Keeping a small organic farm operation going isn’t easy. After 35 years of practicing strict organic methods, David Beebe and family at Cherry Ridge Organic Research Farm in Rockbridge County, Virginia are facing a challenge to stay in business as are many small farmers.
It’s no secret that large scale agro-industrial operations are currently favored by U.S. agricultural policy. Yet many international institutions including the FAO are turning to agroecology for answers to building sustainable food systems. Agroecology is the emerging set of practices that seek to apply ecological concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable food systems, and emphasizes the role of the small-holder farmers.
The 1st International Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition was held in Rome on the 18th and 19th of September 2014. “Agroecology continues to grow, both in science and in policies. It is an approach that will help to address the challenge of ending hunger and malnutrition in all its forms, in the context of the climate change adaptation needed,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.
In his book What Are People For, Wendell Berry, pre-eminent American philosopher, poet, environmental activist, and farmer wrote “…if agriculture is to remain productive, it must preserve the land and the fertility and ecological health of the land; the land, that is, must be used well. A further requirement, therefore, is that if the land is to be used well, the people who use it must know it well, must be highly motivated to use it well, must know how to use it well, must have time to use it well, and must be able to afford to use it well.”
Isn’t it time the United States paid more than lip-service to the value of small farmers to local food systems? Read more about the challenge faced by Cherry Ridge Organic Research Farm.