16 thoughts on “Want to start a farm?

  1. Jeff-How true about government interference. This year of course we are selling eggs roadside (when we have them) but by next year at this time we hope to be selling goats and pigs and maybe some honey (we don’t have the bees or hives yet-but it is in the works).

    I’d like to slaughter and sell my own meat, but the hoops I’d have to jump through and the $$ I’d have to spend just to get a chance at the hoops make it cost prohibitive.


  2. That’s quite a video. What really got me was where he said at the end that he got into this lifestyle to have some freedom, and that the constant worry about what the government will find next time they come is exactly the kind fo thing he wanted to avoid. If he has to worry about that, he might as well just get a job as a truck driver with his name on his pocket.

    Now, I’ll be frank: I don’t care much about whether my vegetables are organic or about how great a life the cow lived that goes to make my roast. That level of crunchy-ism just isn’t my thing. If I had a list of things that don’t bother me, I’d include “processed foods” and “strip malls.”

    But freedom matters a lot to me, and so does the little guy, the ordinary person who just wants to do perfectly normal, harmless, useful things like selling eggs from his farm and live his life in peace and who is getting hassled by the government. Brrr. Gives me the creeps. Makes me think of a statement I once read about the Soviet Union: There were all these little private “businesses” where some old woman would own a cow and sell the milk to people, and they were technically illegal, but the Soviets didn’t try to shut them all down because the economy really needed them. I guess we should be so lucky; our government seems to have no trouble harassing the small farmer.

    So remind me again: _Why_ is a more libertarian approach to agriculture not a good thing here for someone like this guy?


  3. “So remind me again: Why is a more libertarian approach to agriculture not a good thing here for someone like this guy?”

    A more libertarian approach to agriculture absolutely is “a good thing here for someone like this guy”. Glad to have cleared that up!

    I’m not against applying “libertarianism” selectively, where it makes sense. But libertarianism as an ideology doesn’t discriminate. It promotes absolute freedom for both the small organic farmer and the corporate mega-farmer; for both the small-town baker and the international banker; for both the main street printer and the Hollywood pornographer. The way I see it, giving equal liberties to unequal things is madness, not justice.


  4. Suppose in this particular case that regulations were eased for both the small farmer and the corporate mega-farmer. It seems to me like that could still be a net gain for the small farmer. He’s not trying to compete against the corporate mega-farmer anyway.


  5. But libertarianism as an ideology doesn’t discriminate.

    In that regard, it is similar to modern relativistic liberalism–eventually we default to Might Makes Right. I agree with whoever said libertarianism is medicine, not food.


  6. Distributism is the Hope for the Land. The Family. And the farmer. Malls and processed foods are exactly why the little person has no freedom. Whether they reside in the USA, Peru, Eritrea… and so on.


  7. I’m sorry, but every person, small or great, has a dickens of a lot more freedom in the U.S. than in Eritrea. For heavens’ sake! Do a little looking around and think twice before you say that. Hear about the young Christian singer named Helen in Eritrea who was kept imprisoned by the government in a shipping container in the middle of the desert and had her legs broken because she belonged to an unregistered church? I think she’d prefer to live in a free country, with strip malls. Moral equivalence does no one any good in any discussion.


  8. “Suppose in this particular case that regulations were eased for both the small farmer and the corporate mega-farmer. It seems to me like that could still be a net gain for the small farmer. He’s not trying to compete against the corporate mega-farmer anyway.”

    Corporate mega-farms, by their very nature, do require more regulation than small family farms. Consider the following: a 900-head confined dairy herd causes all kinds of environmental and health problems that a 50-head pastured dairy herd on a small family farm does not. There need to be environmental and health regulations on this kind of operation. How has the government addressed this? By imposing the same restrictions on the small farm that it does on the mega-farm! Of course the former cannot afford compliance, and so only the latter survive.

    Gone are the small family-run dairies with their own milk routes. Those which have survived have been forced to grow to one or two hundred head, and they now must send their milk to a commercial processor and through several middlemen before it hits your refrigerator, which means that they are paid a smaller and smaller share of what their milk is worth to the consumer.

    So I don’t think we can treat small and large in the same way when it comes to regulations.

    Furthermore, the fact remains that the large corporate farms will always squeeze out smaller competitors due to their wealth, credit, and ability to farm huge economies of scale. That’s not necessarily bad in every circumstance – maybe we want some markets to be like this – but let’s keep our eyes wide open here: if you allow large corporations to dominate corn, there will be no more 10, 20, or 40 acre farms growing corn. The same goes for any other farm product. It’s just that simple.

    In other words, if “big money” is given a free hand in any given market, there will be no more small providers in that same market – period.

    The question, then, is whether this is the kind of economy we really want. You can’t break into farming these days with $10,000, $25,000, or even $100,000 and expect to make a decent living. Farming is now the near-exclusive domain of large corporations and wealthy individuals. There is no reason why it MUST be this way: it’s a simple policy choice. We can choose to have markets with a handful of large corporate players, or we can choose to have markets with a great multitude of small, independent, family-run businesses. Libertarianism takes that choice away from us and virtually guarantees that wealth, credit, and economies of scale will always prevail.


  9. I’m honestly trying to understand how this would work, Jeff. Maybe you are quite right that there _ought_ to be the regulations on the big dairy farm that there aren’t on the little one, because the big farm actually causes more environmental, etc., problems than the little one. But whatever is squeezing out the little guy now, it isn’t libertarianism, because we do have all these regulations on both of them. So what I’m just wondering is this: Suppose those regulations you have in mind there about the dairy herd were, in fact, removed for both? Would that be, as things presently stand, better or worse for the smaller farmer? I’m ignorant about this stuff, but my point is that even if you are right and it isn’t the ideal situation (because the health regulations are doing more good in being applied to the big farmer, because the big farmer will still have more resources to squeeze out the little farmer, etc.), might it not be an improvement on the present situation for the little farmer?


  10. “So what I’m just wondering is this: Suppose those regulations you have in mind there about the dairy herd were, in fact, removed for both? Would that be, as things presently stand, better or worse for the smaller farmer?”

    I don’t think this question can be answered in the abstract. My hunch is that things wouldn’t change much for the small farmer. The mega-farm would still have an insurmountable competitive advantage. Even if the appropriate regulations were applied to the large farm and not the smaller one, things could be better or worse for the latter, depending upon implementation and other details about which I am ignorant.

    Which leads me to the point which I previously made only implicitly. If we want small, family farms to thrive and multiply, then there need to be limits placed on the size of farms. Those limits, in the past, were there naturally. Technology did not lend itself to farming on a massive scale. World markets were not an option for perishable farm products. Large financial holdings were more profitably invested elsewhere. But today things are different. The combination of big money, technology, and world markets push farming into large corporate hands. That may be fine for certain markets – rice, wheat, corn, etc. – but it may not be fine for others.

    There is no reason we need to be stuck with this model. If, as a matter of policy, we wanted to limit the size of citrus farms to no more than 125 acres, or otherwise discourage and disincentivize larger holdings, we could do just that. The price of citrus would increase just enough to open this market back up to small farmers again.


  11. One simple change would be to move from process-based regulation to quality-based regulation.

    Example: the pasteurization regulations. The point of the law is supposed to be protecting public health, by ensuring that milk that is sold is free of pathogenic bacteria.

    Currently, though, to comply with this (worthy) goal, it is specified that you must therefore use method X requiring equipment Y…

    Alternative methods (testing, cleanliness, etc.) of achieving the same result are not allowed.

    This is not original to me — Wendell Berry noted long ago that our “public health” regulations all seemed to have the curious common feature of requiring expensive equipment, which is a de facto barrier to small players in the market.

    I’m sure that’s just co-incidence.



  12. Well, of course I’m shooting in the dark, but based on that video, it sure looks to me like the guy being interviewed would be happy and at least somewhat better off if his regulatory burdened were lessened and he could sell his eggs at his little store without dreading the descent of the Regulatory Gendarmes, regardless of what happened to the big guys and whether they got a regulatory break as well.


  13. #7 above – You missed my point, but not your fault. My wording could have been better. Let me put it a different way. The only hope for families… is the Land. Obviously things in the USA are not as they are in Eritrea. What I was getting at is all the fourth world labour that produces the strip mall. I am no liberation theologian, nor a libertarian. Trith is, we’ve all been sold a bag of hockey pucks called “Capitalism”, which is rooted in Calvinism. Regulation for this fellow, and other farmers, means they can’t make a living fof their land, thanks tot he likes of Monsanto and other corporate ag monopolies. Freedom is on the Land. #12 – Spot on. Not designed for you or I to compete. Nor him. If we move away from the family farm as a business, and move it back to what it should be, subsistence w/the overflow being used as barter… sounds idealistic, perhaps. May be a necessity it the economy continues its current tailspin globally. I say 10 acres is plenty to feed a family. Or two.


  14. Sorry for the misunderstanding, James.

    Yes, I’ve often wondered how the govt. would regulate barter. I have a terrible feeling they would try, though.


  15. Lydia, in #10 I was sticking with the dairy example, and had in mind a standard commercial dairy as the “small farmer”. The organic farmer in the video is in a different situation. Because there is no hope competing with mega-farms, the organic farmers have identified a tiny niche specialty market that the mega-farms aren’t interested in. So in this case, yes, easing the ag regulatory burden across the board would help him too.


  16. Good luck getting any regs “eased” when it comes to big corporate agriculture. Monsanto and Archer Daniels are in control of the food supply, basically. They can pump antibiotics into the meat supply unchecked, but want to get granular w/the local, small scale farmer whose doing it by the book, meaning doing it the way ur forefathers did it “back in the day”…


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