The more our industrialized agriculture tries to replace it, the more the ecological small scale agriculture persists as a viable alternative, especially when close to urbanizing populations. But the dynamics are important as is the cooperation.

The appropriate scale for grain farming is not the same as that for domestic fruits and vegetables, or small goat herds, or chickens. What industry has forced on us is an inappropriate and unsustainable agriculture at a large scale overall run by a monopolistic, wasteful technology. Scale isn’t even considered. Everything must be big and all operations must grow larger and larger, sucking up money and resources. And denying that real people in happy communities count.

Ed Hamer plowing at Chagford Community Market Garden (Source: Ed Hamer)

But, in fact, the machinery for medium to large grain operations can be run on a non-fossil-fuel-based energy system, and draft animals and well-designed tools are natural alternatives that can also be brought back with education and skill for smaller operations.

A major problem with our food system is thinking that one size fits all and failing to see the potential of the “small is beautiful” scenario in a mixed landscape. That mixed landscape is a necessary buffer to protect the natural resource base – the key elements of the endemic ecosystem – and to give something back to the community (the human resource).

We shouldn’t force more growth to feed a faulty economic system that, if it continues, is going to destroy all of us. The real key is development and maintenance of crop diversity AND a diversity of scale for farming operations. Why do we need a monolithic zoning for agriculture? There are many viable alternatives. We just need to allow it to happen.

What is most important? That people be employed and happy or that investors become rich? The healthy alternative to more unmanaged – and ungoverned – growth is consciously building resiliency to meet climate change and provide young people a future they can feel good about, not scared to death over.

This to me is the “bright side of life” as long as we keep believing in it. Ed Hamer is doing it.

Ed Hamer is a young farmer and journalist. He grew up in Chagford and “wanted to remain in the area but there’s no way I could afford to buy here.”

In 2009 Ed co-founded Chagford Community Market Garden, a community supported agriculture scheme supplying 70 seasonal and ecologically produced veg shares a week to local households.

Hamer has written for The Guardian, The Ecologist, and Reurgence and is co-editor of The Land Magazine.