Down to Earth

If you’re a regular listener to this show you probably know the problems with industrial agriculture, like overuse of toxic chemicals, inhumane treatment of animals, destruction of soil, labor and public health issues. But, as journalist Sarah Mock tells us, small family farms are not necessarily the solution––they suffer from other sets of problems because of their small scale and often low (if any) profit margins. A possible alternative is what she calls Big Team Farms. We talk about this model and what problems it could solve if implemented well.
Sarah Mock is an agricultural journalist, and the author of two books, including Farm (and Other F Words), and her most recent, Big Team Farms.
She will be a keynote speaker at the Regenerate Conference in Denver this November.

2’34 growing up on a farm in Wyoming, trying to go into international relations, pivoting to agriculture journalism
6’35 most farms in the US are family farms
7’36 the limitations of family farms––everything from family conflicts to the pressure to do extractive practices
13’32 the labor problem of family farms––if you want to do regenerative agriculture at a high level, you need labor, but there’s often not enough money to pay them enough
17’50 defining “Big Team Farms” in contrast to family farms, and what problems this model is trying to solve
20’34 some examples of big team farms and new ownership models
25’02 the employee ownership model
26’36 when you have a business, make sure there’s always an exit plan
28’00 different strategies for dealing with legacies for your children if you turn your farm into a multi-owner partnership
34’24 does the big team farm model benefit laborers?
37’33 big team farms and regenerative agriculture
39’57 resisting “maximization”
46’18 the minimal role of consumer demand as a change mechanism
50’11 policies that could improve the food system––that’s also very difficult, as USDA has always been about promoting big ag
53’22 commodity payments should be tied to regenerative agriculture practices
55’57 Sarah’s own experience of a big team farm falling apart
59’36 we don’t’ know if the big team farm model will work, but it’s the best one Sarah has come across