Serving the Small Farm
Through Federal Farm Loan Programs

John Ikerd

Paper presented at Farm Loan Program Training Meeting, USDA, Farm Service Agency
Farm Loan Programs, Loan Servicing and Property Management Division, New
Orleans, LA, November 27-30, 2001.  Similar paper presented at ìSurvival
Strategies for Small and Limited Resource Framers and Ranchersî conference,
sponsored by Risk Management Agency, USDA, Agricenter International, Memphis,
TN, July 23-25, 2001.

Over the decades, U.S. farms persistently have grown larger in size and fewer in
numbers.  They have substituted capital and off-farm technology for labor and
management, making it possible for fewer farmers to farm more acres, utilizing
more hired labor and more capital.  Thus, access to low-cost capital has been a
key factor in supporting the trend toward fewer and larger farms.  And
historically, USDA Farm Loan programs have been an important source of capital
for American farmers, and thus, have subsidized the trend toward larger and
fewer farms.  Now, large family farming operations are being taken over by
gigantic multinational agribusiness corporations, mostly through contract
production ñ continuing the trend toward few and larger farming operations.

Somehow, small farmers have found ways to survive and succeed, in spite of
outdated public perceptions and misguided government programs that have created
tremendous obstacles to their survival and success.  For decades, farmers have
been told that they will have to either get bigger or get out of farming ñ that
small family farms were ìa thing of the past.î Understandably, it may have been
hard to get very enthusiastic about promoting a way of farming that was
supposedly doomed for extinction.  Government programs targeted to small farms,
such as small farm loans, beginning farmers, direct marketing, and 1890 Land
Grant Extension, are considered by many to be little more than programs to
prolong the agony of a dying way of life.  But, small family farms have
survived, at times even prospered, without much help from anyone else.

Large-scale, industrial agricultural enterprises are growing in America, both in
numbers and in proportion of total agricultural production.   These large,
industrial operations have been the recipients of huge government subsidies, not
only in the form of direct government payments, but also in public services such
as government subsidized loans, research and extension services, and export
promotion. The traditional mid-sized, full-time family farm is on the brink of
extinction in America.  They have neither the political clout of the large
agribusiness enterprises, nor the resilience, resistance, or regenerative
capacities of small farms.  While undoubtedly well intentioned, government farm
programs have been major contributors to the demise of full-time family farms.

Small farms, on the other hand, have succeeded in the past, and can succeed in
the future, even without a ìlevel playing fieldî from the government or public
understanding.  But, the odds of success for any individual farmer could be
considerably enhanced if current misperceptions concerning the imminent demise
of small farms were replaced with the new realities of small farm opportunities.

The outdated perceptions concerning small farms are deeply rooted in the
institutional culture of USDA, the Land Grant Universities (LGUs), and other
public agencies, as well as in the minds of the public in general.  In addition,
there are powerful economic and political interests opposing any change in the
public agenda toward better serving the needs of those currently without
economic or political power ñ which includes small farmers. These groups work
hard to reinforce the outdated perceptions in order to protect their own special
interests ñ to keep their place at the public trough.  It wonít be easy to
change these misperceptions.  Only when these outdated perceptions are forced to
confront todayís realities will the full measure of opportunities for small
farms be realized.

One general perception is that small farms are not really a significant part of
agriculture.  Agricultural programs for the past several decades have been
driven by concerns for production rather than people.  The underlying assumption
was that the public would benefit most by focusing on improving the efficiency
of farming, ultimately bringing down the cost of food and fiber to consumers.
This focus on efficiency is the root source of the trend toward larger, more
specialized, farming operations.  As large farms accounted for an increasing
share of total production, the remaining small farmers had a diminishing impact
on overall food supplies and prices, and thus became less important to the
agricultural institutions.

Today, USDA and the LGUs are promoting high-tech and biotech production methods
for the same reason ñ cheap food for consumers.  The natural environment is
viewed as a constraint, not an asset.  And, it doesnít seem to matter whether
there will be any farmers left in this country in a decade or two, or whether
rural communities survive or die.  They see their public mandate as ensuring
that agriculture is as efficient as possible, so consumers have an abundant
supply of food at minimum cost.  Small farmers are simply not relevant to that

The general perception is that ìsmall farmsî are not ìreal farms.î   Most small
farms are part-time farms; many are nothing more than rural residences with a
garden or a few head of livestock. Others are considered strictly hobby farms,
not intended to earn an income from farming.  Some ìfarmersî actually are urban
residents who own land in the country.  When the 1997 census definition was
changed to include entire farms that are in the CRP program and other
non-farming farmers, the ranks of small farmers was expanded considerably.
While living in the country or owning land may be important to these ìfarmers,î
there is little if any income derived from their actual farming operation.

It is simply not realistic for farmers to depend on a small farm for a
significant part of their living.  There is no way that a farm with gross sales
of less that $50,000 a year can be a serious commercial operation.  Farmerís net
incomes generally run about fifteen to twenty percent of gross sales, even on
well managed small farms.  Seven to ten thousand dollars a year certainly wonít
support a family.  In fact, the USDA categorizes such farms as ìnon-commercialî
farms.  The only hope for those grossing even up to $100,000 per year is to rely
on non-farm sources for most of their income.  Minority farmers are even less
important, because they make a very small percentage of those farmers who have
little if any chance to survive and succeed in farming.  Those farms grossing
between $100,000 and $250,000 are mid-sized, not small farms.  These farms have
a shot at surviving, but only if they get larger.

The lack of income for those who are actually trying to make a living on small
farms is a public welfare issue, not an agricultural issue, the policy experts
say.  Government farm programs were never intended to be rural welfare programs;
most small farms are not ìreal farms,î they claim.

The general perception is that technologies developed for larger, commercial
farming operations are equally useful on small farms ñ that agricultural
research and technology transfer programs are scale neutral.  After all, the
only way for a small farm to survive and succeed is for it to get larger ñ to
grow into efficient technologies.  And for those who can afford to farm as a
hobby, they surely want access to the best technology available.  What
difference does it make to a cow whether she is in a herd of ten to ten
thousand; her needs still are the same.  What difference does it make to a corn
plant whether it is in a field of ten or ten thousand acres; its needs are still
the same.  If the scale of technology doesnít matter to the animal or plant, it
is of no consequence to the farmer.

The general perception is that needs of small farmers are being met by existing
government policies and services for agriculture.  If anything, small farmers
get more than their share of government services.  After all, some programs are
designed specifically to meet the needs of smaller, family farms, and total
government payments per farm are limited for some commodity-based programs.
Studies have shown that small farmers tend to get a slightly larger proportion
of government payments than their proportionate contribution to total
agricultural production.  After all, program benefits have to be focused on
those who produce the bulk of agricultural commodities if they are to have the
most impact on production and prices.

Those who complain about inadequate attention to small farm in public research
and education are simply living in the past when small farms were actually
economically viable.  Progress in the agricultural economy, by necessity, has
left small farmers behind.  There is little government could do to roll back, or
even to slow, the technological advances supporting large-scale agriculture,
even if it could justify doing so.   Small farm advocates are simply out of
touch with reality.  Small farmers are citizens and thus worthy of attention and
indulgence by those in public institutions, but there is really not much that
government can do for them.  To the USDA and LGUs the small farm issue is a
public relations issue, not a legitimate public policy and research and
education programming issue for agriculture.

The realities of small farms are very different from these perceptions.  In some
cases, prevailing perceptions are simply out of date, but in others, they are
simply ìwrong headed.î

The reality is that small farms are a significant part of American agriculture.
While a focus on agricultural production may have been a legitimate orientation
in the past, there is no longer any significant societal benefit to be gained
from continued public programs designed to enhance the productive efficiency of
agriculture.  First, the American consumer no longer spends 40-50 percent of
their income for food, as they did when USDA and the LGUs were established, but
instead spend a little more than ten percent ñ a dime each dollar.  In addition,
the farmer only gets about a penny from that dime to pay for value added on the
farm.  Even if farming were perfectly efficient, if the farmer got nothing,
consumers would only save a dime from each dollar spent at the grocery store.
Government programs simply cannot make food much cheaper.  And it certainly no
longer makes sense to try to make food cheaper by making farms bigger.

In addition, government can no longer justify subsidizing those who produce the
bulk of the nationís food ñ the 17 percent or so of the producers who account
for 80 percent of total production.  These are the larger agricultural
enterprises, operated by those with higher incomes and far greater wealth than
the average taxpayer.  While relatively few are listed as non-farm corporations,
many of these larger operations are contract producers for large, multinational
agribusiness corporations.  The corporations make the profits from such
operations.  The ìfarmersî are little more than contract laborers and landlords,
receiving little more than minimum wages and rents.

The original USDA and LGU mission was to support agriculture because it was
fundamentally different from industry ñ farmers confronted different economic
forces than did industry, and farmers werenít large enough to carry out their
own research and technology development.  This was the justification for
ìpublicî support for farming.   Agricultural commodity production today is
simply another industry ñ giant agribusiness needs no government protection.
Instead, the public needs protection from them.  Agribusiness firms are large
enough to do their own research and development. They donít need help in driving
small farmers out of business.  There is no longer any justification for using
taxpayersí dollars to subsidize agri-industry.

The primary ìpublic issuesî related to agriculture today are ecological and
social in nature.   We must have people on the land who care about the land, if
we expect our land and other natural resources to be cared for, so that
agriculture can sustain American society in the future.  The people who farm,
the farmers, are still the backbone of many rural communities and the keepers of
Americaís rural culture.  Farmers, the people who farm, are more important to
American agriculture today than is the quantity and price of agricultural
production. And, most of the people who farm in America are on small farms.

The reality is that most ìreal farmersî are small farmers.  Admittedly, some of
those census entities counted as farms are hobby farmers and rural residences.
But, many are not.  The census asks farmers to provide their ìprimary
occupationî ñ the occupation at which they spend more than half of their working
hours.   Recent USDA surveys also distinguish between active farmers and retired
farmers.  Small farmers are more likely than large farmers to have some
occupation other than farming and are more likely to be retired.  But even when
considering only those whose primary occupation is farming and who are not
retired, more than half of all farmers would easily be classified as small
farmers.  Well over half of these primary occupation farmers have less than
$100,000 in annual gross sales.  Nearly half have gross sales of less than
$50,000 per year ñ classified by USDA as non-commercial farms.  Oneís primary
occupation should not be called ìnon-commercial.î  Most real farmers are small

How do these small farmers earn a living, or at least a significant portion of
their living, on such small farms?  First, successful small farmers also pursue
a fundamentally different approach to farming.  They are low-input farmers; they
reduce their reliance on purchased inputs by substituting management of their
internal resources, land and labor, for commercial technology.  In general, they
substitute labor and management for capital and purchased inputs.  They also
focus on creating value, as well as reducing costs.  They are niche-marketers,
many marketing direct to local customers, and gaining a share of the 80 percent
of food value that usually goes to middlemen.  They give individual consumers
what they want, rather than produce bulk commodities for mass markets. These
farmers build relationships with their customers, and thus, are far less
vulnerable to the ups and downs of commodity markets than are conventional
farmers.  Because of these things, many small farmers earn far greater income
per dollar of sales than do conventional large farmers.  A farm with $50,000
gross sales, for example, may well contribute $25,000 or more to support a

Second, many small farmers live simply.  This does not mean that they live in
poverty, but it does mean that their economic standard of living may not be as
high as that of their urban neighbors.  To them, the primary product of their
farm is a desirable quality of life.  The farm provides them with a home, much
of their food, a place for raising a family, an aesthetically pleasing place for
recreation and relaxation, and a place for learning and teaching, as well as a
place to work.  Many of these smaller farms are not obligated to report a net
income from farming because many of the ìcosts of livingî on a small farm
qualify as ìfarm costs.î  Many of these farms, particularly if they are
part-time farms, need not earn an income from farming.  The ìnon-marketî value
of the farm to the family is sufficient to justify the farm being the primary
occupation of at least one adult family member.

In general, the most successful small farms are following many of the
philosophies and practices of sustainable agriculture.  They are balancing the
ecological, economic, and social aspects of their farming operations to support
a desirable quality of life for themselves, their families, and their
communities.  They are exploiting neither their natural resources nor other
people in their pursuit of profits.  By doing what makes sense to them,
economically, socially, and ethically, they are building a more sustainable
system of food and fiber production for the future.  These small farmers are the
real farmers of the future.

The reality is that the technologies developed for larger, commercial farming
operations are not appropriate for small farms.  Successful small farms must be
management intensive ñ they must earn more returns per acre, per dollar
invested, per dollar of production.  The higher net returns on intensively
managed farms comes from the efficiency with which various practices, methods,
and enterprises are integrated together ñ not necessarily from the efficiency of
each individual practice, method, or enterprise.  A cow plays a very different
role in a complex integrated farming system than in a specialized beef or dairy
herd.  Corn plays a very different role in a complex integrated farming system
than in a specialized corn or row crop farm.

Small farmers need research and technology that will enhance the human capacity
to manage things ñ to understand, to think, to learn to ìintegrate thingsî more
effectively.  They donít need technologies that require them to follow specific
practices and procedures or restrict their options ñ which in effect restrict
their ability to manage.

Technologies are not scale-neutral.  Agricultural technologies of the past have
provided means of simplifying and controlling production processes, and thus,
have constrained the farmerís ability to manage.  In fact, USDA and LGU
technology development and transfer has fueled the industrialization of
agriculture and has forced farmers to move toward ever larger and increasingly
specialized farming operations.  Small farmers need technologies that enhance
the productivity of management.  Small farmers need new ways to earn a better
income with less land and less capital, not new ways to manage more land and
more capital.

The reality is that existing government policy and services are not meeting the
needs of small farmers.  Government policy has been focused on enhancing
efficiency of agricultural production, not ìsaving the family farm.î  Now that
subsidizing productivity has no social justification, agricultural programs
should be focused on the needs of people, not production.  The public now has a
greater stake in farmers protecting the natural environment and supporting
viable rural communities than in providing unnecessary subsidies for giant
agribusiness corporations.  There is no more justification for subsidizing
industrial agriculture than for industrial textiles, construction, steel,
chemicals, or computers.  The giant corporations have a profit incentive to
develop all of these industries, including agriculture, without government
subsidies.  The new role of the government should be to protect society, and the
natural resource base for society, from corporate exploitation.

Without the pretext of serving society through productivity, public programs for
agriculture should be directed on a one-person-one-vote basis.   Each person has
an equal claim to public goods and services, no matter how rich or how poor they
may be, no matter large or how small their economic contribution, no matter what
their race or ethnicity.  In addition, each person is entitled to certain
fundamental rights and privileges and has certain fundamental responsibilities,
no matter how much or little political power they possess. This is the nature of
a democracy.  In the private sector, we vote with dollars ñ the more dollars,
the more votes.  But in the public sector, everyone is equal ñ those with more
dollars, still get just one vote.   If USDA and LGU functioned truly as ìpublicî
institutions, each farmer would be given the same importance and attention, no
matter how small.  If these institutions functioned as purely public
institutions, small farm programs would receive well over 90 percent of all
program benefits.   At a minimum small farms deserve over half of all public
resources, because over half of those who consider farming their primary
occupation live and work on small farms.

Small farm advocates are in touch with the reality of today, but perhaps more
importantly, they are looking to the future.  They are not opposed to
technology; they simply want technology that is consistent with long run
sustainability as well as short run profitability.  They are not living in the
past, but instead, are preparing for the future.  The future of human
civilization depends not only on food, but also on a healthy environment and a
civilized human society.  There can be no greater public priorities. There is no
better means of sustaining human life on earth than to have people of the land
who are intellectually capable, socially responsible, and ethically committed to
meeting both the needs of the present and the future through farming.  There is
no better investment of public dollars than investments in keeping the land in
the hands of ecologically and socially responsible small farmers.

Strategies for Successful Small Farms
How have those on small farms managed to succeed ñ in spite of the
misperceptions?  And, what are the keys to the success of small farms in the
future?   First, successful small farmers must think for themselves.  Very few
people really understand how to make a good living on a small farm.  Most of the
so-called ìexpertsî have been taught how to help small farmers manage like large
farmers, not how to manage a small farm.  Most ìbest management practicesî and
ìfarm business strategiesî are designed to tell farmers how to make more money
by managing more land and capital, rather than how to make more money with less
land and less capital, by managing better.

The best source of outside advice for small farmers is other small farmers, or
those who have learned from other small farmers.  But, every successful small
farm will be fundamentally different from every other small farm.  So
ultimately, small farmers must think for themselves and make their own

Successful small farmers also must think like a small farmer ñ not like larger
farmers who donít have enough land or capital.  I am frequently asked how I
define a ìsmall farm.î  My typical answer has become, ìthe difference between
large and small is in farmersí heads, not in how many acres they farm or in the
size of their bank account.î  A farmer who is farming 40 acres, but feels that
he or she needs to have more land to make a decent living, is a large farmer ñ
i.e. thinks like a large farmer.   A farmer who is farming 3,000 acres, but
feels that he or she needs to find some way to make a better living by farming
less land, is a small farmer ñ i.e. thinks like a small farmer.  A successful
small farmer is one who finds ways to do more with less, while a large farmer
always needs more.  Successful small farmers are those who ìthinkî like small

Successful small farmers know when they have ìenough.î  The fatal flaw in the
traditional American way of farming was that farmers never knew when they had
ìenough.î  They always wanted more ñ more land, more livestock, or more money.
So, they succeeded only in driving each other out of business, as each had to
have the otherís land in order to succeed.  Eventually, however, even the
survivors will be forced out of business by the large corporations.   A farmer
that defines success as ìwhen I have more land, more livestock, or more moneyî
will never be successful.  He or she will never have enough.  A farmer who
defines success as ìbeing able live a good lifeî has a far better chance for
success.  It doesnít take a large farm to make a good life, but it does take
knowing ìhow much is enough.î

Successful small farmers will be ìquality of lifeî farmers.  ìQuality of lifeî
is not something you acquire or accomplish; it is something you are ñ a ìstate
of being.î  It is not a product but a process. You donít ìpossessî a life of
quality; you ìliveî a life of quality.  Our quality of life is not determined
solely by how our income or wealth ñ although we do have economic needs that
must be met.   The quality of our life depends on the quality of our
relationships with other people ñ within families and communities.   A life of
quality is a life of purpose and meaning ñ a life lived according to moral and
ethical principles.  When our pursuit of income and wealth degrades our
relationships with others, it diminishes, rather than enhances, our quality of
life.  When our pursuit of income and wealth causes us to compromise our moral
and ethical principles, it diminishes, rather than enhances, our quality of

If our goal is to have more land, more livestock, or more money, we will never
have enough.  We wonít have enough time for our family or community, because we
will be too busy trying to get more.  We will compromise our ethical and moral
principles, because thatís what we eventually will have to do to get more.  We
will never find happiness because we will be too busy pursuing success.

How Can Government Loan Programs Better Serve Small Farms?
The actions of agricultural lenders will continue to be important in shaping the
future of American agriculture. Currently, the industrialization of American
agriculture is being promoted by agricultural lenders who insist that farmers
follow industrial farming methods ñ specialization in specific enterprises,
standardized production systems, and large-scale centralized control ñ in order
to qualify for loans.  An industrial agriculture is inherently tied to
production of basic, low-value, agriculture commodities, in which the U.S. is
least likely to maintain a global competitive advantage.  Integration of farmers
into value-adding ìfood chainsî does not free the ìfarmerî from being a producer
of low-value, raw material to which someone else will add value and someone else
will reap the profit. More than 30 percent of all U.S. agricultural production
is already produced under corporate contracts.  Ultimately the ìvalue addedî
sectors of American agriculture will be completely controlled by large
corporations, not farmers or even by groups of farmers.

The future of farming in America is at risk.  We must shift the emphasis on
farming from greater economic efficiency and global competitiveness to greater
environmental integrity and national food security.  Americaís small farmers
will continue to plant another crop or keep cattle on pastures for as long as
they can scrape together enough money to do it.  It doesnít really matter all
that much to most if they could make more money doing something else or if they
could make more farming in another country.  As long as they can get enough
money to buy seed and fertilizer they are going to grow something, even if they
are ìfree not to farm,î if they choose.  They have roots in their communities,
they are not going to leave their families; they are committed to farming in

Multinational corporations have no such commitment to America and certainly not
to farming in America.  Corporations will help their contract growers get loans
to buy buildings and equipment, but they will abandon those growers if the
contractual arrangement becomes unprofitable for the corporation.  They will
borrow money in the U.S., but will invest it wherever on the globe they can
minimize costs and maximize profits.  It doesnít matter if lower costs elsewhere
are the result of exploitation of the land or the people of another country.
Lenders who demand such complete ìeconomic rationalityî from those to whom they
make loans are supporting the ultimate abandonment of American agriculture.

American taxpayers should not be asked to support Federal Loan Programs that
subsidize the exploitation of the natural environment for the sake of cheap
food.  American taxpayers should not be asked to support Federal Loan Programs
that subsidize the exploitation of people ñ neither contract growers in the U.S.
nor peasant farm workers in other countries.  Government loan programs should be
restricted to independently owned and operated family farms ñ to farmers who
will pledge their commitment to protecting the environment and to treating all
living things, including other people, with dignity and respect.  Government
loan programs should not support the ìglobal race to the bottom,î to see who can
minimize economic costs by imposing environmental and social costs on the rest
of society.   If government loan programs adopt such rules and guidelines for
supporting farm loans, nearly all such loans would go to farmers on small farms.

Sustainable agriculture offers a viable alternative to corporate
industrialization.  A sustainable agriculture seeks to work in harmony with
nature ñ to restore, renew, regenerate, and sustain the productivity of the
natural environment.  A truly sustainable agriculture would support humanity
using only the inflow of solar energy, with enough surpluses to sustain the
integrity of the resource base.   A truly sustainable agriculture would empower
people to enhance their social and ethical quality of life, thus, eliminating
their need for continual economic exploitation of the earth and of each other.
A sustainable agriculture is based on the belief that there are fundamental laws
of nature, including human nature, that we humans violate only at our own peril.
And, a truly sustainable agriculture is easier to achieve on small farms.

Thousands of American farmers are already trying to find ways to farm
sustainably, and these farmers sometimes need to borrow money to finance their
efforts1.  These farmers are trying to build fundamentally different farming
operations than are conventional commodity producers.  They are more likely to
be trying to reduce their reliance on off-farm inputs through more intensive
management of on-farm resources.  They are more likely to be trying to develop
their own marketing channels, to marketing direct to customers, to market in the
niches, rather than sell bulk commodities to processors.  They are more likely
to be involved with alternative enterprises ñ something other than corn,
soybeans, wheat, cattle, or hogs.  They are more likely to be working together
with other farmers and with their customers to develop profitable relationships.
And these farmers are more likely to be living and working on smaller farms.

Obviously, those who administer Federal Farm Loan Programs are not in a position
to rewrite the policies and rules they must follow in carrying out their work ñ
they donít make the laws; they just carry them out.  However, in many cases, the
means by which government programs are administered are just as important as the
authorizing legislation.  An agency worker who is preconditioned to view a loan
application for a large-scale, specialized farming operations as a good risk can
almost always find a ìlegal reasonî to approve the application.  And, an agency
worker who is preconditioned to view the loan application of a small,
diversified farming operation as a poor risk can just as easily find a ìlegal
reasonî to deny the application.  Perceptions of administrators can be as
important as policy.

Those who administer Federal Farm Loan Programs need to be made aware that the
fundamental nature of agriculture in America is changing.  Today, large-scale,
specialized producers of basic agricultural commodities are the ones most likely
to fail.  They will not have the access to the technology or markets they will
need to compete with corporate agriculture in the future.  Those who survive by
becoming corporate contract producers will be forced to assume far more economic
and environmental risks than can be justified by the meager rewards of ìcontract
farming.î  The smaller, diversified, part-time farmers are far more likely to be
able to service and repay their loans in the future than are the large,
specialized producers.  They are not competing with corporate agriculture; they
are doing something fundamentally different.  However, many potentially
successful small farmers quite likely will be denied an opportunity to succeed
because of outdated perceptions on the part of those who decide who gets access
to capital.

Polluted water, fouled air, mistreated animals, oppressed workers ñ are symptoms
of an agriculture that has focused only on the economic bottom line.  Chronic
farm financial crises, declining exports, loss of security ñ are symptoms of an
agriculture that is being shaped by a global, corporate economy.  Broken farm
families, decaying rural communities, and ìworn outî farm land, are all symptoms
of farmers trying to be successful by getting bigger so they can be more
economically efficient and more globally competitive.  Those who create these
problems are not bad people; they have simply believed the outdated perception
that they had to either get big or get out.

Federal Loan Programs, along with other government programs at the state and
federal level, have important roles to play in shaping the future of American
agriculture.   They canít determine who will succeed and fail but they can
affect the balance of opportunity.  They can continue to support the trends of
the past or they can help find the way to a better future for American

The future of farming in America is in a ìnew typeî of farming, in farming that
balances the personal, the interpersonal, and the moral and ethical dimensions
of life, in farming that balances ecological integrity, economic viability, and
social responsibility.  These new farmers know that bigger farms havenít
resulted in better lives ñ not for farmers nor for society in general.  Instead,
the trend toward bigger farms has threatened the sustainability of American
agriculture.  The future of farming in America is linked very closely with the
future of Americaís small farms.

1For 50 examples of sustainable farming, see ìThe New American Farmer ñ Profiles
in Agricultural Innovation,î the SARE Program, USDA, Washington DC. ($10 US ñ
call: 802-656-0484 or e-mail: , also available free on line at )