Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon SK
It’s widely recognized that a lot of new small-scale farmers don’t come from farm families. That is certainly one reason why so many of them are having a hard time. But when you look at their complaints, most are not particular to farming. They’re just what any independent business owner has to deal with. Financial stress, uncertainty, worry, self-doubt, emotional exhaustion, all that goes with starting and running any small business.
Most of the up and comers don’t seem prepared to face up to the realities of self-employment. When you couple that with the missionary mindset many of them have, they’re trying to not only keep their businesses going, they also have to solve the problems of injustice, inequality, and oppression. It’s no wonder their bottom lines aren’t as solid as they could be.
A good percentage of all new small businesses struggle and fail, and there’s no reason to think farming should be any different. When farms fail, those in the farm movement worry that they are falsely developing new farmers without any place for them to go. The real problem is that new farmers are either being encouraged to believe farming needs to right the world’s wrongs, or that it is just a job.
I’ll leave it to the macro economists to explain when and why farming got tied up with the NGO aid industry. But those who are following the calling to farm expecting to find a higher purpose might have an easier time of it if they just joined the ministry. Those expecting to find a livelihood need to ask themselves if they are ready to be self-employed. If they are, there hasn’t been a better time to be a small scale farmer or market gardener.