Wednesday, 4 July 2012

in support of small farm operations

The future of farming sustainably to feed the world's population is beyond the scope of these posts. But it is a question that should be of interest to all of us.

 Every time we see a farmer interviewed on TV they are complaining. And every farmer I talk is too. But the big difference between these two farmers is the scale and type of operation they have. The farmers we see on TV tend to have huge operations based on monocultures or one kind of livestock. Their complaints are always about the weather but usually also government policy and agricultural subsidies. The farmers I talk to have small mixed farms often including market gardens, livestock and some grain production. And their complaints are always about the weather and the fact they have to buy wholesale and sell retail.

So the vagaries of the weather is a huge issue for farmers. It must take a toll to work in a profession where one has so little control.

However the small farmer has much more control than the farmer of a large scale single commodity operation. In fact, per acre, small farms are much more productive than large farms.  In The Case for Small Farms, An Interview with Peter Rosset, he says "For every country for which data is available, smaller farms are anywhere from 200 to 1,000 percent more productive per unit area."

This year the heat in March and then the cold weather in May has made for a poor crop of hay. So all the beef farmers I know are worrying about whether there will be enough to last the winter.
Baling the hay in the field

And there has been a lot in the news about how devastating the same weather conditions have been for the apple crop this year.  So the price of apples will go up for consumers but it doesn't mean there will be any more money in the pockets of farmers.

But if the farmer doesn't have all his eggs in one basket then there is a good possibility that other things will be thriving. What's good for the goose is not always good for the gander...

At my modest level, this year is a challenge for growing greens. Both the heat and lack of moisture means they tend to bolt quickly and seeds are very reluctant to germinate. I'm experimenting with alternating rows of bolted lettuces with rows of new seedings. The bolted lettuces should provide some shade for the new greens. At least that's the theory...

When you need to leave space for machinery to get through then rows can be close together and as the plants grow they end up providing shade which also helps conserve moisture.
Beets ready to be thinned
 Rainbow, Ruby, Lucullus and Orange Fantasia Chard

This heat is good for tomatoes and potatoes although they do like sufficient moisture when flowering - which they are now. So if we don't get any rain some hand watering from the rain barrels may be required.
Tomatoes flowering
Banana potatoes in the foreground, Blue potatoes in the middle and sunflowers at the back

And sometimes rather fighting it, going with nature can have surprising rewards. Here are a couple of links to eating daylilies.,

Daylily flowers and buds

A very moody sky on July 1

1 comment:

  1. Best post yet!
    I believe your greens will be fine because remember that summer when the whole province failed to produce spinach but your spinach crop was a huge success?