Saturday, January 9, 2016

Small farming in the 21st century

Back a few lifetimes ago, I was eyeballing a failed "estate development" a couple miles north of Guelph. Some wannabe developer had done all the dirty work and had all the approvals for an estate subdivision carved out of Wellington County farmlands.

Twenty-five "estate lots" on fifty acres of prime agricultural real estate. Our wannabe developer had enough money to rough in the road and build the model home; the one he lived in.

That's where things stalled out.

So after a couple of years of no takers on these estate lots, the entire development came up for sale, which is when my squinty eye appraised the possibilities. I figured let's rethink this "estate" shit and market this as a "market gardening" opportunity. After all, it's sitting on prime Ontario agricultural land. Instead of 4000 sq. ft. McMansions, we'll promote this project as an ideal location for a modest home, plus an acre or two of prime black soil.

A market gardening subdivision!

Drew up a business plan. Presented it to a few of my colleagues in the business. Presented it to my dear daddy, who had been in the business forever. Presented it to my friends at the bank I owed a million dollars to...

They unanimously agreed that I was obviously fucked in the head.

Fast forward thirty years or so. I'm having lunch with one of these kids who are the new face of farming. While she may have a P. Eng. in her back pocket, she lives and breathes organic farming. She tells me she just ordered her seeds for the coming year; a thousand bucks.

So what kind of a return do you figure you'll see on that thousand dollars?

Around forty grand.

How big is your garden?

I've scaled back this year; I'm down to one acre.

She's scaled back this year because she's so pregnant I was half expecting she'd calve right there in our booth at the Teviotdale Truck Stop.

Thankfully she didn't. But she is the face of small farming going forward. There's a generation of really smart and well-educated young people who have a passion for growing stuff. They want nothing to do with big agro-chem.

They are the future!

Which proves yet again that I wasn't a failure; I was merely ahead of my time.

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