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Dr Sarah Taber @SarahTaber_bww
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Threading some replies for better readability. (@Noahpinion)
"Famers of Forty Centuries" is a great source that gets into more detail on how traditional east Asian rice culture worked. tl;dr, it was a sophisticated human system closely adapted to its environment over millennia- including social systems of credit & investment.
East Asian rice culture is done on small plots, but that's where the similarity ends. It's not "small family farming" the way North Americans conceive of it. And that's... why it actually works.
(Also traditional East Asian rice culture is successful insofar as one does not consider periodic flooding that kills tens or hundreds of thousands of people to be a significant problem. It's one of the risks of that system, which depends on heavy hydraulic engineering.)
As far as any case studies that "prove" western-style small family farms are weak operational model: I audit farms for a living. Can't talk about the case studies bc they're all clients protected by NDA. But my opinion as an ag professional: they're a weak operational model.
My experience is also that training services like extension are not that effective at improving small family farms' practices. It's one thing to throw training out there. For a farm/business to use it, that just depends on the person running it. Some do, some don't.
So in my thinking, the best way to get small farms that actually function well is to build pipelines for people to access credit & land. The lack of that *is* a significant problem in US & elsewhere. You're either born farming or not, & that's bad for a farm sector.
Once there's a good pipeline, folks have a way to get started in farming. It also selects for people with some business acumen, trainability, and general hustle. (We talk a lot re: how farming is "hard work," but at end of the day it takes same basic skills as any business.)
Small-farms-as-an-employment-program doesn't select for business acumen. If anything it selects against it, since we're starting with the chronically unemployed. In the US we're still dealing w consequences of when we did that 100+ years ago. It's bad. It's real bad.
The US has a hard time seeing it this way since we have such a strong tradition of land giveaways. But farming is a real job that takes real management skills. Trying to make a farm sector ex nihilo via land giveaways is a very colonial tradition, & an unsuccessful one.
Again: this is not an argument against small farms per se, or against returning land to traditional management. It's just that "giving away land to whoever's unemployed this week" is not a great way to achieve either.
Last thing, the OT is about South Africa. But it's worth mentioning that "the solution to urban black unemployment is farming!" is a white supremacist talking point of some significance in the US.
so cool when folks think trafficking Black ppl into farm jobs that nobody wants is a novel & edgy concept 🙄

That's not where this thread was going, but it's something to be aware of when talking present-day "farms as job program" to US audiences. That's what many will hear.
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