THE ONLY WAY LEFT FOR THE LITTLE GUY TO MAKE MONEY IN FARMING TODAY.
If you follow farming news at all, you might get the idea that farming is in trouble to one degree or another. Profits suffer. The health of the soil suffers. The honey bees suffer. And there are so few farmers today, that apparently “farmers’ does not even show up on the US Government census forms anymore.
One hundred years ago, farming was everywhere. Thousands upon thousands of people were in farming. And if you were not into farming… it seemed almost everyone had a back yard garden.
But farming has changed over the years. Not necessarily for the good. I blame the bankers and the tractor for changing and ruining farming over the last 50… 60… 70 years.
Here’s how I see the situation and how I feel we can change things for the good.
Top Ten (13) Reasons Why 300 “One-Acre Farms” Are Better Than One “Three-Hundred Farm”.
Note: These reasons are in no particular order.
- Diversity of plants. If you have one big three-hundred acre farm, you have a tendency to plant one crop all over the place. 300 acres of wheat… 300 acres of soy beans… 300 acres of cabbage… is not diversity of plants. Why is this important to note? Because nature is diverse. And when you cram one crop into your 300-acre farm, you are creating a dynamic that generates it own set of problems. Diversity tends to solve nature’s problems. One kind of plant (weed?) loves this kind of soil and tends to find it. That kind of plant may feed off of that soil or it may heal that kind of soil. Or deplete it. Another kind of pest loves this or that plant and when they find it, they are so happy they procreate and that pest is everywhere. If you have only one crop on 300 acres, you may be battling pests that are sure to find your crop a tasty feast. Then, you’re tempted to buy… buy… buy… pesticides. And the pesticide manufacturer is thrilled. But a diversity of plants is good for the soil… and good for keeping pests at bay.
- Diversity of customers. If you have a big, 300-acre farm, and you tend to grow ONE CROP… you tend to have one customer. And that one customer is Walmart, or Costco… or the Chicago Commodity Exchange, etc. If you sell your one crop to one customer, you are at their mercy regarding the price you get. They are going to sell your crop down the line until it finally gets to the dinner table. From the grower to the wholesaler to the retailer to the dinner table means you may get 30¢ a pound while the family eventually pays $2 bucks a pound or more. How do you have a diversity of customers and keep them happy? Most likely you have them and keep them by having a diversity of crops to offer.
- One Famer VS 300 Farmers. This note is about having 300 self-employed people vs one farmer. The country is having an employment problem right now. Some sources say unemployment is currently above 25%. It’s a problem that mirrors the great depression of the 1930’s. The reason we don’t see it as a big problem is that so many people are on government assistance handouts. Welfare, Chip cards. Disability. Family assistance. Social security payments. Section 8 housing and more. They are getting paid not to work. It’s predictable to say the free handouts won’t last forever. When the current system breaks down, all the unemployed will suddenly find the motivation to get off the couch and find something productive to do. If you have 300 one-acre farms you tend to have 300 self-employed people. This will help these 300 people create their own life and solve their own problems and not be dependent on government handouts.
- The Tax Man Loves The 300-Acre Farm. Pests are not the only critter who loves the big farm. The diversity of 300 “one-acre farms” is too much work for most pests. They don’t have the time to swarm. They’re too busy trying to find their favorite food. It’s also easy to imagine the tax collector would rather collect from one big farmer than find, and collect from 300 small guys.
- Bankers Love The Big Farm Too. When you have a big operation, you’ll need big buildings, big tractors, big combines, etc. And if you don’t have the capital to get that equipment, the banker is more than thrilled to make you his slave. Under our current system of things the banker prints the money, loans it to you and charges you interest for the rest of your life. On more than one occasion throughout history farmers have lost the farm to the bankers when there was only a few months left on the mortgage payment. Twicky, twicky, twicky. You borrow the money to buy the big equipment, the big guys are happy to sell you big stuff. They are in bed with the bankers.
- 300 Brains To Feed Thousands of Hungry Tummies. I’m sure that this article will not result in thousands of big farms shutting down and turning into small farms. But I am saying that 300 small farmers with 300 brains can solve thousands of problems that big farmers would never consider. Vitamins, minerals, protein, tastes, diversity, weather problems, distribution, marketing, pests, soil health, cycles in nature, long-term thinking, planning, and most importantly being able to respond quickly changes that always happen. Changes in weather, laws, demand, economics, etc. 300 brains are better that one brain.
- The Birds and The Bees Need 300 Small Farms. Let’s say we love birds and bees. Well, they need a diverse diet just like we do. You can’t expect a hive of bees who have a “mono-diet”… like a diet of only almond blossoms, to have a balanced immune system that keeps them healthy for the long run. Bees get lazy too. And if they are handed a platter of just one delicious diet item, there might be bad consequences.
- 300 Chances Of Delicious Food Variety. The big farms need big trucks to deliver the food to the big super markets. Under such a system, dinner plates suffer from a lack of diversity. But what if the big trucks stop running? What if the current distribution system collapses? What if the truckers can’t buy gas? I know that gas prices have been going down of late. But that is no guarantee of distribution strength. Long term, falling gas prices might mean gasoline producers stop drilling and gearing up for the future. Local, small farms could be just the thing to solve this problem. Plus, 300 small, local farmers would naturally offer variety that Mr. Big Farmer just can’t accommodate. Garlic, potatoes, tomatoes, lavender, lillacs, sunflowers, arugula, lettuce, variety is important. Small and local can insure we get what we need.
- Socially? 300 Small Farms is Good For Your Mental Health too. It just can’t be good for ya, to be disconnected from your food source. If you don’t know how your hamburger is grown, process, developed and delivered to your plate… you’re missing out on a big aspect of life. The social life of having many small farms means we tend to love one another much more than if we all live in a big city utopia (dystopia?) and push a button to get our food. Small farming encourages people to talk to each other, sharing, helping, trading, solving problem together, etc. When folks move away from the farm to the city, we lose language too. We all know what it means when our “wi-fi is down”. But who knows what a “egg-sucking dog” is? Social media online is one thing, but social life in a rural, small-farming community is vitally different. It would be easy to argue that one form of socializing is more harmful and fraught with problems than the other. And beside mental health, small farming is better for your physical health too. Why? Because big-time farmers tend to use poisons to kill plants and pests that small farmers with diversity don’t have to deal with.
- The only advantage a 300-Acre farm might have is in raising big animals. Cows, sheep, buffalo, pigs even chickens… need a big farm. It’s plain wrong to stuff thousands of those animals into small factory-farms. The stink should tell you something. Joel Salatin has a big farm. But he runs his farm as if it were a small farm. He does not rely on one big-buyer. He has thousands of customers. He does not crowd the animals into a small, tight space. No. He runs his animals around his acreage in a daily basis. No manure ponds. His is the sweetest smelling farm in Virginia.
- Beneficial insects need the diversity of 300 small farms. They just can’t compete with the harmful insects who love the big, one-crop farms. Lady bugs, and other insect-eating insects (praying mantis?) need diversity. Note: When you spray poisons to kill the harmful pests, it kills the beneficial insects too. And guess what? When you spay to kill ‘em all, the harmful insects seem to recover faster than the beneficials. And thus, you make the problems worst.
- One mistake by a big-time farmer can ruin him and ruin the dinner plates of thousands of families. But if you have 300 small farmers, you can have many mistakes made and things tend to work themselves out. You’ve likely heard about lettuce and vegetables recalls because of E. Coli and other nasty things that worry everyone who hates to vomit. It’s another good argument for the future of small farms.
- Now, here is my last point for the moment: Small time farming can be way more profitable than big farms. There are 1-acre farms scattered across the country that sell $100,000 a year in produce. Big farms can often make as little as $300 per acre per year. Big farms don’t employ very many people. They can’t afford it at that level of income. Their only hope is that the big tractors and harvesters don’t break down and the migrant workers show up. They are a slave to the bankers who loaned the money to scale up. The small farmer’s advantage is that he does not need tractors, harvesters, etc. He can do everything by hand. He can produce more crops per foot by using wide beds instead of narrow rows. He can get more beautiful, tasty crops with compost and mulching. He can plant and harvest up to 7 crops per year compared to the big farmer only getting one crop per year. Thus, his one-acre can produce as much as 20 acres of food by the big-time farmer and his tractor. Small-time farming will have it’s role in the future of our world. It only makes sense.
Sajo Farm Boy.