The (Unexpected) Comebacknof the Small FarmnThe word’s been out for some time: they’re all gone, notna functioning one left. Statistics coming down from onnhigh in the 1970’s “proved” that the small farm — definednas that with a total income of less than $20,000 annually —nwas about shot. This came as something of a surprise tonthose still living and working small farms.nWhat a “small farm” actually is has been a confusingnissue for at least a century. The 1862 Homestead Actnconsidered the 160-acre farm a small operation, worked by ansingle extended family with livestock-powered technology.nBy the 1940’s, a small farm was synonymous with “parttimenfarm,” “retirement farm,” and “subsistence farm.” Itnwas the family farm that remained the backbone of thennation, one that required the work of a family and gave backna decent living.nAfter 1950, the “small farm” designation no longernapplied to the physical size of the place, but instead to itsngross income. In the 1960’s, a small farm was any farmingnunit that sold less than $ 10,000 in p’oduced goods. By then70’s, courtesy of an unstable economy and befuddlednpolicies, the small farm was defined as selling less thann$20,000. That twenty-grand number^was supposed to benthe break-even point — 20G put in, 20G taken out. You hadnto make more than that to live.nBy 1981, the definition of small had become so vaguenyou could get included by selling apples grown on anbackyard suburban tree, if you met these three require-nAnita Evangelista lives on a farm in Peace Valley,nMissouri.nby Anita Evangelistanments: the family provides most of the labor and management;nfarming provides a “significant portion,” thoughnnot necessarily a majority, of family income; and the totalnfamily income from all sources is below the median nonmetropolitannfamily income for the state.nHere in the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri,nthat’s just about everybody. Historically, the Ozarks havenbeen virtually all “small farms,” by anybody’s definition.nTimber-covered rugged hillsides dominate the region, andnthe soil is of a type that grows rocks better than any otherncrop. Most people on small farms around here raisenlivestock, and that is generally the variety that their daddynraised before them. Hogs are still king, with beef cattlencoming in close behind. The “farm wife” generally works anfull-time job in a nearby town.nOne look at the University of Missouri’s 1987 figures fornfarm profits will explain why that farmer’s wife needsnanother job. To produce a single 600-pound calf, one thatngets shipped somewhere else to be fattened for market, itnwill cost this farm $158 for feed, $273 for variable expensesnincluding vet bills, and $56 for fixed expenses like operatingnequipment. That’s a total cost of $329 to raise thisnhypothetical average calf The same farmer could expect tonsell that calf for $373, for a profit of $44.nForty-four dollars cash profit per head. Let’s see. Hownmany calves would I have to produce each year to earn anpoverty level net income? Roughly 250 calves. That means,nfirst, I’d have to have the investment capital to be able to buynthe initial 250 cows, and pasture land to handle themnannually. If I bought cheap, cross-bred older cows at $500 annnNOVEMBER 1989/19n