When marijuana is finally legalized nationally there will be an immediate tidal wave of money and consolidating. Those that remain independent will eventually become big corporate farms themselves or perish.
I have been blessed by my god with a wonderful family and the land my ancestors tended to, so while the business landscape will change and this boom will bust my small American family farm will remain.
I am also optimistic that BigAg will continue to look towards YOU for the tools I need to reduce labor and pests. Collectively, you guys are amazing and I get literally giddy thinking of the things you keep inventing
Also forms like Community-supported agriculture seem to be working for some.
But - they are not focused and do not produce a specific crop. So not sure how this could work for a marijuana farm like yours.
None the less - being a proponent of localized farming and seasonal living, I would love to see some things working out for the likes of you and ensuring a free form of ownership and the ability to provide for you and your family.
Others proposed, that "winner takes it all" is a natural law. This would lead me to slavery is a natural law, as the winner would dictate the living conditions of the rest.
Absolut freedom (leading to winner takes it all situations) in the beginning (at least for me) necessarily leads to un-freedom for most in the end.
This is actually what prompted me to think about different forms of freedom (individual freedom vs. collective freedom, positive freedom (freedom to ...) vs. negative freedom (freedom from ...)).
For me this leads to some form of democratic end of freedom. The idea that my freedom ends were yours begins. Something like this. I did a longer post on this - but sadly in German, so it probably does not make too much sense here:
The problem with farming is that the total money you will make is fixed the moment land ownership is fixed. If you own X acres, you can make at max $$$ per year. Someone like my father is fine with that and lives his entire life on the farm. As time goes by other people sell their farms to larger farms and economy of scale makes the larger farms simply more efficient. They can get more $$$ from same acres for factors that someone like my father can not control.
Efficiency is a good thing that means less resources are used in producing per pound of the product which saves consumers more money and hence create more wealth. I still think it is possible for many of us to survive by doing things like co-operative farming. Basically many small farmers pool resources and land to act like a large company but while keeping the control of company and land still in your hands. These will not be billion dollar companies but still can survive the test of time.
Also, smaller farmers can survive by catering to different niches. For example there are lot of Hindus in bay area for whom cow is a holy animal and they like it to be treated well. A lot of them buy Strauss family farm's milk because the belief (I do not know it for a fact) among them that this farm treats cows much better than others. This milk is expensive. (Ancient Organics is a brand dependant on Strauss milk to produce some other times that Hindus in bay area seem to love like the Indian Ghee, which I am told is just as good as the home made one in India).
However I know how things in this state work, and the economics of Ag. If and when Texas legalizes there will be immense amounts of private equity involved (lots of money here) and it will go ConAgra-ADM-Monsanto overnight.
People here do business, and Ag, really big. Fuck even one of the grocery chains is vertically integrated. They own everything from farms to shrimp boats.
My chances of doing anything are shot, except maybe high-end boutique low-yield stuff with lots of marketing.
Small farmers need support, it's worth learning about local arms of organisations such as https://viacampesina.org/en/, for example https://landworkersalliance.org.uk
Big farms tend to focus on a few crops (cash crops). Small farms that are meant to support a family would do better by having a great variety of crops. It's also nice to support a local community this way, by selling some extra produce to local markets or people in the local community.
My girlfriend has a small 3 rai (~5000 m2) farm. Originally she only grew rice ... or rather some Myanmar people grew rice on her farm for a small amount of money. In the past 1.5 year my girlfriend transformed the farm to support our family. Now about 1 rai is used for rice (enough for our family) and the remainder is used for growing fish, fruits (bananas, coconuts, mangos, ...) and vegetables (Thai aubergines, long beans, cauliflower, spring unions, ...).
Having a greater variety of crops also protects a bit from bad harvests or bad market prices. It makes one more anti-fragile.
In the future we should probably buy some land to grow the farm to about 5 rai and from then on we should be able to fully support ourselves with fish, fruit and veggies.
I think Jon Jandai has some nice ideas on setting up a small scale farm .
Oh no, it's 8,000 acres or so and they have a staff of workers to maintain it.
If the former, would you say what kind of farm it is, 1000 acre farm that’s easy enough to spend 15 hours a week seems interesting to me.
The time spent is kind of an interesting question because they could spend either time or more money to solve many issues. It was enough time to break even, but not enough profit to live on. However, a pure corn farm would taken less work, so they chose to spend more time than needed to make it more interesting.
AFAIK this describes most small-scale farmers. They're only doing it because of inertia (eg. they inherited the farm and they don't want to sell it), not because it's actually profitable.
During most of the growing season it's just sitting there without intervention. And all winter. A huge burst of activity in the spring with tillage / planting and/or seed drilling & spraying / fertilizing etc. Maybe a couple passes over for herbicide application. And then combine harvesting in the fall and maybe some tillage and planting of winter rye, etc. Then some machine maintenance, outbuilding maintenance, accounting / bookkeeping, seed and other inputs purchasing thrown in here and there throughout the year.
I can see it being as little as 15 hours a week if you averaged it over the whole year. But it would have moments of intensity.
But the reality is that most of these farmers around in my area are contracting out portions of this work, because owning the equipment ends up being a huge capital investment that only makes sense for very large plots of land.
The amount of work involved in that process is simply staggering. There are principals that can be effectively integrated to a backyard garden. But, to have as close to a self-sustaining cycle as you can, you're going to invest thousands and thousands of hours. Honestly, I have never figured up how many hours we've spent on this, just because it's a hobby and quantifying it would spoil part of it for me.
Everything I've seen there echos your sentiments. An incredible amount of work - and knowledge - to achieve a rather peasant-level existence.
That said it's amazing seeing anyone live a genuinely sustainable lifestyle. I always think that if everyone lived and thought like these guys, our environment would be recovering nicely.
That's the problem.
>to achieve a rather peasant-level existence.
Without massive, massive disruption to the way people live, this is not a thing that will happen.
This is why I'm very negative about the prospects of climate change and the future. I don't think there will be a stomach to change to a lifestyle that supports climate improvements until such time as we're already fighting world wars over land, water, and food.
We also run tours, but in conjunction with the local state university extension office, for free. We could charge, but that defeats the purpose of getting the principals we believe in out to the world.
That is not a moral judgment on the people running the one near you. My partner and I have full-time jobs that support our lifestyle - the 'farmette' is just a hobby.
No time for make work. Bring in machines to quickly shape the land. Borrow some pigs or chickens to root through the ground and then sprinkle random seeds all over. Spend your time on observation, avoid working on the land for a couple of years, etc. See what comes up and where.
There is not really a way to create a space for growing food and/or cultivating anything that doesn't require time. The weather, weeds, pests. These things do not care for the calendars of men.
>No time for make work.
This is the main difference between farm life and work life. Most of my work life, in the office, is spent finding work, or creating work. New initiatives, better processes, etc. These are all things to either improve what already works, or fix what doesn't work that well. Either way, it's make work.
On a farm, the tasks you engage in (outside of hunting or fishing or other fun endeavors) exist solely because the need to exist. I have to create a dead furrow or swale (sp?) or berm, because otherwise the soil will furrow and wash in the next spring rains. I have to build fence on the back 15, because otherwise I cannot pasture that ground in the spring and cannot have cattle. 'I have to' guides the daily/weekly/monthly plans; there is no strategic planning process to keep middle managers busy.
Most of them have YouTube channels with a number of videos each, so you can see that they are actually walking (or plowing or no-tilling :) the talk. They also do invited talks and run internships. Gabe, Richard, Geoff and many others also use conventional or adapted machines (traditional heavy machinery or lower-cost appropriate technology), too, so it can be a hybrid what-makes-sense-as-well-as-is-sustainable approach; it is not a totally back-to-nature hippie kind of thing. In fact all those I mentioned are highly educated (whether college- or self-taught), and well aware of critical modern scientific discoveries and development in ag-related sciences (plural) and use them as appropriate in their operations. One big such example is Elaine Ingham's work (a Ph.D. soil biology scientist, founder of Soil Food Web, Inc.), which I also commented on in the same thread as the one I linked to above (it is very significant, and they all quote her and apply her results):
There are many more, doing their thing successfully and quietly, although there certainly are talks, books, videos, conferences, associations, courses, etc.
And some of them claim that their approach is lower effort and / or lower cost than so-called "conventional" farming. In fact, Gabe says that it is their approach (permaculture / regen ag) which is closer to "conventional", since it mimics nature, as much as feasible, and nature has been at it for millenia before we even walked the earth. And in a holistic sense, it is actually more efficient.
Edited for typos.
Permaculture is well suited for home gardens, where you want to maximize land use and fun involved. It is not going to feed the population.
Grow what grows well in your context and locality, part time. Additionally, a focus on perennials will significantly chop the work hours needed to just reaping the harvest.
For more subscribe to my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/RussellBallestrini
A farm is not a factory where you can create a uniform process...
Same thing goes for purchasing equipment or supplies, you can buy in bulk for a large farm.
Modern farms ARE factories.
Historically agricultural workers were slaves or at best serfs. In any case, a brutal lifestyle, generally for someone else's benefit.
Well, what you're saying does apply to a category of countries, underdeveloped ones. Countries at very low levels of what we'd consider civilization. There people were either shepherds or subsistence farmers but closer to what we'd call hunter-gatherers.
This was certainly common, but e.g. England hasn't really had serfdom for 5 centuries (after a gradual decline). Quite a lot of the labor was hired servants, perhaps a majority, although (IIRC) the median servant worked alongside only one or two others. So not family, but still a lot of family-sized groups.
Not really. It's a myth that farms were made solely to support "the 1%." In fact research suggests that work hours were often less in those days than in modern times.
To be sure, part of the farming produce was taxed in various ways (legitimate or not) during a lot of history, and there were disagreements about how big that tax was supposed to be that sometimes even lead to revolt, but then there were no real alternatives either. In short, farming was the best possible life to be had during most of history for most people, unless you were part of the nobility or some trading class. For most that just wasn't attainaible in any meaningful way, except perhaps through the participation in wars, or for some, marriage.
Indeed, until very recently most farms were "subsistence farming" (historically speaking, of course), but that isn't to say that it was necessarily a "bad" or gruelling life, considering the technology that existed at the time. At best that assertion is anachronistic. Of course the farming of yesteryear is worse than more modern farming methods! On the other hand you have to remember that living in a society where most people do something else than farming is a very recent developement. This means that most people grew up on—or close—to a farm throughout history.
Living in a family, perhaps close to a village, while growing plants and tending to livestock, was an integral part of life for most people. Thus, the way of structuring life on a farm was the main bearer of culture and tradition to new generations in those societies. I'm of course not speaking of "high" or "fine" culture here, which was the domain of the cities and various courts, but the traditions, social rules, and work ethics instilled in farmer families, who then brought it into the cities; much of it coming to pass exactly because there were no safety nets like a welfare state back then. So you either worked your farm, or subsided to begging or famine. In that sense you could say that there was a rather strong selection towards that kind of ethics too.
Today, most of that "folksy" ethics and culture is dying out, if it's not dead already, as more and more people are solely living in cities over multiple generations. This is why so many are completely out of touch with how things like dairy, meats or grains are even produced. Moreover they never got to take part in the family cooperation required to run a farm successfully, which both requires a certain kind of morality and work ethics, and not least an up-close and personal knowledge of how nature works. All that vanishes when agriculture becomes just another market share for the industrialist.
I'm not saying that it's all bad. Certainly the most obvious gain is that more people, at least in theory, should be able to work less to get food on the table, as it were. But there are also certain very healthy and good things that are lost in the process too, and I think it's important that people are at least aware of it.
> For thousands of years the farm was the producer of civilization and culture.
The producer of "civilization and culture"? In what sense? Farms produce the goods we eat, how does that lead to culture and civilization? I'm not that knowledgeable at history - if that is the case, then I'd really like to read more about it.
> Today, on the other hand, it has been reduced to a factory
Given your previous assertions about farms losing their status as cultural hotspots, I bet you hate Andy Warhol :)
Well, I recommend any history book about the Fertile Crescent and Ancient Egypt.
If you have 1 hour, hear/listen to this podcast/video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2lJUOv0hLA
Of course most of them don't appear in history books so they are easy to forget about.
Yeah, but I'd rather go to a supermarket and buy 5lbs of meat than go hunting. Things change.
Small plot of land keep people where they are with zero hope or mobility. You cannot buy equipment and the tractors are best used in fields 1 mile wide or whatever.
When people talk about the hollowing out of the middle class, this is exactly what they mean. Capitalism is very efficient at producing wealth but extremely inefficient in distributing it.
In short your ideals sound good, but they just don't work out. Too many people are needed off the farm to pull it off, but you put them on their little farms.
What is the local vs remote system? When you have small farms local is you, and remote your neighbors who you walk to. When you have large enough farms you can generate enough surplus that the world cares - and they are generating enough that they can afford to play nice. Small farmers in general don't generate enough surplus that they can feed each other across the distance of a continent.
Support from a galactic cluster is nice in SciFi, but in reality space is too big. It is questionable if Earth/Venus could support each other, as our orbits are often too misaligned to do anything in time. (the fast trip to mars involves Venus so things are even worse). Going between stars - forget it, by the time we find out about a problem they are dead or have survived.
You incorrectly inferred my meaning from my original post and are now doubling down, I'm not sure why.
It's as simple as this: We want to produce as much food as possible from as few natural resources as possible, emitting as little carbon as possible in the process. Large fields are more efficient at this, for reasons I've spelt out already.
Even in a fully communist society this would be true.
This is not an anti-corporate slur, I am just pointing out that if you have n acres of land under big ag, you would need to implement a more boutique ag operation on the same piece of land to come up with a sane comparison.
Since this is really not feasible generally I would like to know has someone actually studied this.
For example, soil is not necessarily uniform, and smaller scale operation might utilize the specific area of land for a mixture of landraces that might improve the yield than the monocrop that was designed to be able to produce crop in a generic industrial process, but not might for example be optimal for any soil.
But, it’s also little things like the distance a tractor travels before it needs to turn around. Picture painting a a wall with and without windows using those long rollers. The simpler the shape the faster you can go.
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_the_firm for the broader question of why we have (big) companies at all instead of everything being organised on eg a project basis and people and equipment hired just as needed.
A farm is very similar to a factory in many ways. You buy inputs (especially Nitrogen) and convert those into a usable output using biological machinery. This becomes especially true for people planting permanent crops (I.e almonds) where you also need to consider the maintenance on the plant (pruning, etc) as it ages. Uniformity of process is actually another place that large farms benefit. They can afford the quality managers capable of designing such systems. An owner-operator with one guy working part-time for him is less likely to bother.
Agriculture isn’t just a numbers game for production, but also for spreading risk.
It would be reasonable to assume that the farming of many other crops will eventually transition to fully automated indoor formats.
Don't get me wrong: there are a number of crops where it makes sense. They are an important source of nutrients (and taste!), but a poor source of calories overall.
A 20,000 acre “farm” that only grazes a few thousand head of cattle because it’s practically desert could be much less productive than a 100 acre farm in the most fertile region of the world.
So it wouldn’t surprise me that the smaller farms feed an outsized proportion of the population.
Made enough to live in Kensington Market, which is a hipster / hippy part of Toronto.
A locales food security with conventional agriculture is heavily dependent on the quality of their soil, while with hydroponics and derivatives it's more a function of their engineering prowess (and available infrastructure).
Quote with context:
The results show that, worldwide, farms of less than 1 hectare account for 70 percent of all farms, but operate only 7 percent of all agricultural land. Slightly larger farms between 1 and 2 hectares account for 14 percent of all farms and control 4 percent of the land. Together, farms of less than 2 hectares account for 84 percent of all farms, but operate only around 12 percent of all agricultural land. Farms in the range of 2 to 5 hectares account for 10 percent of all farms and control 6 percent of the land. Interestingly, the largest 1 percent of farms in the world (those larger than 50 hectares) operate more than 70 percent of the world’s farmland.
(there are 608 million farms in the world)
In the US, the sale of public lands for everything west of the Ohio River was on the basis of the Public Land Survey System. The smallest saleable parcel was a "quarter-quarter section", or 40 acres (~16 hectares) of land. The Homestead Acts would grant (at various times) 160, 320, or 640 acres of land to free for anyone who would farm out. In other wards, the "small" pioneer farms of American history are in the top 1% of all farms.
Put differently, the large number of small farms is driven by the size of subsistence farms in the intense rice-growing areas of Southeast Asia (rice being more productive per acre than wheat, especially if you're not dealing with industrial inputs). Then, you have the subsistence farms of less-productive crops like wheat, mostly in Africa.
There may be more classic Pareto distribution if you change the statistics - basically the title and newspaper article are misleading in trying to point out inequality. Its a trap. Advocates of Pareto like to downplay inequality by invoking Pareto distributions as being "natural". Both points of view are flawed in this specific case (but are valid in other cases) because the statistics don't mean much - it's like playing a rigged casino game against a player where it's the house that wins.
For example, in the US, mechanized row crop farming over large numbers of acres is the norm (growing corn, beans, wheat, etc). These farms are all small head count family-run operations, sized between a few hundred to a few thousand acres, with a total somewhere in the low hundred-thousands of them.
The worldwide number of farms then runs up into the hundreds of millions due to small landholders - subsistence agriculture, locally sold produce, etc.
A farmer growing corn in a remote Central American village is completely different from the farmer growing corn in the United States. A produce farmer at your local farmer's market is completely different from a wheat farmer on the Black Sea. There's a living to be made at many points on the spectrum, and humanity needs each of them.
Real problems certainly do exist. They have more to do with things like the market pressures of producing commodity products, baseline calorie and nutritional demands, distribution, and structural supply and demand inefficiencies.
This is an evolving issue, and its gone at least as far as the OP suggests.
Production is still operated by family run farms. It's so capital inefficient that no corporation would dare bother.
Its pretty bleak. Farmers that don't farm. Family ownership has dropped drastically. Most farm owners are 65 or older, half of that women that outlived their families and don't work the land any more. Most land in production is rented. Families that keep the ol farmstead do it for sentimental reasons and hire it out to a corporation.
> Corporate ownership has remained relatively stable since 1982, coming in at 10 percent last year.
Many children leave the family farm; they can earn more with less work, and operating a profitable farm operation is very difficult. Families don't like selling their farmland, so they rent it out to another farmer. There are funds that buy farmland to profit from rental or future resale, but again they are not the operators.
Perhaps it'd be helpful if you provided a few examples of these corporations? Not incorporated family farms, but these for-hire corporations operating at large acreage scales.
Food diversity is much much less than it was 100 years ago. Nutritional content of food is down significant levels from 30 years ago.
> Currently, however, this promotes large-scale monoculture.
This can be good or bad, depending on what is produced in a large scale, I guess(?) Especially at this point in time we should focus on foods that don't mess with the environment/don't fuel climate change.
While it certainly reduces on-farm biodiversity, higher yields also let us leave more land completely un-farmed. For example I think maybe 10% of France has returned to forest in the last 40 years, and more since 1900, but I can't seem to find a great link...
E.g., we spend 14 million acres on non-food corn ethanol, and 80+ million acres of corn is fed to livestock at terrible feed conversion ratios. We'd get the same amount of net calories on our plates for 8 million acres if we ate the corn.
It would decline faster if we didn't subsidize stupid stuff like corn ethanol, for sure.
Edit, a maybe a better graph:
For just one small but hot-button current example, see Napa. For a historical example, see Silicon Valley, which was once orchards.
A new parasite or disease could easily destroy enough of a years harvest (or more) and now the nation has a food shortage. Because so much of our food is derived from or reliant on the monoculture it would have cascading effects. It would be a disaster on many levels.
Of course this is preventable but who has the courage to stand up for something that could happen when the political capital is won dealing with the cleanup. Food diversity isn’t just a “feels good” thing or an “ought to be” thing - it’s very much important in creating a resilient food supply which in my opinion is a matter of national security.
But everything you're describing is with monocultures, not with consolidated farming. If a particular crop breed is the most efficient I don't see why a diverse group of farmers wouldn't all go with that.
Standardization is a hallmark of efficiency and humanity has lots of mouths to feed. I'm not sure you can really do it any other way.
Small farmers and big farmers both use monocultures.
Any 20th C machine. If we do get good enough at robotics that we can switch from herbicides to weeding by AI, that might allow all sorts of interesting things.
It's hard to reconcile this point with the strong trends over the last century of more monoculture, more production, and much lower prices.
You are welcome to think what you want, but everything I have read about agricultural ecology suggests that nature is stronger than our science. Pests evolve (perhaps slowly, but faster than the science we stole from nature). Naturally enriched soil is more fertile.
It seems overwhelmingly true that for most people, their food has improved drastically over 70 years.
The age of the variety is a red herring, it's the industrialization of farming that's important. Our access to food has improved significantly, but anyone with a small garden and some seeds from an online shop knows that the "quality" of everything from modern tomatoes to berries is suspect.
That's a false base for your argument. You can find traditionally grown vegs from villages today. Then you can grab a tomato from your super-cheap super market and test those two side by side. The traditionaly grown veg isn't old per say, but it is surely way closer to the old qualities. So if you find a difference between those two products you must surely conclude there is a difference between old - modern crops.
Small, undercapitalized, under-industrialized farms were an issue for a long time... in some/many times and places this was the bottleneck on the green revolution.
That doesn't (necessarily) mean it's the case here. IE, the economies of scale when going from a $100k farm to a $10m may not apply to a move from $10m to $1bn. I think this is ultimately the question: Are there real economies of scale edriving this.
If/where the current transition is being driven by finance, it's a different kettle of fish. IE, If it's just cheaper/easier to finance megafarms... which I think is the case, it's not real economies of scale. It's securitisation.
As the article mentions, extreme scale and centralization has some serious side effects.
Industrial farming is the story of several centuries. It has major triumphs, like the feeding an extraordinary human population. It also has major dark spots. Slavery, and centuries of moral failures of the colonial "plantation" model. But it also caused several famines and other such collapses.
For an old analogy from the early days... Agribusiness that the British East India Company could profit from was often at odds with producing food.
Douglas Adams has a fantastic essay (section) about Dutch agricultural industrialization reforms in Bali.
If nothing else, there's a major "eggs in one basket" problem... an even bigger problem when it comes to ecosystems and biology than elsewhere.
You sure you want a handful of multinational conglomerates growing all of our food?
I don't think comparing agribusiness to other industries is going to help. Yes, factory farming is more efficient, which makes it cheaper. But the price we pay doesn't necessarily reflect the actual costs to our health and the environment.
Additionally, large farms seemingly are more well suited for polyculture (i.e. small farms are more predisposed to do monoculture farming given their smaller scale).
A recent narrative
As Gandhi said at a religious conference with global elites, it’s fine to be pontificating with well-fed faces, but to the majority of Indians, God looks like a loaf of bread.
India is at the forefront of addressing the complexities of modernization. They also have the greatest need to do so, with 200M malnourished in Southern Asia.
Some articles on pros and cons of modernization:
I am skeptical that is the case - but I might be wrong... I would like to see the output figures in any case.
Our economic and technological systems generally pursue what is approximately analogous to a greedy algorithm. This effect worsens as any sector becomes centralized. A small pool of large farmers is in the long run more likely to get stuck at suboptimal efficiencies than a large pool of small farmers.
But more concerning than that is continually optimizing any system for efficiency makes it more fragile. Some number of small farmers are more likely to survive system shocks than a large farmers. A system dominated by a few highly efficient large farmers is a system in extreme danger from systemic shocks and black swan events. That is, catastrophic drops in the food supply are much more likely with a few large farmers, not many small farmers.
If industrial production of smartphones collapses, who cares. Life will go on. We can forego many industries, if we really have to, so as long as we take care of the externalities (which we aren't doing with smartphones, but whatever), no big deal if they're oversized and over-optimized. This is not the case with food. People have to eat.
Industrial agriculture is phenomenal, and a miracle of the 20th century. But at the same time, the negative externalities (to borrow a fifty cent phrase) have basically caught up with us. Monocultures are environmentally costly, and land use change is a major driver of climate change.
Personally I’d love to see a patchwork of local, regional farms supplementing an ever larger share of the food supply. There’s appetite for this type of produce — wealthy suburbanites are more and more willing to spend extra for “organic”, as flawed as that term may be.
Then the discussion can focus on whether is K is surprisingly high or low compared to similar statistics (general land ownership, farm revenue, etc), not endless confused comments that seem to be coming to terms with something being a power law distribution at all.
Probably the outcome of preferential attachment and compounding interest (rewards). I'll let others talk about economies of scale, financialization, regulatory capture, and so forth.
If society determines that winner-takes-all is undesirable, we'll have to choose otherwise. That means forfeiting economic efficiencies, adding friction to open markets, some kind of profit sharing (redistribution).
A policy of robustness over efficiency could make a lot of sense. There will always be shocks to the system. In vesting in resilience is a pretty good idea.
Note that I wrote "open markets". The taxonomy of markets includes open, closed, gray, and black. "Free markets" is double speak for pro-monopoly laissez faire winner-takes-all.
First is the green revolution and its post credits. This is one of history's great undercurrents and it meant that fewer people worked in farming every decade for a long time. Urbanisation, industrialisation and their consequences are all underpinned by this centuries long undercurrent. Kind like Moore's law, but slower.
The second one is more of a Hegelian pendulum swing. Dylanfm mentioned the nixon era "get big or get out" philosophy. Here in Ireland non viable farm sizes were the economic issue for over a century. Farm sizes that could not support a farming family. Viability increasingly became intertwined with non-land capital, machinery or whatnot. Besides not supporting the farmer, undersized farms couldn't afford modern farming methods and overall farm productivity suffered.
It's still an issue in much of the developing world.
But... big is a different beast at different scales. Economies of scale are not linear, scale isn't necessarily driven by economies (cheaper unit prices) especially past a point.
Speaking of undercurrents, a lot of them come from macroeconomics. The economics of money itself. Money in huge investment pools has to go somewhere. If there's a lot of money/demand coming from here, it competes with money/demand from small farmers. One or the other will own any given parcel of land.
Fungible ownership structure, complex financial arrangements such work only at gigantic scale. Also, financing at mega scale is more favourable... very impactful in a capital intensive game like farming. If demand for land/farms as an investment vehicle doubles...
You can sometimes think of such macroeconomics as normal economics in reverse. Normal economics: farms supply and consumers demand. A macroeconomic trend might mean the demand for suppliers (farms, companies) has gone up. When demand goes up, supply responds. Financial markets demand shares, bonds or other such instruments. These finance large corporations, not family businesses.
800 acres in much of the world is a massive amount that can grow a massive amount of food. For Northern dryland wheat farming it's a very small farm. A more typical size for the area is about 10,000 acres.
EU will even pay farmers a pension if they retire and stop production.
Those turkeys were far better than anything you would buy in a supermarket.
Similar story here:
If adopted, it will more or less put a stake through the EU Green New Deal that they're supposedly also implementing. :(
And even if someone farms for selling to others if they don't have reliable access to machinery the farms will be really small as that just does not scale up (just take a look at pre industrial world where something like 90% of people were farmers)
You seem to assume/imply that small farms in the developing world cannot scale up due to economic/business reasons.
However in some developing countries, farms cannot be scaled up due to legal reasons. Countries like The Philippines don't allow ownership of farmland over one or two hectares per person. For companies the maximum is 5 hectares if I remember correctly. Foreigner investors cannot legally own any land whatsoever there (not even through a company, because foreigners aren't allowed to be majority share holders).
Is that good or bad? I don't know. Agriculture world wide is a highly regulated and highly subsidized non-free market that has very little to do with the concepts of capitalism and free market. This should probably be analyzed on a country by country basis with a couple of history books handy.
Random facts that I like about farming subsidies in the West: if farming in the Western world wasn't heavily subsidized, it wouldn't exist in the Western world. The reason for the farming subsidies is to have internal food production in case a war prevents sufficient food imports.
> if farming in the Western world wasn't heavily subsidized, it wouldn't exist in the Western world
It probably would change, but it's weird to suggest it would stop existing without governmental subsidies. Most farming in the West is either intensive mass-production of commodities or sectorial, high-margin goods like wine. For the most part, agricultural subsidies are helping small businesses in sectors where they aren't really competitive (mostly by making the taxpayer or the consumer pay the difference, but that's another story...). Again, not to say subsidies are wrong per se, but I don't follow your reasoning there.
> The reason for the farming subsidies is to have internal food production in case a war prevents sufficient food imports
Most Western countries (with the possible exception of the US, I don't know) aren't agriculturally self-sufficient, nor it is a goal for them to be. In case a war broke out, energy supplies would be a much more pressing concern, especially for Western Europe.
Many Western countries are self sufficient agriculturally and they are huge exporters.
Agriculture is a cornerstone of national security. Life sucks when you are rationing fuel or imposing lights out curfews but it gets dire (and dangerous!) when people starve.
Just a small correction, you've got your data the other way around. Early to mid April when Asparagus-Gate happened, Romania had at the very worst 500 new daily cases for a population of 19 million, while Germany regularly had 4-5000 for a population of 83 million.
So in essence Germany was a hotbed.
That being said, there certainly are good reasons to have rough food self sufficiency and resiliency for crisis situations, rather than going all the way with free trade and Ricardo's comparative advantage arguments.
I just hope the EU could direct it's farm subsidies to emphasize the environment, and not dump as much excess products on the world market, driving poor 3rd world farmers into bankruptcy.
The reasoning is that it is so much cheaper to produce food in some low income countries (less/no regulations, lower wages) that the Western world would never be able to compete with it without subsidies.
I'm not an expert on farming at all, but as far as I know at least in the EU, all farmers are dependent in some way or another on subsidies. In other words: it wouldn't make financial sense to farm in the EU without subsidies. I'm assuming it's the same in the US, but I might be completely wrong. Correct me if I'm wrong.
Hence my conclusion: if farming wasn't subsidized in the Western world, it wouldn't exist in the Western world and it would all move to low income countries that aren't as regulated and have cheaper production. Just like the production of the vast majority of the rest of our goods I guess?
> Most Western countries (with the possible exception of the US, I don't know) aren't agriculturally self-sufficient, nor it is a goal for them to be.
?? This looks pretty self-sufficient to me? http://capreform.eu/trends-in-eu-agricultural-self-sufficien...
Or at least enough production to survive a war or other crisis.
Being from The Netherlands I know that we export a ton of food (a tiny country that is the second biggest exporter in the world behind the US). We also heavily subsidize food production.
If self-sufficiency of food production (in case of crisis) wasn't a goal of the Western world then I have no idea why we would have any internal production at all? Why would you subsidize food production within a geographical region for any other reason than food security?
> In case a war broke out, energy supplies would be a much more pressing concern, especially for Western Europe.
Ah? I would think that both (food security and energy security) are dependent on each other, equally essential and pressing? I mean: you can't have one without the other in times of crisis.
It's a bit off-topic, but I can't think of many policies that are geopolitically dumber and more dangerous than European energy policies (with perhaps France being the only exception). Example: Germany is in the process of making itself voluntarily completely dependent on Russian gas for the vast majority of it's average energy consumption ( > 60 %) and for more than 90 % of it's base load production (when there's little wind and sun).
Here in Norway food security is only one of the reasons, at least it seems that way. Another very important one is that a farm requires workers, machinery, and material. The workers need doctors and their children need schools, the machinery needs mechanics, the material (fuel, fertiliser, cement, wood, etc.) needs transport. So by subsidizing a farm thousand metres up a mountain we generate enough business to keep a small community alive and prospering where otherwise there would be no one. This in turn means that there will be people nearby who will see an opportunity for other businesses such as tourism.
This means that on the 700 km journey through the mountains from Oslo to Trondheim you are rarely more than a few tens of km from the nearest petrol station, fast food outlet, hotel, and that it is rare to drive more than a few km without seeing a house or cabin.
Without farming in the valleys there would be no secure employment in these areas because the only other income is from tourism which is very seasonal and also easily disrupted by events such as COVID or any downturn in the economy.
I do. It's good.
Turns out, most urban people don't fancy to work the land by themselves and those in the villages really suck at the organisation.
So my grandma is living in a town, she opted out to keep her land in a cooperative and simply receive some cash at the end of the year each year. Not much money but it's free money from her standpoint.
My relatives that live in a village opted out to own and work the lands by themselves like most of the other villagers.
The result? Villagers fail to organize the crop production, if one year potatoes turn to be very profitable, next year everyone do potatoes and prices tank, someone does tobacco and makes the bank.
Cattle production also died out because they failed to integrate into a steady supply chain of a buyer. Companies would be collecting milk and some villagers don't hesitate to add water and the companies stop coming. One year everyone is in milk the other year no more milk, everything becomes meat since some construction business gives more money in short term so they need to get rid of the livestock. Tough luck, the milk buying chocolate factory.
At the ends, most young people opted out to work in a EU country that pays very well during the season and stay jobless for the rest of the year. Those who managed to get good education completely moved out to the cities or even other countries so no one left to actually work their own farmlands with few exceptions of people who do speciality crops and work like beekeeping. Most of the farmland got sold to large companies and those who couldn't get good education become employees of the farms they once owned.
What I am trying to say is, it's probably the way it is because the alternative is not viable. These things need large scale companies, be it private or governmental.
Anyway, I don't know what courses will fix the disorganisation problems and make the farmers turn into MBAs while still accept to live in a village and do hard work but if there's an success story of this, I would support it.
From my point of view, these things need to be done in huge scale. To achieve scale, owned by single company or governmental body or cooperative is all good by me. Probably proper regulations and governmental programs could be a solution too.
Huge companies have many advantages in certain production areas, but there are many others like intensive vegetable production, wine grapes, poultry, rabbits (just to name some animal production) and some speciality crops that favor small producers. Farms just need to invest in building their own supply chain.
In 2017, the top 20 car companies produced 76m vehicles . There "may be as many as 2000 car companies globally". This page (admittedly it seems to have been "hacked by Javanese team") says total vehicle production was about 96m.
So, 1% of motor companies produce 80% of the world's cars.
Is there a reason one statistic should alarm us more than the other? Is food production different from motor car production? Should we think of farms as factories?
The food supply chain is more important than the automotive supply chain.
Somebody else in this thread says:
> there are 608 million farms in the world
Cut off data at 2.3 sigmas, apply shocking result to catchy headline!
I love farmers markets, but at the same time small farmers own less land. With mechanization and contracting out of harvesting "as a service" it's not all that surprising that "1% of farms" operate on this much land.
No. At that level of concentration the opposite is true:
On top of that, massive multinational companies can have extremely influential lobbying groups and can demand subsidies from governments.
His fund made a ton of money during the 2001 dot com crash, 2018 financial crisis, and now with land. #contrarian
But perhaps there’s a better descriptor that also travels across cultures and legal frameworks (e.g. not all jurisdictions use the “corporation” nomenclature).
From Wikipedia: “ In American English, the word corporation is most often used to describe large business corporations. In British English and in the Commonwealth countries, the term company is more widely used to describe the same sort of entity while the word corporation encompasses all incorporated entities.”
Communicating ideas precisely yet with nuance is a fun challenge :-)
 Collectivisation and the Ukrainian Famine - History Matters (Short Animated Documentary) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLlp-LmXm3s
Power laws everywhere.
One big farm in Australia is Anna Creek Station at 2.4 million hectares
Total UK farm land is 9 million hectares.
Good things: much higher yield per area, economies of scale, better soil maintenance, more hydraulic planning.
Bad things: inhumane feed lots and lack of biodiversity.
Note these are the same journalists who would've praised catastrophic land reforms by Marxist governments, like Zimbabwe. The same journalists complaining of food costs and shortages (+yield, +supply). The same journalists complaining about deforestation (+yield). The same journalists complaining about global warming (CO2 sequestration).
There is room for improvement on biodiversity and long term care of topsoil. But a hit piece on inequality gets more views and gets more subscriptions/ads.