Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Small farms not better, says Al Mussel

Small farms are getting more praise than they deserve, according to the second in a four-part series about myths about farming by Al Mussel of the George Morris Centre.

The advertising and marketing people are pitching small farms to promote their products and many social activists are critical of “factory farms”, writes Mussel.

Yet the smaller half of the farm population in Canada produces only 10 per cent of the sales and the largest five per cent account for 30 per cent of sales.

“Small farms have come to be viewed as a core element of an agrarian cultural ideal,” writes Mussel, even promoting urban and rooftop gardening.

But there would be a “significant social cost” if Canadian politicians and society promoted small farms, he says.

Since 1941, when the number of Canadian farmers peaked at 700,000 farming 160 million acres, thousands have migrated from farm families to city jobs where Mussel says they have become the backbone of the middle class.

These people did not migrate to ghettos, but built the urban society that makes Canada much wealthier than nations that have a majority of their population engaged in farming.

He says it’s simply wrong to argue that small farms are more sustainable and that Third World development ought to concentrate on small farms as the way out of poverty.