would have low dollar inputs but is exceedingly highly productive. That flies well in the face of Western Big Ag methodology, and would seem to support organic-based gardening techniques.
 
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When I do my classes on farming, I am proud to say that acreage does not matter to me at all...1 acre or 1000, all are welcome and I can teach to everyone.

When I get to the point on deciding on what to grow, I recommend doing what I did when I took over this farm in 2008: making a matrix.

For rows I listed every possible commodity I could think of, sheep, cows, broccoli, potatoes, mixed veggies, lamas...whatever I could think of. Then in the columns I listed such things as my knows like rainfall, terrain, equipment, interst, hostory, soil, buildings, etc. The bigger the matrix, and the more time you spend filling it out HONESTLY, the better. Don't fudge things a bit because you want to raise camels.

When I got all done, the best choice for my farm, based on what I had, and what hostorically grew her, as well as my interest in it...really everything, ended up being sheep. in short, I used a matrix to determine what was best for my farm. There is no way a government is going to be able to accurately determine that, administrations and policies change. It is a poor farm though that tries to cling to that, fighting itself. Farming is hard enough.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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India does indeed grow enough food to supply the population and they are one of the countries that has rejected the "Big Ag." methodology.
Monsanto went to India and pushed many of the farmers to use their methods, the government did a nutrition and taste study which upon completion it was determined that Modern methods of agriculture were not suitable for the country.
This happened because of several scientists from India decrying the expenses and extra equipment needed along with the loss of nutrients and flavor in the food stuffs being grown.
The same thing has occurred in Japan.
 
Nina Jay
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That matrix sounds really interesting, Travis! Very good idea to be as specific and honest with yourself as you possibly can, before deciding what to grow.

In one of his YT videos Curtis Stone (the urban farmer) gave the tip that when deciding what farm is right for you, one should think about the most boring tasks in each option. And if one thinks Okay, I can do that for 8 hours every day, then that is the direction to go. For example, in high value salad crop farming, think about washing and packing greens. That's what it's mostly about. If you think about the bed prep, seeding or other fun stuff only, you may be disappointed later.

I think that it's excellent advice but the trouble can be not knowing in advance, what job takes the longest time. Apprenticing would help, but it's not always possible. I'd really like it if authors/ proponents of the various farming models described their typical workweek in detail.
 
Ben Waimata
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Take a standard "big" farm (these are in the 1 million acre range)
Redhawk




Are 1 million acre farms very common in USA? Sounds like a lot of work!
 
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