Business Week has an article on the increasing viability of small farms, and the technology and new farming techniques used by small farmers. It features a small farmer who has been so successful he holds sold-out weekend seminars on his mehtods. Key quote:
"You wouldn't believe how many people come here who are desperate to exit their 'Dilbert' cubicles," he says.
I was at dinner recently with a group from a large Silicon Valley tech company and several had part-time farms, and the entire group was very interested in farming. Given the group and our location this surprised me, but the pull of farming runs deep in our country.
I posted earlier on the small, local farm trend and the book "Deep Economy". It has some great statistics on the growth of local farms and local farmers' markets (over 4400 today in the US versus 340 in 1970). A big part of the small farm movement is selling locally and developing community supported agriculture programs. The farmer described in the Business Week article only sells locally. He says:
"We want [prospective customers] to find farms in their areas and keep the money in their own community," he says. "We think there is strength in decentralization and spreading out rather than in being concentrated and centralized."
Small farming is clearly becoming more viable, although cost pressures and low price food imports continue to make it hard to be profitable. However, local farms have some real competitive advantages. One is you can go see the farm and see how the crops are grown. Given the problems with food safety and fake organic produce, it is nice to know where and how your food is being grown.
As someone who grew up in a small farming community, I find the small farm movement and the role technology is playing to make small farms viable fascinating. I have both fond and not so fond memories of farm work, so I think I will participate in this movement as a customer and let others do the farming.