Small Is the Big Problem

From Robert H. Giles, Jr., founder of Rural System:

After years of research and much thought on how to solve the rural problems of the eastern United States, I finally have a solution. I shared it with a half dozen people and invariably got the response: “Start small.”  So, in my introductions I began to omit “Small is the rural problem."
Small parcels of rural land are a big problem for optimal land management. The mid-Eastern US farm is too small to produce a crop or enough livestock regularly for a corporate grocer to buy. If sold (with large middleman extractions), profits are not enough to pay the mortgage. Only inherited land can stay in farms. There is little time left for rural land owners, for the average farmers are about 55. Their expertise is limited and farming problems are unlimited and many require expert action, not average action. Their few helpers are leaving for the cities. The urban population of the US is now 80%. The remaining 20% is smaller than 50 years ago, too small to wield voting power. 
Unaware urbanites increase rural land tax making lovable lands unlivable. Prime farm lands are converted to suburban housing tracts for city workers who can pay the costs of housing, mowing, and travel to and from work. They discount the large impacts of the move on county services, family, land, health, and future fuel-shortage risks.
The “meat processing” centers have disappeared. Too few animals could be processed with adequate payment for the processor. Dairy herds are lost; milk collection and processing declines. The concern for future milk seems lost. The family farm of legend is too small in the present. The land continues to be abused by survivors. The once-helpful farm agencies decline in budgets and staff. The geo-normous consequence-cloud of coal running out in Central Appalachia makes everything look small.
There is no time to start small.  "Small" implies time for growth and grown-up is what we need now. 

No, small is the problem.


Robert H. Giles, Jr.,is the founder of Rural System, a corporation providing proprietary advanced plans, management services, and diverse enterprises for large rural lands and waters of absentee owners.  RRx, a dynamic prescription system for optimal use of owned land, GIS-based and GPS supported, is under development by Rural System and InteractiveGIS. This expert system generates unique prescriptive reports for parcels of land through analysis of hundreds of factors to the precision of 10 m x 10 m units. RRx optimizes information from the owner, the land, GIS, markets, and more, and provides actions to implement for sustained, long-term profits.   

Singularity Summit 2010
The Handshake Cartoon


  1. AMEN! Small thinking, as in not to disrupt or disturb the established standard, has led to the demise of rural community. Local governments in rural towns and counties are forced to provide more services with less money than ever before. Educated retirees and professionals are migrating to beautiful “countryside” homes, expecting their children to be educated with the greatest of benefits while finances are stretching schools, roads and utilities to dangerous levels. Investment in local, rural economies by small, community supported farms and systems to market/sell products would be to the benefit of all.

  2. I do appreciate your comment and find it very supportive. As gasoline becomes more expensive and difficult to get, new family strategies will be needed in rural areas. The old single-family farm will have to be re-thought and some good aspects surrendered to farm clusters, common work force, combined markets and shared administrative expertise. With more mouths to feed soon on less land, we need new profit-oriented approaches.

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