The newspapers in the UK have recently been showing photos of empty veg aisle shelves, however many local growers have been able to show that this isn't a problem for the resilience of small scale farming. In this article we explore why Small Scale Farming is so important and for who.
What Is Small Scale Farming?
Small-scale farming refers to the practice of growing crops and raising livestock on a relatively small area of land, typically on a family or community scale.
This type of farming is often done without the use of heavy machinery, relying instead on manual labor and traditional farming techniques.
Small-scale farming is often characterised by a diverse range of crops and animals, with an emphasis on sustainable practices that promote soil health and biodiversity.
It plays an important part of local food systems and can provide economic opportunities for rural communities while also promoting environmental sustainability.
While small-scale farming has been overshadowed in recent decades by industrial agriculture, it remains an important part of our food system for many reasons, and some of those have become front page news in the UK recently with vegetable shortages in supermarkets. (You can contact your local small scale farm to find that they have plenty of salad available).
So Why Are Small Scale Farms So Important?
1.) Provides Local Food Security
Small-scale farmers tend to focus on producing food for their local communities. This means that they are able to provide fresh, nutritious food to people who live nearby.
In contrast, industrial agriculture often focuses on growing crops for export or long-distance transportation, which can lead to a lack of local food security.
In times of crisis, such as natural disasters or political upheaval, local food systems can be a lifeline for communities.
2.) Promotes Biodiversity
Small-scale farming often involves a wide variety of crops and animals, which helps to promote biodiversity.
This is important because it helps to maintain healthy ecosystems and can make farms more resilient to pests, disease, and help in the fight against climate change.
In contrast, industrial agriculture tends to rely on monoculture, which can lead to a loss of biodiversity, increased susceptibility to environmental challenges, and a large reliance on chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides.
3.) Supports Rural Communities
Small-scale farming can be an important source of income for rural communities. It provides employment opportunities for farmers, farm workers, and support industries, such as equipment manufacturers and food processors.
A local small scale farm can lead to further jobs in packing and delivery, running farmers markets and stalls, local floristry jobs, space to run workshops, volunteering opportunities and a whole host of community outreach programs.
This can help to support local economies and prevent rural depopulation.
4.) Uses Fewer Resources
Small-scale farming typically uses fewer resources than industrial agriculture. This is because small-scale farmers tend to rely on more sustainable farming practices, such as crop rotation and natural pest control, which reduces or eliminates the need for chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
Working alongside nature promotes a natural biodiversity that survived long before humans intervened. Embracing this way of growing food naturally leads to less and less intervention which leads to fewer and fewer resources being required.
Small-scale farmers also tend to use fewer machines and less fuel, which reduces their carbon footprint and helps in the battle against climate change.
5.) Promotes Cultural Heritage
Small-scale farming is often closely tied to cultural heritage and traditional practices. This can include heirloom seeds, traditional farming methods, and the preservation of local food cultures. These practices help to maintain cultural identity and can be important for community cohesion.
6.) Connects People With Food Again
It is fair to say that as communities we have become disconnected from our food. As supermarkets packaged everything in plastic and introduced more aisles of “ready meals” than vegetables… and we stopped growing food in our gardens opting for low maintenance shrubs and lawns… our connection to where our food comes from, how it’s grown and knowledge of its nutritional values has diminished.
Fast food restaurants and home delivery is now more searched online than homemade produce based recipes by a long way.
Small scale farms invite communities in, show them how and what they grow, with many then suggesting recipes or ways to grow some of your own. This goes a long way in those communities to connecting people back to their food which in turn can only have positive impacts on a communities health.
Can We Feed The World On Small Farms?
Small-scale farming is a super important part of our food system. It provides local food security, promotes biodiversity, supports rural communities, uses fewer resources, and promotes cultural heritage.
While industrial agriculture has become dominant in recent decades, it is important to recognise the value of small-scale farming and support its continued practice.
Often sceptics say “Well you won’t feed the world with a small scale farm!”
However, we know from examples all over the world that a small scale farm can feed a village. So what if we worked to put a small scale farm in every village.. wouldn’t they then be feeding the world?!