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Small farms fit
Small family farms are the backbone of a community, a nation, and of society as a whole. A landscape of family farms is settled, balanced and stable, and generally sustainable. It's the natural shape of society on the land. Such communities aggregate into strong and secure nations.
But it's difficult to find a government that thinks that way, now or ever: the history of small farms presents a fantastic picture of neglect and abuse. Maybe the family farming landscape just doesn't offer enough opportunity for the rich and powerful, and the greedy.
Compare Rome before the Punic Wars, built on a bedrock of independent yeoman farmers, with Rome after the wars, the small farms swallowed by big estates owned by nobles and worked by slaves, a mighty empire with cancer at its heart, inevitably to fall.
"The original strength of Rome, like that of China, was that of a superior family-agriculture." -- "Restoration of the Peasantries" by G.T. Wrench, Chapter 4 -- The Second Agricultural Path
"If, by some magic, we could transport ourselves back to the days of the early Latin farmers, we should see a picture of a well-populated countryside with the land divided up into a number of small farms, often not exceeding five acres in extent." -- "Reconstruction by Way of the Soil" by G.T. Wrench, Chapter 2 -- Rome
Now it's industrialized agriculture that collapses rural economies, driving the farmers into factories and city slums, fodder for economic growth and a "development" that turns a country from food self-sufficiency to a producer of commodities with massive food import bills, an economic success story that can be wrecked by a run on the foreign exchange market.
The cancer at the heart of today's mighty industrial empire is the ruin that this woefully unbalanced landscape is wreaking upon both the natural and the social environment. It's not sustainable, by any measure, as everybody knows.
Many people see no choice but to abandon technology and revert to the miserable inadequacies of primitive existence, or face life on a ruined planet. But it's not inevitable that our society should follow Rome, and fall. And anyway it turns out that most people in most so-called primitive societies (actually they were very sophisticated at what they did, and still do in many cases) were neither miserable nor inadequate: usually they lived long and healthy lives and died at a sprightly old age with perfect teeth and no sign of arthritis. (Read Weston A. Price, if you want to argue about that.)
In fact we don't need to make such miserable either/or choices, we can have it both ways.
On the one hand, there's growing evidence that the farming industry can change its ways and clean up its act, given the mounting public pressure since 1987 when "the environment" suddenly hit the headlines (for no known reason) and failed to go away again -- it seems we're not all just passive consumers after all, semi-animated lumps of sheer appetite living only for pre-packaged gratification. Now farmers everywhere are abandoning the chemicalized monocrops and livestock factory "farms" of the industrialized paradigm and adopting more sustainable methods.
Another discernible trend, with its roots going even further back, is the back-to-the-land movement. Primarily it's a change in attitude: city dwellers want closer ties with nature, with where their food comes from, with growing things. They're balcony or rooftop gardeners, backyard farmers, community gardeners, high-fliers opting out for simplicity and a more self-reliant life with real quality. And homesteaders, small farmers, family farmers.
In the US, the number of small farms is growing by 2% a year. In the Third World the focus of rural development is shifting from mechanization and the (false) economies of scale to programs that strengthen small farmers and their indigenous traditional methods.
The landscape of the future is a sustainable one of small farms and self-reliant communities, of homeworking and homeschooling and networking, of well-greened cities that are no longer a cancer upon the land, and of an industry and technology that fits, with the community and with the environment.
"Global Agricultural Survey Shows Nearly Half of Farm Soil 'Seriously Degraded'" -- Associated Press, May 22, 2000. Detailed satellite photos of the Earth's land mass and other data are helping scientists at the UN-affiliated International Food Policy Research Institute determine the state of global agriculture. Their conclusion: nearly 40% of farmland is seriously degraded. Soil erosion, loss of organic matter, hardening of soil, chemical penetration, nutrient depletion, excess salinity and other damage have left much of the world's potential and previous agricultural land unusable. The research covers only human-induced degradation. See Land Degradation In The Developing World: Issues and Policy Options for 2020:
The 1999 report on the University of Wisconsin-Madison's ongoing 37-year project monitoring the effects of nitrogen fertilisers in the US concluded that agriculture's continuing overapplication of nitrogen fertilizers is causing irreparable damage to the soil. It said US farms have "a 50% applied nitrogen efficiency rate" -- only half the nitrogen applied to the soil is actually used by the crop. The other half becomes harmful nitric acid. They said three decades of such overuse of nitrogen has destroyed much of the soil's fertility, causing it to age the equivalent of 5,000 years. -- "Acidification From Fertilizer Use Linked To Soil Aging":
"Crops without profit", New Scientist, 18 December 1999 -- Low-cost food, the great achievement of postwar high-input intensive farming, may be an illusion. The most detailed study yet of the industry's wider balance sheet has found the costs of cleaning up pollution, repairing habitats and coping with sickness caused by farming almost equals the industry's income. The true cost of £208 per hectare is double the amount suggested by previous, less detailed, studies of the costs in Germany and the US. But the survey's chief author, Jules Pretty of the Centre for Environment and Society at the University of Essex, describes this figure as "very conservative". Environmental economists say the findings suggest the need for a radical rethink of Europe's farming policy.
An assessment of the total external costs of UK agriculture, J.N. Pretty, C. Brett, D. Gee, R.E. Hine, C.F. Mason, J.I.L. Morison, H. Raven, M.D. Rayment, G. van der Bijl, Agricultural Systems 65 (2) (2000) pp. 113-136 -- this paper was this peer-reviewed journal's second-most-popular download of the year. The report:
"European Union Goes Organic to Tackle BSE Scare", February 13, 2001 (ENS) -- Organic farming is at the heart of a seven-point plan announced by the European Commission to tackle the continent's BSE (mad cow disease) crisis. The Commission called for a move away from industrial farming and increased support for extensive, organic agriculture. "The BSE crisis demonstrates the need for a return to farming methods that are more in tune with the environment," EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler's proposal said. The UK's Soil Association estimates that demand in the UK for organic food is growing by more than 40% a year and much of Europe is following the same trend.
"EU Women Ministers and 'Green' Agriculture", Financial Times, March 7, 2001 -- Margareta Winberg, Sweden's agriculture minister and president of the EU farm council, says Europe should move away from mass factory farming and beef up legislation designed to encourage small-scale, environmentally friendly organic farming. "We want to see Europe move toward extensive farming that is more natural and better for the environment," she says. Under her stewardship Sweden has set a target of turning 20% of arable land into organic farms by 2005 and Ms Winberg says other EU countries ought to do the same. The EU should create a community-wide target and "name and shame" those countries that refuse to comply.
"European Ag Ministers Support Organic Farming", May 14, 2001 (ENS) -- Agriculture ministers from 12 European countries have called for creation within two years of a European action plan for the development of organic farming and food. Agreed at a conference in the Danish capital on Friday, the Copenhagen Declaration marks a breakthrough for the European organic movement, according to Denmark's agriculture ministry.
Update, May 2008
UN world agriculture report damns industrial agriculture, calls for small-scale organic farming, April 2008 -- Sixty countries backed by the UN and the World Bank called for radical changes in world farming when they signed the final report of the UN's International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). The work of more than 400 scientists over four years, the 2,500-page report is a sobering account of the failure of industrial farming. It reflects a growing consensus among the global scientific community and most governments that the old paradigm of industrial, energy-intensive and toxic agriculture is a concept of the past. It calls for a fundamental change in the way we do farming, to address soaring food prices, world hunger, social inequities and environmental disaster. The key message of the report is that small-scale farmers and organic, agro-ecological methods are the way forward to solve the current food crisis and meet the needs of local communities. The IAASTD is the biggest study of its kind ever conducted and is intended to guide world agriculture development and food production in the coming decades. IAASTD website:
IAASTD NGO discussion:
IAASTD -- Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA): comment, news reports, background, resources:
Executive Summary of the IAASTD Synthesis Report -- html:
Brief summary of the full IAASTD Report (pdf):
Explore the IAASTD summary and full Synthesis Report online:
IAASTD Draft Reports -- original texts, unaltered (not for citation):
Draft Synthesis Report (not for citation) -- PDF:
"Manufacturing a Food Crisis" by Walden Bello, The Nation, May 15, 2008 -- "Once regarded as relics of the pre-industrial era, peasants are now leading the opposition to a capitalist industrial agriculture that would consign them to the dustbin of history. ... With the global food crisis, they are moving to center stage -- and they have allies and supporters. For as peasants refuse to go gently into that good night and fight de-peasantization, developments in the twenty-first century are revealing the panacea of globalized capitalist industrial agriculture to be a nightmare. With environmental crises multiplying, the social dysfunctions of urban-industrial life piling up and industrialized agriculture creating greater food insecurity, the farmers' movement increasingly has relevance not only to peasants but to everyone threatened by the catastrophic consequences of global capital's vision for organizing production, community and life itself."
-- "The criteria for a sustainable agriculture can be summed up in one word -- permanence, which means adopting techniques that maintain soil fertility indefinitely." -- Lady Eve Balfour, "Towards a Sustainable Agriculture -- The Living Soil"
-- "The maintenance of the fertility of the soil is the first condition of any permanent system of agriculture." -- Sir Albert Howard, "An Agricultural Testament"
-- "Organic gardening is not just a middle-class hobby. It's part of the wider environmental movement, it's part of a sustainable future. I believe that you could feed the whole world using organic methods." -- Jackie Gear, Executive Director, HDRA, Britain's Organic Association
Sustainable farming is not strictly defined as organic, and sustainable farms in the developed countries often use chemicals and techniques not permitted on certified organic farms.
But these farms are a vast improvement on the highly chemicalized, mechanized, specialized, industrialized factory farms they're replacing. And the more sustainable they become, the more organic they are.
But in the Third World development setting organic farming is THE appropriate technology to use. It fits all the requirements, making maximum use of locally available, renewable resources, and minimum or zero use of imported inputs. It marries happily with traditional techniques and it achieves high yields of high-quality food -- food, for local people to eat, not agribusiness commodities for four or five massive global corporations to profit from while the food-growers get shoved aside.
Organic farming sustains and builds the most precious resource of soil fertility, prevents erosion, maintains high levels of biodiversity, and is environmentally clean. It can have high or low labour inputs, depending on need and situation. It can be adapted to any climatic, geographic, environmental or cultural conditions. It promotes community health and nutrition, community self-reliance and food security. It's the way of the future.
Journey to Forever core member Keith Addison first learnt and used organic methods 25 years ago as a sustainable system for small farmers in the Third World. "Everything I've learnt since has confirmed that," he says.
Small farms fit
Sustainable farms are small. They're mixed -- mixed crops, mixed trees and mixed livestock, with all three mixed together in an integrated pattern that mimics natural biodiversity and reaps the benefits of collaborating with nature.
The main benefit is health: healthy soil, healthy crops and livestock, and healthy yields, along with low input costs.
This kind of farming is intense and needs close management, and since they're usually family farms, this is why they're small: a family can't manage a bigger farm properly.
Anyway, there's no need to: mixed family farms provide sustenance, food security and a healthy surplus for sale or barter -- they far out-produce the bigger, mechanized farms.
In Thailand, farms of two to four acres produce 60% more rice per acre than bigger farms. In Taiwan net income per acre of farms of less than 1.25 acres is nearly double that of farms over five acres. In Latin America, small farms are three to 14 times more productive per acre than the large farms. Across the Third World, small farms are 2-10 times more productive per acre than larger farms.
In the US, farms smaller than 27 acres have more than 10 times the dollar-per-acre output of larger farms. In Britain a recent study of the hidden costs of industrial farming raised the bill to £2.3 billion -- almost as much as the farm industry's total income.
In the US, small farms have three times as many trees per acre as larger farms, have more biodiversity and do less environmental damage. And since they're diversified, they're not tied to the vagaries of a single-product market.
Economies of scale might work in a factory, but on a farm it's just an illusion: agricultural economists now accept that there's an "inverse relationship between farm size and output":
"Small family and part-time farms are at least as efficient as larger commercial operations. There is evidence of diseconomies of scale as farm size increases." -- "Are Large Farms More Efficient?" Professor Willis L. Peterson, University of Minnesota, 1997.
Download (Acrobat file, 52kb):
Industrial farming as a whole is based on an illusion: factory techniques are a poor substitute for nature's excellent arrangements. There's simply no need for them.
The myth of efficiency -- Industrial agriculture claims "efficiency" and cheaper food. But its a false promise. In farming, bigger is not more efficient. And if you count social and environmental costs, its not cheap either... The situation is clear: Our conversion to industrial agriculture means subsidizing the richest corporations on earth to run a system that eliminates livelihoods, harms communities, poisons the earth, and doesnt feed the people, either. Maybe you pay a few pennies less for your industrial potato, but the next generation will pay billions more in taxes, to clean up the mess this system creates. This is not "efficiency." -- Turning Point Project
Chemical corporations will assure you that plant nutrients are plant nutrients, and they're exactly the same whether they come from soil humus or from a bag of chemicals, and chemical analysis confirms that.
Chemists can often find no difference between organically raised crops and chemically fertilised crops. Cows see a difference though -- they need much less food when it's grown organically, to produce the same amount of milk. Many farmers have confirmed this. "Cows are capable chemists," said the great soils scientist William Albrecht of Missouri. He also said: "Food is fabricated soil fertility."
Wise farmers are small farmers who listen to their cows.
"If we are concerned about food production, small farms are more productive. If our concern is efficiency, they are more efficient. If our concern is poverty, land reform to create a small farm economy offers a clear solution. The small farm model is also the surest route to broad-based economic development. If the loss of biodiversity or the sustainability of agriculture concern us, small farms offer a crucial part of the solution." -- Peter M. Rosset, Food First/The Institute for Food and Development Policy, "The Multiple Functions and Benefits of Small Farm Agriculture", FAO/Netherlands, September 1999.
Condensed version: On the Benefit of Small Farms:
See the USDA National Commission on Small Farms report, "Time to Act", 1998 -- Executive Summary:
Full report (860kb pdf):
"Our nation's economic foundation is built on the backs of America's small farmers. Their survival and success is not only important to their families, but to consumers, rural communities, the environment, and the global economy." -- Former US Congressman Harold Volkmer, Chairman, USDA National Commission on Small Farms.
Many studies have shown that industrialized factory farms do not outyield organic farms.
"Can Organic Farming Feed Us All?" by Brian Halweil, Worldwatch, May/June 2006 -- "The only people who think organic farming can feed the world are delusional hippies, hysterical moms, and self-righteous organic farmers. Right? Actually, no. A fair number of agribusiness executives, agricultural and ecological scientists, and international agriculture experts believe that a large-scale shift to organic farming would not only increase the world's food supply, but might be the only way to eradicate hunger." Concise but thorough outline and analysis, 4,400 words, 800kb pdf:
"Can organic farming feed the world?", by Colin Tudge, July 12, 2005, Eve Balfour annual lecture, UK Soil Association -- "Suppose all this received wisdom is not true. Suppose the core belief of the world's most powerful governments, and some of its biggest industries, and all its most valued experts, turns out simply to be mistake. Suppose, after all, we really don't need all that agro-chemistry, and those vast and labour-free estates, and those enormous animal sweat-houses. Suppose, biotech in reality is just another example of commercial kite-flying, in a world where the sky is full of kites. Suppose there is an alternative after all; and suppose that that alternative is the thing that the powers-be treat as a side-show, and often openly disdain. Suppose organic farming really could feed us all -- and indeed do it better than the industrial kind. That, surely, would make a difference to all our thinking and to our prospects. Wouldn't it?"
"Feeding people is easy: but we have to re-think the world from first principles", by Colin Tudge, Public Health Nutrition: 8(6A), 2005, 7,000 words: "We could all be well fed. Indeed, everyone in the world who is ever likely to be born could be fed to the highest standards of gastronomy as well as of nutrition until humanity itself comes to an end. We already have most of the necessary technique perhaps all that is needed. We could always do with more excellent science but we need not depend, as we are often told from on high, on the next technological fix. The methods that can provide excellent food would also create a beautiful environment, with plenty of scope for other creatures, and agreeable and stable agrarian economies with satisfying jobs for all. In reality, in absolute contrast, we have created a world in which almost a billion are chronically undernourished; another billion are horribly overnourished, so that obesity and diabetes are epidemic, and rising; a billion live on less than two dollars a day; and a billion live in urban slums a figure set to increase and probably at least to double over the next half century; while other species are disappearing so fast that biologists speak of mass extinction... If we get food right, everything else we need to do can fall into place."
One 15-year study found that organic farming is not only kinder to the environment than "conventional", intensive agriculture but has comparable yields of both products and profits. The study showed that yields of organic maize are identical to yields of maize grown with fertilisers and pesticides, while soil quality in the organic fields dramatically improves. (Drinkwater, L.E., Wagoner, P. & Sarrantonio, M. Legume-based cropping systems have reduced carbon and nitrogen losses. Nature 396, 262265.) Acrobat file, 239 kb:
A Rodale study found that organic farm yields equal factory farm yields after four years using organic techniques.
"In the USA, for example, the top quarter sustainable agriculture farmers now have higher yields than conventional farmers, as well as a much lower negative impact on the environment," says Jules Pretty, Director of the Centre for Environment and Society at the University of Essex, "Feeding the world?", SPLICE, August/September 1998, Volume 4 Issue 6.
New studies are finding that it's not industrialised farming or GMOs that will feed the world of the future.
Biotech has bamboozled us all: Studies suggest that traditional farming methods are still the best -- "The truth, so effectively suppressed that it is now almost impossible to believe, is that organic farming is the key to feeding the world." -- The Guardian, August 24, 2000
The UN's landmark International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report on world agriculture of April 2008 said GM technology is not a quick fix to feed the world's poor. The report is highly critical of genetically engineered crops and saw little role for GMOs in feeding the poor on a large scale. It said GMOs are highly controversial and would not play a substantial role in addressing the key problems of climate change, biodiversity loss, hunger and poverty. "Assessment of the technology lags behind its development, information is anecdotal and contradictory, and uncertainty about possible benefits and damage is unavoidable." Asked if GMOs could solve world hunger, Professor Robert Watson, the director of the IAASTD study, said: "The simple answer is no." IAASTD website:
GM soy produces less food -- A three-year study at the University of Kansas shows that GM soya produces 10 per cent less food than its conventional equivalent, undermining claims by the pro-GM lobby that a switch to the controversial technology is needed to solve the growing world food crisis. The new study confirms earlier research at the University of Nebraska. Both studies suggest it is probably the process of GM itself that suppresses productivity. -- "Exposed: the great GM crops myth", The Independent, 20 April 2008:
"Organic farming can 'feed the world'" -- British scientists say organic farming could produce enough food to feed large populations. -- BBC Science, September 14, 1999
"The Greener Revolution", New Scientist, 3 February 2001 -- It sounds like an environmentalist's dream. Low-tech "sustainable agriculture", shunning chemicals in favour of natural pest control and fertiliser, is pushing up crop yields on poor farms across the world, often by 70 per cent or more. A new science-based revolution is gaining strength built on real research into what works best on the small farms where a billion or more of the world's hungry live and work. For some, talk of "sustainable agriculture" sounds like a luxury the poor can ill afford. But in truth it is good science, addressing real needs and delivering real results.
"An Ordinary Miracle", New Scientist, 3 February 2001 -- In the world's largest study into sustainable agriculture, Jules Pretty, professor of environment and society at the University of Essex (UK) analysed more than 200 projects in 52 countries. He found that more than four million farms were involved -- 3 per cent of fields in the Third World. And, most remarkably, average increases in crop yields were 73 per cent. Sustainable agriculture, Pretty concludes, has most to offer to small farms. Its methods are "cheap, use locally available technology and often improve the environment. Above all they most help the people who need help the most -- poor farmers and their families, who make up the majority of the world's hungry people."
See: "Reducing Food Poverty with Sustainable Agriculture: A Summary of New Evidence" Centre for Environment and Society, University of Essex
See: "47 Portraits of Sustainable Agriculture Projects and Initiatives" Centre for Environment and Society, University of Essex
Cuba Leads the World in Organic Farming -- Cuba Leads the World in Organic Farming -- Faced with the possibility of widespread starvation, the Cuban government foresaw that a full-scale mobilization of domestic resources, both human and natural, would be required in order to increase production to meet the demands of a hungry populace. And with few options to import food given the stringency of the U.S. embargo, Cuba turned over a new leaf by converting almost entirely to an organic production system within 10 years. -- Cuba's security in fresh produce, ENN, September 12, 2003:
In 1990 Cuba's cheap supplies of grain, tractors and agrochemicals were cut off with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Pesticide use halved overnight, as did the calorie intake of its citizens. Strapped for cash, Cuba was forced to embrace low-input farming or starve. Today, oxen have replaced the tractors, and farmers have adopted organic methods, mixing maize with beans and cassava and doubling yields in the process, helping average calorie intake per person rise back to pre-1990 levels. -- "An Ordinary Miracle", New Scientist, 3 February 2001.
A group of Iowa farmers, professors, and students traveled to Cuba in June 2000 to view the country's approach to sustainable agriculture. Cuba relies on organic farming, using compost and worms to fertilize soil. "In many ways they're ahead of us," says Richard Wrage, of Boone County Iowa Extension Office. Lorna Michael Butler, Chair of Iowa State University's sustainable agriculture department said, "more students should study Cubas growing system." -- AP, 5 June 2000
Despite the US embargo, Cuba has turned a severe food crisis into a sustained recovery in food production... Some have called Cuba a national laboratory in organic agriculture... Imports of pesticides and herbicides actually dropped from 1995 to 1998, yet food production rose over the same period... Forty years after the birth of the Cuban revolution, Cuba can claim greater diversity in its production and in its trading partners than it ever has had in modern history. Remarkably, Cuba has brought about this dramatic change in agriculture in the middle of a massive economic crisis."Cuba: Going Against the Grain" -- Executive Summary:
Sustainable Agriculture - A Case Study, Peter M. Rosset, co-director of Food First/The Institute for Food and Development Policy -- When trade collapsed with the socialist bloc in late 1989 and 1990, the degree to which Cuba relied on monocrop agriculture proved to be a major weakness for the country. Searching for the most efficient solution, the Cuban government launched a national effort to convert the nation's agricultural sector from high input agriculture to low input, self-reliant farming practices on an unprecedented scale. By mid-1995 the food shortage had been overcome, and the vast majority of the population no longer faced drastic reductions of their basic food supply. In the 1996-97 growing season Cuba recorded its highest-ever production levels for ten of the thirteen basic food items in the Cuban diet. The Cuban experience illustrates that we can feed a nation's population well with a small or medium-sized farm model based on appropriate ecological technology, and in doing so we can become more self-reliant in food production.
Use of ANY pesticides on most organic farms is minimal -- fewer than 10% of organic farms in the US use even the approved plant-based organic insecticides on a regular basis. See Walz, E. 1999, Third Biennial National Organic Farmers' Survey, Santa Cruz, CA: Organic Farming Research Foundation:
"Kicking the Chemical Habit" by Peter Rosset (Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy), New Internationalist, May 2000 -- Giving the lie to the agribusiness myths that pesticides are indispensable or that large farms are somehow more productive than small farms.
Contrary to the modern practice of growing monocrops of one variety, mixed species of rice were planted in Yunnan, China, with control plots of monocultured crops. Disease-susceptible rice varieties planted in mixtures with resistant varieties had 89% greater yield and blast was 94% less severe than when they were grown in monoculture. The experiment was so successful that fungicidal sprays were no longer applied by the end of the two-year program. -- "Genetic diversity and disease control in rice", Nature 406, 17 August 2000
SRI -- the System of Rice Intensifcation
A French Jesuit priest working in Madagascar stumbled on a system that raises typical rice yields from 3 to 12 tonnes per hectare. The trick is to transplant seedlings earlier with wider spacing; to keep paddies unflooded for much of the growing period; and to use compost rather than chemical fertilisers. Some 20,000 farmers have adopted the idea in Madagascar alone. In tests of the system, China, Indonesia, Cambodia and many other countries all raised their rice yields. Now the SRI revolution is sweeping the world. -- "An Ordinary Miracle", New Scientist, 3 February 2001.
See: "Madagascar non-GE rice trials lead to agricultural revolution":
SRI manual: How to Help Rice Plants to Grow Better and Produce More: Teach Yourself and Others -- the original SRI manual, developed jointly by CIIFAD and Tefy Saina to explain SRI to persons working with farmers to communicate the main ideas underlying SRI. (pdf 175 kb)
SRI FAQ: Questions and Answers about the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) for Raising the Productivity of Land, Labor and Water -- Norman Uphoff, Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development (pdf 236 kb)
Father de Laulanié's original research paper on the System of Rice Intensification (SRI): Technical Presentation of the System of Rice Intensification, Based on Katayama's Tillering Model -- Henri de Laulanié, Association Tefy Saina (pdf 208 kb) -- a good read!
SRI homepage: The System of Rice Intensification -- a collaborative effort of Association Tefy Saina in Madagascar and Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD), hosted by CIIFAD Director Norman Uphoff.
It's worth noting that the two founding fathers of Organic farming, Sir Albert Howard in India and Rudolf Steiner in Europe, were aiming to increase yields, and developed organic farming methods as a result. They were not initially concerned with environmental protection or food safety.
See also Why organic?
The case for organics: Scientific studies and reports
Small farm resources
Farming with trees
Farming with animals
Pigs for small farms
Poultry for small farms
Aquaculture for small farms
Composting for small farms
Controlling weeds and pests
Small farms library
Building a square foot garden
Plant spacing guides
No ground? Use containers
When to sow what
Composting for small farms