When someone finds out that I farm they often respond, "Oh, I would love to farm." My response is usually "Why don't you?"
Too often people identify farming with something big -- a hundred acres in the country with cows, chickens, pigs -- the whole nine yards. But large-scale farming is a fairly recent practice. At one time, pretty much everyone with a little land did some farming. It might not have been their full-time profession, but they raised a few animals and vegetables for their family and sold the excess. That was and is farming.
If we are going to find an alternative to industrial agriculture, I think it will be through small farms like these. A thousand backyards will be the solution to a thousand acres of monoculture crops.
What if you went to a local store to buy chicken, eggs, and a few vegetables and half of what was available was grown in your neighbors' backyards? What if when you came in to buy vegetables, you traded a few pounds of tomatoes for a chicken? What if you just traded with your neighbors and organized a system in which you raised the rabbits, another neighbor grew the beans, and another the lettuce?
The possibility of small-scale production is great in part because it is so dynamic. Small-scale farms can adapt and change faster than large farms, and because they fit within the physical power of people, they don’t require large petroleum-hungry machines.
Of course everyone can't do this small-scale farming. That's fine. Of course backyard farms won't eliminate the need for large-scale farming. No one is suggesting that. But an increasing number of small farms might just be what we need to move toward a truly ecological future. At least more people will have a better picture of where their food comes from.
If you've ever been tempted by a vision of an idyllic life in the country tending cattle or growing vegetables, don't wait. Get some rabbits, a few chickens, dig up that wasteful grass and plant some lettuce. Eat from your yard, share some with your neighbors, find a restaurant or store that will buy your extra produce, or just set up a stand by the road. If you don't have a yard, find a community garden that you can take part in or start you own in an abandoned lot. There's plenty of land and plenty of people with a desire to grow something -- let's begin a small-farm revolution.