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I think it might also be worth separating the question of green farming from the related questions of small family farms, pleasant rural landscape, industrialized farming, and political representation of land. There might not be any inherent value to family farms, for example, if gigantic corporate operations with robotic implements and few personnel are able to minimize food cost and carbon dioxide emissions.
by asdf on Wed Mar 24th, 2021 at 05:55:07 PM EST
True that is not a necessary condition, but I think there is a relationship. Industrial farming tends to try to decrease natural variation in order to create monocultures that can be standardised to a higher degree.

Family farms tends to vary in size over time, depending on large an area and number of animals a family can handle. So I think it might very well be family farms with robotic implements and few personnel that will be able to minimize food cost and carbon dioxide emissions.

by fjallstrom on Wed Mar 24th, 2021 at 06:35:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The logic of industrialised farming with automation and economies of scale is inexorable if you are not concerned with:
  1. Employment creation
  2. Monocultures and the chemicals used to keep them stable combined with periodic chemical/effluent disasters
  3. Routine use of antibiotics and associated development resistant superbugs
  4. Gross economic and political inequality
  5. Loss of biodiversity and rural natural and cultural heritage which is part of Ireland's tourist offering
  6. Rural depopulation and growth of cities
  7. Price reductions for small independent producers and price rises for consumers due to rise of monopoly power

Somebody has to eat all the food you are producing, but how will they afford it if there are less and less jobs available?

In practice there has been a steady decline in the number of farms, and the number of people employed on them. Robotic milking has many advantages for yields, cows, quality control and farm labour.  70 cows and 30 hectares may be the minimum economic size for an automated dairy farm in the future. Some further economies of scale are possible beyond this, but I'm not sure there is a great benefit to scaling this up to 700 cows and 300 hectares beyond destroying the social and environmental fabric of rural Ireland.

We do not have the endless prairies of the mid-west or the South African veld, and we do not want their social and economic structures either.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Mar 24th, 2021 at 11:45:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Forty years ago my grandfather, who ran our family farm through the Depression, said to me that we were headed for a far worse crash and that he was glad he wouldn't live to see it.  His reasoning was simple.  During the Depression most people, even in urban areas, had direct or nearly direct access to food production.  Now nearly everyone, even those living on farms, is wholly dependent on the retail food supply.  Recent comebacks such as gmoke periodically chronicles notwithstanding, it is no longer standard to have a garden or to help the country cousins with their extended family garden.  The US is now a net food importer, which is absurd and obscene.  Last year we were treated with images of cars backed up for miles waiting for food handouts.  The continued advance of industrial agriculture will just make this worse.
by rifek on Mon Mar 29th, 2021 at 08:42:23 PM EST
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I've read several articles claiming that only truly sustainable form of agriculture is one with medium size farms rotating fields and young forests in a slow cycle. And using crop rotations on the fields too. This is to naturally renew the capacity of the earth t grow stuff.
A big part of this system would be cattle, swine and poultry free roaming in the forest part of the farm.

Might have been called iron-age farming. Which brings to mind that I quite recently learned that the slash and burn agriculture was actually sophisticated and efficient form when there was more land than people. Once slashed and burned, the field gave three harvests per year: spring rye, summer barley and autumn turnip. The yield was also much better (at least at the time).
Of course, after three years, you had to start all over again. Which was fine until people realized timber is valuable and turnips are not.

by pelgus on Thu Mar 25th, 2021 at 07:12:03 AM EST
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What does the size of the farm have to do with it? A gigantic factory farm could follow the same crop rotation scheme. Robot shepherds could keep the stock under control.

The arguments for small farms seem to me to be mostly based on arguments about jobs and nostalgia for bucolic rural landscapes. Which is fine, but those argument should be placed front and center.

by asdf on Thu Mar 25th, 2021 at 09:56:21 PM EST
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