Saturday, April 10, 2010

Is there a problem with teeny farms?

Very interesting article here on The Problem with Little Teeny Farms. the author may have a point but I have a problem with economic number crunchers who dont get their hand dirty to realize it looks different in real life then on paper...


Jules @ MoonCat Farms said...

I'm really curious where this guy thinks his food comes from. As soon as I read that he's basically a banker from Los Angeles, I could see why he has a problem with lowly farmers. (I'm betting he was the son who didn't inherit the farm?)

I'm from the Central San Joaquin Valley in California which happens to produce most of the food for this country and part of the world. It is a huge maze of large conglomorate farms, small family farms and some teeny ones like ours.

Many of the teeny ones or small farmers are part of co-ops who sell their produce as a group. Hate to break it to this "expert", but I guarantee some of his food was grown on some of these small farms..

The farmers here have problems with water shortages due in large part to most of our water being sent via the Aquaduct to the "proper city" LOS ANGELES because the city-dwellers don't understand what "sustainable" and "conservation" actually mean.

For some unknown, stupid reason the government passed a bill decades ago to send water down there instead of keeping it local where it will do the most good. WE don't wash our trucks daily here or have 1/2 acre lawns that are watered daily.

It is an ugly and long on-going battle that will probably never end, especially when ignorant "authorities" who have, like you said never got dirt under their manicured nails, spout off about things they have no real knowledge of.

Thanks for letting me rant about this touchy subject that really does affect all of us in some way.

(I usually don't like to post my "fits", but he really touched a nerve.)

One20 Farm and BluGiRlinK said...

"As soon as I read that he's basically a banker from Los Angeles, I could see why he has a problem with lowly farmers. (I'm betting he was the son who didn't inherit the farm?)"

love this Jules!
Yes at first I was bummed "maybe he is right?!" than I realized he doesnt get it. the city people get waht they want due to their voice and money. Sadly most dont know where their food comes from and dont care as long as the 'magic' freezer truck makes it appear.
I just have to keep believing the little bit our family can do makes a difference!

frijolitofarmer said...

I've been meaning to pick apart this same article on my own blog ever since Mayda pointed it out to me on the OEFFA list. His conclusions are SO WRONG. I haven't finished the whole two-article piece he wrote on the topic, but I was told that at one point the author mused, "Can you imagine raising fifty-two chickens on a quarter acre?" I laughed out loud, given that I'd had 440 chickens on a quarter-acre before with plenty of room to free-range.

I actually found his numbers encouraging. For example, his assertion that you could grow all your food on 3000 sq.ft. He went from that to asserting that you can't grow your own food with less than 10 acres, but if you break it down, you could grow your own and have enough to sell with just three acres.

He inflated it by saying you'd need at least two acres for firewood. Firewood? The question was whether you can grow your own food, not whether you can be totally self-sufficient. He didn't talk about acreage for growing cotton for all your own clothes and such, so why firewood? Plant another 3000 sq. feet and feed the woodcutter. That's why we have cities, so people can trade their surpluses easily.

He also went from talking about suburban houses on an eighth of an acre to saying you'd need a whole acre for your house and yard. If you fluff the numbers like that, you can make them say anything you want.

Oh, another one: he said if we divide up all the farmland in America evenly, each family would have 7.5 acres. After determining that each family could grow all their own food on just three acres, that leaves 7.5 for cash crops. Doesn't look like a problem to me.

The real question is how we want to define "earning a living." If you grow all your own food, educate your own kids, you're in good health, you don't have to commute, you own your house outright, you don't pay income tax, and you have no utility bills or debt...who needs more than $10K a year? You can earn that on one extra acre.

frijolitofarmer said...

Correction: That should have been 4.5 of 7 acres left over for cash crops if three are used to grow your own family's food.

Anonymous said...

Not much to add to what fritolitofarmer said, all of which seems well-reasoned, except that the "Teeny Farms" author seems to make an infinite number of common assumptions, not only in his numbers but in his biases:

For example, when he writes, "just talk to a real farmer about what he thinks about a quarter-acre farm," he betrays his bias that farming is only farming when done on a larger scale. This is his argument, of course, but his separating small growers from farming is just ideology in the same way that separating workers from "the company" is. See John Fiske on the latter.

For another example, he calls self-growing a "suburban fantasy," but how long has it been since production was a significant part of self-definition in the suburbs? I would argue that the suburbs are not generally self-defined as a sites of production but rather as a recess from production.

See Wendell Berry's The Unsettling of America, which convincingly debunks most of the sort of arguments this guy is making. And see the industrial third world for the supposed "benefits" of the big system he's defending, which seems to assume that a stick shack city without gardens is infinitely preferable to a stick shack on a couple acres of fertile land.

The bias here, as with virtually everything in our culture, lies in the assumption that dependency on consumer capitalism is permanent, infinitely productive, moral, preferable, inevitable, the sum total of present and future.