Are Small and Beginning Farmers Drawn to Diversification?

By: Matthew Mariola   Amyaz Moledina  

There is increasing recognition among agriculture and food scholars that farm diversification is an important means of sustaining farm livelihoods, ensuring a varied food supply, providing ecosystem services, and preserving agrobiodiversity. Yet economic forces continue to push in the opposite direction, compelling farmers to scale up and choose monocultures in order to achieve economies of scale. New farmers and small farmers typically lack the land base and capital necessary to farm at these large scales, making them a population perhaps more likely to consider diversified farming. We use data from 10 years' worth of entry surveys at a New and Small Farm College in Ohio (n=578) to answer two basic questions: Are new and small farmers drawn to diversification, and are there differences by gender and age in the types of diversified farming preferred? Results indicate a clear preference for diversified forms of production other than standard commodity row crops, with some commonalities and some interesting differences between males and females. We close by discussing implications for the food system more broadly, as these are preferences being indicated by our primary food producers, yet these producers continue to work in the midst of very challenging economic forces.

Farm Diversification, Female Farmers, New Farmers, Small Farmers
Food Production and Sustainability
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Matthew Mariola

-, -, College of Wooster, United States
United States

Amyaz Moledina

Associate Professor, College of Wooster, United States
United States