What is the perfect size for a farm?
I wonder what you think, especially if you aren’t a farmer. Are specific characteristics important, or is it just a matter of stats like number of acres or animals?
There was a time when society definitely equated progress with expansion, and that usually meant growing a business (such as a farm) by adding on and increasing production. Now, the tide has shifted. People are more curious about where and how their food is produced, and along with that has come distrust by some of the growth of farms. Smaller equals better, right? Or does it?
For my part, I’m happy to see increasing interest in food. We should have knowledge about what we eat, and people should be able to choose what fits their budget, taste, and values. I do, however, take issue with calling any size of farm better, simply because I don’t know what it means.
On today’s farms, a huge variety of sizes can flourish and produce quality food. That’s true no matter how you measure size. Certain geographies lend themselves well to small field plots or a few cattle ranging over hundreds of acres. Other highly fertile soils may support enormous fields and be a needed bread basket for less productive areas.
Our modern world is also set up differently than ever before. Farms were smaller on average in the past because of practicality, and more people also raised their own food. Today not everyone can have their own cow, flock of chickens, or vegetable patch in the backyard. I suspect many wouldn’t even want to if they could! And so farmers must fill the void for growing urban and suburban populations. That means we need the farmer with thousands of fruit trees or thousands of chickens just as much as we need the community vegetable garden and the farmer with twenty beef cows.
I’ll go back to dairy, because that’s what I know best. I love dairy foods. I believe in their nutritional value, and I think raising domestic livestock is a good thing. I think many others would agree with that statement.
It’s my hope that more people can also come to agree that many farm sizes can be the “right size.” Big does not equal bad any more than small equals good or bad. This is why:
On any farm the strength comes from the people behind it, the beliefs held and carried out, and the way land and animals are cared for. Much the same as a school, a town, or a family can function well at various sizes, so can a farm. The reality on many farms might be different than the small red barn you picture, but the basics of feeding and caring well for animals remain constant.