In Praise of Small Farmers

Today, as a follow up to yesterday’s list,  I will write in praise of the small farm.  Maine is fortunate that while the rest of the nation’s farming population is aging rapidly (damn us Baby Boomers) here in Maine the average age of the farmer has been steadily getting younger.

There are many reasons for this phenomenon.   One of the most obvious is that until the latest Real Estate fiasco farmland here was still affordable.  Since Maine has a tradition of small-diversified farms (at least outside of “The County”) it has been economically feasible for a young wanna be farmer to buy 10-100 acres, make some money from it, and actually become a farmer.  No one expects to get rich quick but they are clear sighted enough to value their labor and demand appropriate reimbursement for their high quality products.  And here in Maine they are fortunate enough to find a ready market for this great food and fiber.

Another factor is that we are blessed with several organizations in this state whose express purpose is to support small farmers (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, New England Farm Union, Maine Landless Farmers, Food for Maine’s Future, Maine Farmland Trust)

Gene Logsdon states it well when he said in his 1989 Essay (The Future:  More Farmers Not Fewer)
“I give three reasons…. that the number…is about to increase.  One:  historically in all the past civilizations I have studied, the denser the population becomes, the smaller and more numerous the farms become.  Two: financially, the economies of scale that apparently rule manufacturing do not really apply to any sustainable kind of food production….And three: socially, people are beginning to understand they are what they eat and are demanding quality food,  which megafarms can’t supply.”

So thanks to all the small diversified farms, folks who appreciate high quality food and agricultural visionaries we are going to continue to have an increasing supply of diverse healthy local foods.

Thank you small farmers everywhere.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Muffy on March 28, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    I read a while back in the Washington Post that some of the CSAs in the Maryland/Virginia area were sold out of subscriptions. Next time I’m in the states I’ll check out the Sunday farmers market in Dupont Circle to see the “average age”. My local one in the Palisades section of DC has some young-uns.


    • Well, I hope the trend will spread. Maybe the USDA is just not doing such a great job of counting younger farmers. I know in order to appear in their stats as an organic farmer you really have to be proactive. Maybe the younger folks are just too busy farming to do the paperwork so they show up in the numbers.


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