Small is back

  Is the small American farm a dying species? Not according to Jeff Rast, founder of the for-profit Center for Small Acreage Farming in Camas County, Idaho. After working on a large-scale farm for 10 years and serving as an extension agent for the University of Idaho, Rast says he has realized his dream of operating a profitable small farm; now he hopes to help others succeed as well. Rast believes small-scale farms will outlive their heavily mechanized, large-scale counterparts because, in the long run, they are more sustainable. As soil resilience and fertility become greater concerns for all farmers, Rast says, "Only the small-acreage farmer is able to see the land closely and give it the attention it needs." Rast defines "small" as half the size or less of an average farm. Whether this means just a couple of acres in New England or 150 acres in Idaho, Rast says, the major obstacle facing farmers is finding scale-appropriate technology. He hopes to fill in this information gap with workshops, a monthly eight-page newsletter and a 32-page guide called Starting Your Small Farm. Rast says, in the end, success comes down to management: "Small-scale farmers can support a family and make a profit if they plant high-value crops, use labor-intensive equipment and market to their consumers directly." For more information contact Jeff Rast, P.O. Box 219, Fairfield, Idaho 83327 (208/764-2332).