The human population is booming, and we are being told that in order to feed everyone, we must turn to large, international, commercial farms that can churn out enormous amounts of food 12 months out of the year. This has resulted in a large portion of the foods we eat being imported from vast distances, and the widespread use of genetically modified seeds that increase yields while decreasing necessary space and water use.
This push for agricultural industrialization has also resulted in the decline of the regional family farm, as corporations attempt to buy up the land and lease it back to the families who have lived and worked there all their lives.
There are over 285,000,000 people living in the United States. Of that population, less than 1% claim farming as an occupation (and about 2% actually live on farms). There are only about 960,000 persons claiming farming as their principal occupation and a similar number of farmers claiming some other principal occupation. The number of farms in the U.S. stands at about two million (EPA).
Despite the presence of Big Agriculture in the White House, many people in America are realizing that they do have options when it comes to the food they eat, and many are taking on the responsibility themselves.
According to a recent article by the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent farm census shows that while the nation’s largest farms keep getting larger, a growing number of small farms also are sprouting across the nation.
February’s census report found that the number of farms under 50 acres soared nearly 15 percent between 2002 and 2007 to about 853,000 nationwide. Farms under 10 acres grew even more, with their numbers rising about 30 percent to 232,000.
These are becoming known as hobby farms, and are typically intended to grow food only for the family that maintains them. Unfortunately, the census did not require these small farmers to report the reason they started their growing operation.
Supporters of the Slow Food movement might take these new statistics as a sign that it is possible for people to change the way they eat, procure and think about food. Hobby farms are living proof that Americans are indeed willing to reconnect with the traditions, plants, animals, fertile soils and waters that produce our food.
Image Credit: transitionculture.org