When a nation wants to move into the 21st century of agriculture, where do they turn? Brazil, a model of production efficiency with soybean fields so large that you can drive a tractor one direction through them for an entire morning? Europe, populated by small farms protected from competing imports?
This was the question posed by China in the past few years as it has looked to modernize its system of agriculture. Currently this nation is having difficulties feeding its population and would like to change to become more self-sufficient. Chinese officials traveled around the world, meeting with farmers from nations on every continent to find the best system to model its ag revitalization program after.
The model they chose might surprise you. They found that the path to self-sufficiency was not through mega-farms owned by a handful of people, nor in protecting current farmers from competition to enhance their profitability. According to an article by Successful Farming, they want to emulate the family farms of the United States.
Despite the media rhetoric, America is fed by family farms. You can almost guarantee that the beef on your plate or the corn in your cereal was tended by a family farmer at some point its life. Therefore, when the Chinese did farm tours in our country, they didn’t hang out with some CEO. They visited a Mom & Pop business that was operated by the same person that owned it.
China liked our model for several reasons, but two major reasons stood out. First, our farms are large enough to allow farmers to use modern technology, making food production less wasteful. However, they are small enough that they typically are passed down in a family from one generation to the next. This creates a strong desire to take care of the land so the next generation can benefit from it.
There’s still a long way to go for China to achieve self-sufficiency in agriculture. However, it is reaffirming to us on this side of the Pacific to see that our model is seen as by others as the best to feed a large population without destroying the environment. In short, keep doin’ it right American farmer!
Photo credit: http://waittfoundation.org/antarctica-marine-reserves