Small Farm Blogs
Quick quiz: What do you think makes a farmer "small"?
- acres: owning just a few
- ownership: no corporations, just a family or at least someone you know
- profit: can’t make enough to get bigger
- height: no taller than 5'2"
But I digress. None of the options above officially make a small-scale farmer, though the first three are popular ways of thinking about the issue.
The official answer: According to the USDA definition, a small farmer is defined as one that grows and sells between $1,000 and $250,000 per year in agricultural products.
Using USDA's definition and their most recent Census of Agriculture, about 86 percent of California’s commercials farms are small. That’s 54,342 small farms!
But the UC Small Farm Program — and many others — frequently work with a looser definition. Small-scale farmers can certainly include those defined by USDA. But they also include many other farmers who are outside of mainstream agriculture, and those not reached by traditional Cooperative Extension programs.
These farmers could include:
- ethnic minority farmers, especially those who do not speak English (or Spanish)
- farmers with limited resources (another USDA definition)
- hobby farmers, retirement farmers, lifestyle farmers
- those who sell directly to consumers — through farmers markets, CSAs and other marketing channels not part of the traditional, wholesale distribution chain
- those who do not monocrop, including those who grow vegetables or fruits while also raising livestock
When we talk about small-scale farmers, we frequently mean those farmers who cannot compete on low prices alone.
Economies of size and scale can help larger farmers offer their products at lower prices, which is one way to compete in the marketplace. But small-scale farmers must find other ways to distinguish themselves — through flavor, timing, quality, variety, market outlet, personality and other values.
Do you know any small-scale farmers? What sets them apart?
This new blog is a round-up of news, research updates, tips and other tidbits that are potentially interesting or useful to California’s small-scale farmers.
We may not have had a blog before, but the Small Farm Program owes its history in part to sharing information. In the 1970s when the University of California first started focusing efforts on small farms in particular, one of the earliest efforts was something called the "Information Access Council." For decades, the Small Farm Center filled that niche, helping to circulate agricultural research and news that might be pertinent to small-scale farmers in particular. These tasks once involved mimeographs, then copy machines, with hard copies filed away in a library.
Now we have a blog, of course.
Will you be part of our audience? If you are a small-scale farmer or rancher — or if you work with small-scale producers — we hope so!
We also hope some of our information will be helpful for eaters too, since many consumers are interested in knowing their farmers, eating locally and otherwise supporting small-scale agriculture.
So, tell your friends! Subscribe to our RSS feed, add us to Google Reader — or whatever else you do when you decide to follow a new blog. And of course, the Small Farm Program website continues to be our home for a wealth of information about small-scale agriculture.