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How to Start & Manage a Micro Dairy: Step 2

| 9/27/2012 9:35:08 AM

Cow and Calf 

Looking Back: Micro Dairy History & the Family Farm

This is the second part of a 12 part series. To read step one visit The Philosophy of a Micro Dairy

Last time we covered an intro to Micro Dairies, and to get a better idea of where this re-burgeoning interest could lead I think it would help to take a look back at small, diversified family farm history. 

To begin with, by family farm I mean traditional, small scale farms as opposed to farms that are simply owned by families but which are really “run” by corporate agribusiness. The continued rise of small farms has a lot to do with the growing popularity of the buy local movement. This move (back) towards sustainability in agriculture has a number of motivators — people looking for better, healthier food, a heightened awareness of detrimental corporate farming practices on the environment and an increasing appreciation for farmers and what they offer (how many times have you heard recently that “farmers are the new rock stars”?) 

So what family and homestead farms and Micro Dairies are really doing is helping reconnect people with the land in a substantive way. “Back to the land” has outgrown its hippie connotation and attracts all types of people from ex-Wall Streeters to retirees to young people straight out of school. That diversity is incredibly encouraging, and necessary. 

But, back to history. How did agriculture and dairying get to where we are today? At the end of the American Revolution, when the agrarian class was no longer needed by the wealthy and largely coastal mercantile class to fight the British, the cash-based mercantile economy came into conflict with the barter based, inland agrarian economy. Mismanagement, post-war debt and an excess of unsellable goods cause a cash shortfall that forced the mercantile class to call in debts from small rural merchants, who in turn demanded cash payments from the yeomen farmers of the era. These post-revolutionary farmers, who rarely dealt with cash, revolted as they began to lose their farms and livelihoods. 

This last great stand by the agrarian class to defend their way of life and economic system is now referred to as Shays’ rebellion, a revolt taken up in varying degrees throughout the Colonies, severely disrupting the operation of Debtors Courts and Banks. I have read that John Hancock, the governor of Massachusetts, raised a private army to put down the rebels, which drove farmer Daniel Shays and cohorts to flee into New Hampshire and Sandgate, Vermont where they were sheltered despite calls for their extradition. They were eventually pardoned. (It’s interesting to note that Thomas Jefferson believed yeoman farmers were exemplars of the kinds of values most needed by the fledgling country, while bankers and industrialists were untrustworthy at best. Talk about foresight.) 

3/26/2018 5:49:11 PM

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