Antifragile Farms

5 thoughts on “Antifragile Farms”

  1. Our friends were able to purchase their 20 acre farm with the help of a local nonprofit. They paid for the farm at its agricultural value. The nonprofit paid for the difference between that and the market value, while adding an easement that prevents non farming use of the property. Not sure how scalable that is, but it worked for them.

    1. These programs are great for the handful of farms they serve. But the philanthropic groups that support them are dependent on funds from the mainstream economy – one way or another.

      If the larger economy continues to be predicated on vertical integration, corporate consolidation, massive government subsidies, international arbitrage, ever larger economies of scale, etc small diversified family farms will remain irrelevant. That’s not a problem conservation easements can fix.

  2. These are all great examples of responsible farming, but these farmers are also lucky. Or independently wealthy. Or both. They are lucky to have the money to buy land, or in the case of Salatin, to inherit it. Both permaculture and no-till farming have significant start-up costs (in materials, space, and time) that make them unrealistic for many farmers. And you need at lot of land to pasture animals. I understand why people who don’t farm think mainstream farmers are stupid for not following these (obviously superior) practices, but the bank isn’t going to wait for my fruit and nut trees to grow before asking for mortgage payments. As a new farmer who really wants to adopt some of these practices, I am really frustrated about the whole situation.

    1. I don’t believe mainstream farmers are stupid. Quite the opposite. I understand that all the economic and regulatory parameters demand following the industrial agribusiness model to the exclusion of all else. And I don’t believe that model lends itself to reform. You’re either entirely in, or you’re out.

      You’re correct that most conventional farms involve 1) inherited land, 2) independently wealthy owners, 3) enormous amounts of debt, and/or 4) external financial support from non-farm wages in town. The farm that’s consistently profitable and self supporting without external subsidies is rare indeed.

      Salatin and others talk about decoupling farming from land ownership and expensive infrastructure. He calls it Nook and Cranny Farming. Rent cheap undesirable land and farm it intensively with inexpensive, light weight, portable, equipment – and smart management. I’m not a farmer so I defer to others to evaluate his techniques. Here’s one example.

      1. Salatin explained in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” that the land he got needed to be “healed” after decades of mismanagement. His unique land use rotation method and reuse of winter fodder/bedding as spring fertilizer eventually did heal his land (and more).

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