Can Sustainable Farming Provide Sustainable Incomes?

New Entry Intern, Rachel Baras has contributed another item for discussion as she wonders what it would take for the small farmer to become economically sustainable:
Most of us reading this blog would have to agree that small-scale farmers deserve sufficient incomes to allow for comfortable livelihoods. The farmers in the New Entry program are among the hardest working people around, producing quality products for their customers. As part of the greater local farm movement, these farmers represent the American dream more than many native-born citizens – a dream of hard work and thoughtful living to benefit our neighbors.
And yet, although local farming has so many positives, the industry often does not garner sufficient incomes for its farmers. Few New Entry farmers have been able to farm as their sole source of income. And this situation is not isolated; earlier in the month, the New York Times published an article profiling farmers who have the dedication and desire to devote all their time to farming, but have trouble doing so without supplementary sources of income.
Like the farmers of the article, many New Entry farmers are participating in niche farming. Some cater to the large Asian population in the area by growing such crops as water spinach, Asian cucumber, and bitter melon. Others focus toward African populations, cultivating African maize and sweet potato greens. Still, as the article notes, niche farming most often does not provide a solution to the insufficient income issue.
So, we’re left with a question: at what point would small farming as a sole source of income be a viable option for the greater farming community?

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