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NC State farm shows smaller is better

Posted April 10, 2013

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— A beautiful spring day means a busy morning on the farm for students at North Carolina State University.

They're planting basil, eggplant and other produce at the Agroecology Education Farm, 6 acres off Lake Wheeler Road where students study the best ways to grow food without harming the environment.

The farm is designed to show that small, sustainable plots can provide better, local choices for fresh food.

“Here, we use organic fertilizers and organic methods. We try to reduce tillage on the soils,” crop science professor Michelle Schroeder-Moreno said.

Much of last year’s bounty went to the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle in Raleigh, providing needy families with healthy, fresh produce.

This year, N.C. State students also will eat from these fields. Almost a third of the university's food comes from local sources. Starting this summer, some of that food is going to come from the campus farm.

NC State farm NC State farm follows small, sustainable model

Students say the future of agriculture lies with small plots like the Agroecology Education Farm.

“Agriculture in the United States is very large,” farm manager Stephen Ratasky said. “We can do things on a smaller scale and a more local scale.”

Added Shroeder-Moreno: “We will not be able to sustain ourselves if we don't care for the environment, care about the economics, keep farmers in business.”

She hopes the farm helps train the next generation of farmers to feed their local communities. A planting event will be held Saturday for volunteers to work and learn more about the farm, which is next to Yates Mill County Park. Learn more about the event online.

9 Comments

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  • JohnFLob Apr 11, 7:26 p.m.

    I prefer local grown myself. But why did the small farm go under in this country in the first place? bacchianm April 11, 2013 5:08 p.m.

    Primary sources for the failure of the viability of small family farms and/or local farms is politicians and special interest groups creating and imposing excessive, sometimes nonsensical, legislative regulation. For example the silly idea that governments and activists can define what is organic. Under various regulations and restrictions tomatoes from my garden, backyard farm, must be inorganic if I chose to use a chemically derived fertilizer. Regulations and policies also prohibit our access to fresh whole milk. The EPA and USDA impose so many rules and regulations that farmers are afraid to just walkout onto their porch.

    As with most small businesses, if the government(s) will just get out of the way we can ALL prosper.

  • bacchianm Apr 11, 5:08 p.m.

    I prefer local grown myself. But why did the small farm go under in this country in the first place?

  • frosty Apr 11, 4:27 p.m.

    It all depends on the man hours to produce the product and what lifestyle can you support doing that kind of work.

    Bottom line, not can you make it work but can you make it pay.

  • Rolling Along Apr 11, 4:21 p.m.

    Wave of the future, like it or not. FWIW we are already working on getting our small farm up and going.

  • JohnFLob Apr 11, 9:58 a.m.

    westernwake1 April 10, 2013 4:07 p.m.

    The mega farm industries are actually part of the problem. Consider, for example" the salmonella poisoning of the nation when all our lettuce comes from a California mega-farms. How many times have we seen/read about other food contamination from "factory farms" and/or distribution centers. We also suffer from restricted food choices because the big mega-farm corporations create "frankenstein" seeds and get legislation enacted that restrict farming only their seed varieties.

    Food tastes better when you can go to your back yard pick some lettuce and tomatoes take them inside and a few minutes later having a truly fresh salad. With the mega-farms we have no way of knowing how many days or weeks food item have been in storage or transit.

  • Offshore Apr 11, 9:05 a.m.

    Small farms can deliver fresher, higher quality produce than large factory farms can. And, they don't create the large scale environmental damage that large farms do.
    27228

    Agreed. Grew up in a small town, local dairy delivered in the early AM. Local fresh farm produce available at store. Local butcher shop with local, fresh meat available. Never had the problems these mega-farms delivering to mega-stores have.

  • 27228 Apr 10, 5:44 p.m.

    Small farms can deliver fresher, higher quality produce than large factory farms can. And, they don't create the large scale environmental damage that large farms do.

  • mpheels Apr 10, 4:25 p.m.

    westernwake1, I think you're missing the point. This program at NC State is looking for ways to make smaller plots work for farmers despite the current presumed economics of large scale farming. They are developing and testing techniques to make small scale farming just as financially viable as megafarms. The current system or monoculture and megafarm is cheaper at the moment, but it is going to cost us greatly in the long run.

  • westernwake1 Apr 10, 4:07 p.m.

    Small, 'sustainable' plots is also how farmers go broke in an industry where scale greatly matters. It is nice to have all the financial resources of a university available to farm a small plot and then make absurd statements that 'samller is better'.