Years ago, our ancestors knew farming was a viable career path. Today, that may well be coming around again.
Ken and I are frequently running into people that are very concerned about food for their families, how they can save money and how they can protect themselves.
A recent newspaper story that I read stated how there are many people who are seeing farming as one of the more promising areas for economic development. Imagine that! This was absolutely wonderful news to read. Why? Because we have noticed this here in our small town. Many people we have spoken to, or who we have noticed in our travels, are planning a garden this year probably because they have the space for it, they are sick and tired of the grocery store prices, and it just makes them feel more self-sufficient and secure about their situation.
A few decades ago, farmers were numerous — in 1947, there were about 25 million of them nationwide, representing about 18 percent of the population, Today, it’s closer to 2 percent, and most of them are over the age of 60.
The reality of things is that if the land is fertile, even people with small parcels could support themselves, or make a serious dent in their food requirements.
“From 1 to 2 acres of good pasture are needed in the Northeast for each dairy cow or beef steer. An acre of good pasture will support 6 to 8 sheep, 10 to 15 hundred pound hogs or 400 to 500 pullets [young chickens],” they wrote. “… From the crops grown on an acre of good land in the Northeast, it is possible to produce yearly about 2200 pounds of… milk, 205 pounds of mutton, 216 pounds of beef or 120 dozen eggs.”
Going back to small farming, though, requires resurrecting an infrastructure that can support the farmers. For example, the facilities to process meat, transportation for the meat and produce. Even though the farms would be selling locally, they still need transportation. How about folks to repair farm equipment, folks to take care of farm animals etc.? Farming, even on a small scale, provides jobs for other related businesses as well.
I love this quote from one of our local farmers. “the food isn’t the only thing: a critical part of farming today is educating people about the importance of local food and farmers, the need to return to eating in season, how to prepare and preserve fresh food, the health risks of chemicals in industrial agriculture, and what really goes into food production. I think it’s time for people to get back to their own roots and enjoy the produce, It also makes people a lot more healthy without all the salt, preservatives and chemicals.”
“A wide variety of CSAs (community supported agriculture), farm networks, and related small businesses are taking root all over the area, with some of them providing meat, produce, and other goods; others providing starter plants and skill training to novice farmers; and still others providing the services to farmers to market their products.”
I could remember years ago when I started milling my own flour, many people would just get a confused look on their face. They couldn’t really understand why I even wanted to do that. More and more are understanding now. This is what it’s all about folks, getting back to our roots will put us at an advantage in more ways than one. It is to our advantage to have greater food security locally. “…do it soon so that old farmers are still alive to pass on their knowledge.”
“Instead of growing vast acres of one crop, as the factory farms do, small farmers grow a variety of things and often raise livestock at the same time, usually rotating them annually to avoid depleting the soil. (The livestock also helps fertilize the soil, keep it turned so it doesn’t harden, and remove plant pests.)” Think about it. Growing a variety of crops reduces your risk of losing all of your crops due to natural disaster and will also give you an income throughout the year as opposed to the one-crop factory farms.
I don’t know about all of you, but Ken and I saw plenty of folks who built chicken coops in their yard or were raising goats in their yards (even near where we used to live in suburbia of a major city). I really recommend you start now. It’s going to be a learning process, but having a small, medium or large garden will help you. It may even help you financially, and you will love the way your produce tastes, it’s health benefits, and self-sufficiency benefits that it brings. Perhaps some of your neighbors may even purchase from you or barter with you!