Thursday, October 29, 2009


In India 70% of the population coming under the category of farmers produce food for the remaining 30% who are urbanites with no clue regarding the dynamics of farming including raising live stocks and poultry. Because of these sheer numbers, the average size of such farms, if they can be called so, is very small, some times less than two acres. In contrast, in the West farming operations are gigantic with hundreds and thousands of acres cultivated using highly mechanized operations. Hardly 2% of the population in some of these countries raise food for the entire country. A new trend is now emerging involving non-farmers who take up 'gardening', mostly as a part time activity in small stretches of land producing crops like sweet potatoes, squash, cabbage, cucumbers, turnips, beetroot etc largely for self consumption. Excess, if any is channeled into farmer's markets and road side stands, earning small returns supplementing their regular income.

"The produce and meat raised by these small farms, sometimes called "hobby" or "lifestyle" farms, provides much of the food found at the nation's farmers' markets and roadside stands, said Maria I. Marshall, an associate professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University. Many of the farms raise specialized crops and practice organic or sustainable farming".

Most of the hobby farms believe in organic foods and local produce movement and earning is only incidental. In the US alone there are more than 232000 such small farms operating with less than 10 acres of land for each. Large farms are getting bigger and bigger due to consolidation. How long this trend will last remains to be seen. It is an irony that small farms provide hobby for western families whereas it is the norm in many developing countries where subsistence farmers struggle to keep their body and soul together!.

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