True family farms are and have always been a way of life, not just a massive business enterprise.
- CAFOs don't cut it as family farms
In 2014, I was commissioned by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations to develop a paper on “Family Farming in North America” in recognition of the International Year of Family Farming. I presented the paper at the Global Dialogue on Family Farmingat the FAO in Rome, and an executive summary of the paper, along with other regional papers, was published in the FAO publication: Roots (page 31). We are still waiting for publication of the full texts of our regional papers. However, a “draft” of my paper is available on-line at https://sites.google.com/site/familyfarmsna/. This blog piece focuses on the “multifunctional” aspects of family farms and the relevance of multifunctionality to sustainability. I am also posting a paper on my homepage johnikerd.com that relates multifunctionality to the sustainability of “small farms.”
By Dr. John Ikerd - "Family Farming and Multifunctionality"
|Creekside Family Farm, Minooka, Illinois|
It’s the sense of interconnectedness of the family with the farm makes the farm a “family farm” and the family a “farm family.” Such farms and the families are inseparable. The same farm with a different family would be a different farm, and the same family with a different farm would be a different family. True family farms represent a way of life rather than just a means of making an economic living. Such farms are managed in ways that reflects the social and ethical values of the farm family as well as the economic value of farming: they are intentionally multifunctionality. Family owned and operated farms that give the economic bottom line priority over concerns for their communities and the future of humanity are managed as mono-functional farms. Such farms still have social and ecological effects on society and nature, but these effects are generally negative rather than positive.
Those of us who value traditional family farms are often seen as naïve or idealistic. However, it is not naïve to be concerned about sustainability. The controversies surrounding family farms versus industrial farms invariably center on questions of agricultural sustainability: The ability to meet the basic food needs of all of the present without diminishing opportunities for those of future generations. Sustainability is inherently multifunctional in that it has three key dimensions: ecological integrity, social equity, and economic viability. A farm that doesn’t protect and reinvest in the productivity of nature and society cannot be sustained economically. Only farms that are managed multifunctionally are capable of addressing the multiple dimension of sustainability.
|Canadian Family Farm|
|Hunger facts: No kid hungry|
|USDA – South Bld., Washington, D.C.|
- reducing emphasis on subsidies for industrial agriculture that incentivize specialization and corporatization at the expense of diversification and family farms, beginning with programmes linked to specific commodities including corn, soybeans, wheat and rice—including subsidized crop insurance
- reducing economic risks for multifunctional family farms for example through subsidized ‘whole-farm revenue insurance’ with lower premiums for more diversified farming operations
- subsidizing farm families, not farm production by linking government payments to family size not farm size – subsidizing people not production.
Policies supporting multifunctional farming must extend beyond farming operations to: 1) Ensuring basic health care for multifunctional farm families as well as workforce’s compensation and other “fringe benefits.” 2) Restoring farmland to “the commons” by permanently zoning enough farmland for food production to meet the food needs of all of both current and future generations. 3) Develop land tenure policies that support more farms and farmers, local markets, local control, and food democracy – ensuring that land is use for the common good. 5) Redirecting public research and education to serve public interests, giving priority to on-farm research and with-farmer education. Farming must be treated as a learned profession.
In summary, the sustainability of food production for the benefit of all of the “world’s people” can be and should be ensured by policies that support a global network of local community-based food systems that support and are supported by multifunctional family farms. Multifunctional farmers are endowed with the inherent potential to farm sustainably, and sustainable farms are essential to achieving sustainable food and agricultural systems. Public policies thus must support a transition from mono- to multi-functional farming.
- John Ikerd
[Republished with permission.]
Below is a video of John Ikerd speaking in Madison, Wisconsin.