So how big is little?

I've rambled a little about what I think my grand kids farm shouldn't be like but not much about what it should.

First, there is no minimum or maximum size. Kind of funny considering all my blabbing about small farms but small is not so much about the size of the farm but more about the farmers idea of the size of the world and just how much it can give.

I have relatives in California who own a little almond orchard, less than a dozen acres. Now that is pretty small, but if you remember a ways back I mentioned that area of CA produces 80% of all the almonds consumed in the world. My relatives little farm is bordered on all sides and for miles and miles in all directions by other farms ranging from a few acres to hundreds. Not only is that type of farming no different than a huge wheat farm from the standpoint of monoculture but it is even more wasteful because each little farmer has little incentive to improve efficiency, reduce inputs, etc.

Granted, the concentration of almonds in a small region probably leads to some improved efficiency post harvest in processing - but again that is in a world of cheap energy.

Just down the road is a great little farm and fruit stand. I stopped at this little stand for years and watched these folks not only make a good living but also improve their land. There is no comparison between their soil and my relative's orchard. I just noticed 32ac of this place is for sale if you have the dough...

Almonds are harvested by shaking the tree with a large machine, the almonds are left to dry, then swept into windrows by another machine and finally picked up by a third. As you can imagine, the flatter, smoother and more bare the soil, the better, so the soil is sprayed and rolled to prevent anything from growing - (Almond Production Manual, pg. 198) - you can use a cover crop but not many do as I remember.

The ideal of a farm for a small world is epitomized in Management Intensive Grazing. A huge amount of the grain we grow goes to feed our food animals - somewhere around 80 calories of input creates 1 calorie of meat. Cattle for example are evolved to eat grass and we aren't, wouldn't it make sense to feed them grass on a rotational basis? Instead we confine them in pens standing knee-deep in shit and feed them corn and antibiotics.

Our little farm raises dairy bull calves on 30 acres of grass divided up in 3 ac paddocks and further as is needed by the number and age of calves, seasons, etc.

You can see in this pic I just snapped, last years grass is greening in the foreground, on the right side is grass the calves have been on 4 days and at the top the next 1 -1/2ac they'll get when I take down the temp fence with the white post.

I'll talk more about this, but basically, if you have rain, a decent soil to start and are able to get a good stand of mixed grasses and legumes (to fix nitrogen in the soil) there aren't too many inputs. The cattle harvest their own food, disperse their own manure (which returns most of the phosphorus and potassium) and by stocking correctly they eat everything evenly keeping down brush and unwanted species.

This method is pretty well scalable to whatever size the harvested crop is marketable - and it works for dairies too - as well as goats, sheep, pigs, horses, chickens...