The Center for Sustainable Agricultural Systems and the Department of
Agronomy, University of Nebraska-Lincoln are sponsoring a two-part seminar
series to be held on the UNL campus:
I. Alternative Farming Systems for the Midwest: Countering the Trend toward
Fewer, Larger Farms — Fall Semester 1998
II. Re-forming the Foodshed: Localizing Agriculture and Community — Spring
We are soliciting recommendations for speakers/topics. Funding is available
to cover the speakers' travel expenses and a small honorarium. Abstracts of
each talk will be available on the net, and a volume of papers from each
series will be published.
Background: U.S. agriculture is undergoing major structural changes:
Since 1950, the number of farms has decreased by 64% (to less than 2
million), average farm size has increased 127% (to 491 acres), and farm
population has declined to less than 2% of the U.S. total. The largest 9%
of U.S. farms control two-thirds of the land in farms and almost 50% of
cropland. Ninety percent of U.S. agricultural output is produced by only
The farmer's share of total agricultural economic activity is now less
than 5%. The input and marketing sectors that dominate agriculture are
controlled by a decreasing number of large companies. Half of all U.S.
retail food purchases go to six multinational corporations, and similar
economic concentration is seen in the input sector.
In light of these trends, the USDA National Commission on Small Farms (1998)
has reiterated the benefits of small farms, particularly to local economies,
and has recommended policy changes to strengthen their position in U.S.
agriculture. Among the recommendations is the implementation of "an
interagency Beginning Farmer Initiative dedicated to researching,
developing, and disseminating farm management models that emphasize
low-capital investment, optimal use of skilled labor and management
potential of beginning farmers, and high-value crop and livestock production
and marketing methods."
Part I of the series explores alternative farming systems for the Midwest
that are able to remain economically viable without becoming very large.
Presentations will describe and evaluate whole systems rather than specific
practices. Systems addressed during this 10-seminar series may include:
small-scale alternatives to large-scale confinement livestock production
Amish farming systems
intensive vegetable production
specialty crop production and marketing
organic farming systems
Part II explores approaches to providing a more supportive environment for
small farms through the relocalization of agriculture and the development of
stronger ties between agriculture and the community. Ways to improve local
food security in a global economy are presented. Strategies and issues
discussed may include:
community supported agriculture
legal issues for farm marketers
adding value through community processing
extension requirements for small farms
Each seminar series will consist of 10 presentations. A list serve will be
established for each series to provide an on-line forum for ongoing
discussion. Abstracts of each presentation will be disseminated prior to
the seminar, along with references for background reading. Each speaker
will prepare an article, and the full set from each series will be published
either as a volume in the CSAS Extension and Education series or as a
special issue of a peer-reviewed journal.
Please send suggestions for speakers and topics to:
University of Nebraska
Lincoln, NE 68583-0949
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