NZSM Online

Get TurboNote+ desktop sticky notes

Interclue makes your browsing smarter, faster, more informative

SciTech Daily Review

Webcentre Ltd: Web solutions, Smart software, Quality graphics

Under The Microscope

THE SMALLFARMING REVOLUTION: NEW BEGINNINGS IN RURAL NEW ZEALAND, by Ian and Diane Grant; Viking/Penguin, 1998; 230 pp; $34.95

Reviewed by David Riddell

Historically, the great majority of farms have been small. Now, after a few unusual decades dominated by large holdings, smallfarms are once more undergoing rapid expansion. According to Valuation New Zealand, their number increased from 34,680 to almost 70,000 from 1988 to 1997. In the US, more people are now moving to rural areas than to cities, and New Zealand is following the trend.

The Grants have lived on their 9.2 ha block in the Wairarapa for 14 years and have off-farm interests in writing and publishing -- an ideal mix of skills to produce a book like this. They begin with some philosophical and historical background, summarise 25 secrets of successful smallfarmers and outline some of the more popular smallfarming options.

Then it's on to the second, longer section, detailing the experiences of 21 smallfarming operations. Most are families, with a wide age range represented. Though smallfarmers may have an image as laid-back, alternative-lifestyle types, the practicality and sheer energy of these chosen examples of the breed shine through.

The range of activities is also impressive. There are rare cattle breeds, passionfruit and table grapes, deer, hydroponic lettuces, cut flowers, sheep, chickens, blueberries and alpacas. Most cram a greater diversity of crops and animals onto a couple of hectares than would be found on the average large holding.

Many smallfarmers also operate off-farm businesses, either commuting or, increasingly, working from home. As we move towards business guru Charles Handy's vision of a future where we will all have customers for the products and services we provide, rather than conventional jobs, the smallfarming movement is exploring some of the more appealing ways of living. A revolution indeed.

Vicki Hyde, NZSM