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Big vs Small vs Industrial Agriculture

ROC is for an agriculture that supports a wide diversity of farm sizes. Diversity is a strategy for resilience and supports innovation and evolution of farming systems. We are critical of industrial agriculture because it is antithetical to biological health and evolution. Industrial agriculture applies assembly-line methods to food production in order to achieve efficiency and profits in a short span of time. The primary means of creating efficiency is to remove variation. Every bolt and bumper in assembly line must be exactly the same to manufacture a truck quickly. There is no tolerance for diversity of pieces and parts.

Nature is the opposite. It favors and fosters diversity due to random occurrence of mutations and a tendency to mix DNA. Combined, the mixing and mutating provides the engine of evolution. This is because as environmental conditions change robust diversity enhances the chances that some subset of a species will have the right traits to survive the changes underway. Agroecologist, Eric Holt-Gimenez, Ph.D., has documented such resilience in his early research on the rapid recovery of organic farms following hurricane Mitch in Nicaragua as compared to conventional operations.

Large, medium or small, farms that foster diversity contribute to a healthier agriculture. Typically, smaller organic or biodynamic farms are the most diverse, but in the last decade or more, farms of every size have been adopting soil building and other biodiverse practices to enhance farm health and productivity. Today there are many large farms that are models for the type of agriculture needed for a resilient future.

We support policies that enhance the diversity of scales and provide all farms and ranches with incentives and tools to become more diverse and dedicated to biologically integrated production approaches. For more, see the Farming Systems page.