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Old 04-13-2010, 10:12 AM
 
Location: Somewhere in northern Alabama
11,755 posts, read 27,341,127 times
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"One aspect that we have not covered though with teeny farms is crop losses. I am a sheep farmer and this year my lamb losses were extremely high...almost 60% due to weather and some genetic issues.Still I am of sufficiency size that I can weather that storm (pun intended) and still be profitable for the year. A teeny, tiny farm will not be able to do that. Even if we make the argument that we are talking veggie farming, will tiny farms be able to handle 2 months of rain like we had last summer...or handle a blight out break?Will the tiny farmers keep going when 100% of what they have worked so hard for is wiped out? Historically speaking...no unfortunately."

100% loss is fairly rare if you diversify enough that you don't have one income stream. My cousin has maple sugaring, cattle or goats depending on the market, and does custom cutting for other folks. Granted the farm isn't teeny tiny, but it the undivided family farm and is small by today's standards.

On basic gardening, our home garden has such a tremendous diversity of crops that we will have food unless a tornado hits, and even then might have some root vegetables to salvage.

Again, the concepts between large farms and small ones are different. A large farm using the economy of scale has a vertical integration of a particular product and does that exceptionally well. A small farm genrally has a horizontal integration of foodstuffs.
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Old 04-13-2010, 10:46 AM
 
Location: Sinking in the Great Salt Lake
11,323 posts, read 10,122,539 times
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Default So Do You Believe "Little Teeny Farms" Will Work?

It doesn't work if you are trying to feed your entire family by yourself on a quarter acre. But if everyone in your neighborhood is doing it and all growing different things, you would have a very different and quite workable dynamic. You could trade and barter for what you need with what you can produce (physical and labor) and the amount of land actually under cultivation would be much higher.

Groups usually do well, individuals usually don't. That's why humankind evolved to be social creatures.
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Old 04-13-2010, 12:25 PM
 
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--"Groups usually do well, individuals usually don't"-----

Maybe in a perfect world.

A banker friend of mine said about partnerships------" I urge everyone to get things in writing and to also have a written plan on how they will be disolved"

He stated in all the people he has dealt with in partnerships ( brothers,families) only 20% last.

I realize bartering is different than partnerships, but just becaus a guy may appear to think like you and wears a " floppy hat" .calls himself a " homesteader " doesn't mean he might not be a crook or a conivor.

I disagree with your blanket assumption.
Many co-ops have gone flat broke and the patrons lost money because of poor management decisions.
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Old 04-13-2010, 06:07 PM
 
Location: Interior AK
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I think one of the things that gets overlooked in a lot of discussions on the economics of agriculture is that we do not have a free market system. Not even by a long shot. Through government and big-business intervention, we very much have a manipulated market. And that includes the average cost of production, because the prices of most inputs are also fixed/manipulated. That's why the whole buying retail/selling wholesale anomaly cripples so many small commercial farmers. The system is currently set up, either intentionally or by accident, so that only large commerical farms can be profitable because they can afford all the bulk discounting on inputs and transportation, legal fees, licenses, insurance, taxes, etc etc ad nauseum. BUT if it were a truly free market, with no manipulation of the price of inputs or outputs, and qaulity of goods even had a part in the equation, then the entire agricultural scene would self-correct and a small farmer would have the opportunity to be just as successful as a large one within scale. Bigger is not always better, there is a law of diminishing returns, and that would kick in if the market wasn't controlled.

So, from an Economist's standpoint, a small farm in the current system has a very low chance of commercial viability. But that's assuming that the market remains as it currently is. I don't think that a global agricultural economy and a localized agricultural economy can co-exist effectively... the big guy will always hold more sway and win out in the end. But if we decentralized and localized a bit more, wresting control back from the "powers that be", smaller individual farms or "community" farmholds would be able to support themselves (and even the big cities if there were enough of them) while still making a profit. Changes in the tax codes would need to be made, some of the regulations and such would need to be revamped not to favor the big guys, and people might have to deal with the fact that they can't have strawberries in November unless they wanted to pay an import tax on them or steep prices for the extra-expensive of greenhouse growing... but it is doable. There are several centuries of human history that show that small-scale farming is both adequate for supply and profitable (usually to the land owner not the actual farmer, though)... it wasn't until centralized industrialization came on the scene that things started to really get off-kilter.

I guess I sit somewhere between BrokenTap's pragmatism and an Idealist Back-to-the-Lander. I realize that in the current system, small farmers are economically in jeopardy... but I do believe that jeopardy is artificial, and needs to be corrected. Sure a big agri-business can pump out a gazillion bushels of tomatoes using some questionable and unsustainable methods, and they can ship them all over for cheap all year round since the market is fixed... but at what cost really? There are millions of dollars in cost hidden behind that grocery-store price... not just the "retail" add-ons and deduction for bulk, but all the tax and utility cuts that the big businesses get, that the tax payers ultimately have to pay for anyway. Would that $1/lb tomato really look like as good a deal when you realize it's actually closer to $2.50 when you add the other hidden costs in? Wouldn't that $1.75 for locally grown look more reasonable and a better deal then?

Industrial rules of scale really cause lots of problems with agriculture... monocropping is very bad in ag, as BrokenTap explains with crop losses, yet that is was the industrial machine demands so you can get the bulk discounts of scale. Diversification has smaller individual yields, but an inherent redundancy, and the possibility of increased overall yields... but it doesn't fit into the market as it is currently structured.
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Old 04-15-2010, 01:21 PM
 
194 posts, read 209,273 times
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I think there may be a lesson on this from the Soviet Union. When communal farms were the norm they were vastly less productive than private plots which tended to be quite small.

"In 1988 Their private plots average .1 or .3 hectares depending on the region. In 1988, private farming accounted for some 2.7% of the nation's sown area but produced some 23% of the nation's total agricultural output. In particular, these private plots produced 58% of the nation's potatoes, 29% of its vegetables, 54% of its fruits and berries, 28% of its meat and 20% of its milk."

Certainly the communal system was inefficient by nature but when less than 3% of the cultivated land produces 23% of the crop that tells you something. The whole thing is way more complicated than these numbers make it look but they are pretty stark. Certainly without the production of these tiny plots a lot more people in the Soviet Union would have starved.
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Old 04-15-2010, 02:01 PM
 
Location: In transit...
378 posts, read 491,328 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wanderer0101 View Post
Certainly the communal system was inefficient by nature but when less than 3% of the cultivated land produces 23% of the crop that tells you something. The whole thing is way more complicated than these numbers make it look but they are pretty stark. Certainly without the production of these tiny plots a lot more people in the Soviet Union would have starved.
You are right. That's how people survived in the 90's when economy collapsed, these tiny plots fed many.
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Old 04-15-2010, 09:54 PM
 
Location: Great State of Texas
75,276 posts, read 36,449,990 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IndigoLight View Post
You are right. That's how people survived in the 90's when economy collapsed, these tiny plots fed many.
Same in Cuba..the focus turned to the small farmer who could better cope in a collapse. They also turned organic due to shortage of fertilizers and pesticides..one good side effect IMHO.

Agriculture in Cuba - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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