Episode 189. Small Farms and Why They Matter!

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 14th of October 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Following on from last month’s Online Conference I ran in conjunction with my co-hoist from Permaculture Plus, Rich Bowden, I have been struggling to find my mojo. The answers to our climate questions are available. They’ve been there for at least thirty years and yet we have people arguing against the very notion of Climate Change. 

It can be depressing. 

I’m pleased to see people on the streets, the Extinction Rebellion movement and yet I remember the massive anti Iraq War protests. Millions on the streets and still the troops went in. I see the usual responses from the usual suspects, to misquote a line from Casablanca. I feel within my bones that the only real change starts at the grassroots level. I produced an episode on systems change back, Episode 180, so I understand the effect of lots of little steps resulting in a massive paradigm shift, almost, when least expected. The hundred monkeys idea.

For you youngins out there, this was a big thing in the 1980s and 1990s. The story went like this. Two colonies of monkeys, in Japan, were fed raw potatoes. One monkey discovered that washing these raw potatoes in sea water made them more palatable. This monkey showed others and slowly the numbers of monkeys washing their potatoes grew. Eventually 100 monkeys were practicing this. The next day, every monkey in that group was a potato washer and every monkey in the second group, separated by geography, also began washing their potatoes as if it was the most natural thing in the world. The idea being that a new idea takes time to embed but suddenly, after the 100th monkey, everything changed.

The story is apocryphal or even complete BS but the theory made sense. 

My long dark tea time of the soul had me struggling between, nothing is changing and we’ve just got to reach 100 monkeys to effect the change we all need.

Then a link to World Organic News showed up on my Facebook feed from Bryn Athyn Bounty Farm Market. A big thank you and shout out to them. September 30 is International Podcast Day every year and Bryn Athyn Bounty Farm Market was kind enough to mention World Organic News as one of their favourite shows.

As my regular listeners will know, I don’t ask for ratings, reviews or any other sort of promotion so when one pops up, I’m really appreciative. So thank you!

This mention, unexpected as it was, nudged me out my downness and has renewed my faith in finding that 100th monkey. 

Sooooo. Small Farms and Why They Matter! Let’s define small farms. Depends where you are. I mentioned I’d lived on small holding for most of my adult life during morning tea at the Irish dairy I was learning at last year. One of the gardeners replied: “What 5000 acres?” To himself and many other in the Republic, all farms in Australia were huge by Irish standards. When I replied, “No, between 2 and 50 odd acres.” They seemed surprised that such spaces existed. So my understanding of a small farm may not be yours.

I would include backyards in my definition. Food production being the key to my definition. I also like to see animals in the systems. Chooks, guinea pigs, rabbits are all suitable in a suburban space. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, plants and animals co-evolved in response to each other and work better in union to keep each other healthy and to produce great food.

To our first link which has a UK setting: Why we Need Small Farms from Resilience.org


Small farms, once the beating heart of the British countryside, are disappearing. This is nothing new – they have been in decline for the last 80 years, but the pace of their disappearance is faster than ever. According to the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) report, New Model Farming, (Link in the show notes) a third of UK farms under 50 hectares have been lost between 2005 and 2015. In stark contrast, the number of farms above 100 hectares is on the rise. For some, big may still be better but for our rural environments, economies and communities, this is grave news.

End Quote

The importance of small area farmers cannot be overstated. 

A living landscape is what they bring. Community, diversity, biodiversity and a tendency for more tree cover than a huge monocultural agribusiness. And a living landscape is a more carefully tended one. Imbalances in one effect so many. Erosion can spread quickly, up gullies across boundary fences and so on. On 10,000 acre property this can go unobserved for years, as can invasive weeds species. On smaller farms these things tend to be attended to more quickly. Cultural norms tend towards reinforcing these effects. Smaller farms are also more agile and responsive to both market changes and environmental ones.

I’ve spoken elsewhere, Episode 122, In Defence of a Modern Yeomanry, of the way we could integrate smaller farmers into the existing suburban structure. This plan is predicated upon turning golf courses into productive farmland so it will not appeal to certain sections of the community but golf clubs seem to be a dying thing anyway so there may be hope. 

And it is hope that will get us through the next twenty years in a good shape.

That feels like the right note to finish on.

Remember, decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil. 

Thank you for listening and I’ll be back next week.



World Organic News

email: redocean112@gmail.com


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WORLD ORGANIC NEWS No Dig Gardening Book: Click here


Why we Need Small Farms


New Model Farming

Episode 180

Episode 122 In Defence of a Modern Yeomanry

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