Sadly, the small family farm is rapidly becoming a thing of the past as agriculture moves towards ever-larger commercial monoculture operations. As multi-billion dollar supermarket and convenience store chains have supplanted the Mom and Pop small food markets of the past, it has become increasingly harder for smaller farmers to sell their produce and make a profit. There are some real potential dangers in such a trend with respect to plant pest resistance, genetically modified crops, environmental contamination, biodiversity, and agricultural economics. The recent growth in the organics food industry (Barker 2010) has fueled a second look at agricultural practices of the past. There also is a notable increase in the agricultural literature on sustainable agriculture. Many restaurants are starting to promote their use of locally grown produce and some are even growing it themselves.
There are considerable technical obstacles to overcome with respect to small-scale production of a large number of different crops. Almost all of the machinery for planting, maintenance, and harvesting of individual crops is designed for large commercial farm operations. Home gardening practices are often too manual labor intensive for a small farm. There is a wealth of knowledge to be obtained from the almost forgotten practices used in small family farms of past centuries, as well as those currently used in Third World agriculture. Plus, there is nothing like the advice of local farmers for determining what works best for your particular location. Furthermore, new technology will change things in the future. Hence, the challenge of polyculture farming is taking the techniques from the much larger and the much smaller, the past and the future, the remote and the local, the experimental and the proven, and trying to meld it all into viable farm operations that are efficient and cost effective.
While the agricultural research conducted on the DeMilia Research Farm and the agricultural software developed by DeMilia Research LLC serves to benefit everyone from the home gardener to large commercial agribusinesses, we share a particular kinship with other small family farms and local produce markets. The crop production techniques that we research, modify, and create in the course of our agricultural experiments have potential practical application for usage on other small agricultural operations. The DeMilia Research Farm hopes to serve as a model for small-scale polyculture farming. Field experiments on the DeMilia Research Farm conducted for the purpose of plant disease predictive model research will also be used to evaluate polyculture farming techniques. As we conduct this research, the results will be summarized here and incorporated into the DemiAg Grower's Guide.
- Barker, A. V. (2010). Science and technology of organic farming. Boca Raton, FL, CRC Press.
Coming soon. Polyculture farming technique field observations made during the 2016 growing season.