This site is maintained by Chris Smaje of Vallis Veg, a small farm in the southwest of England. It aims to explore in an engaged but open-minded way the case for small-scale farming, both in the richer and the poorer parts of the world.

A brief word on the rules for commenting on the site:

  • No personal abuse directed at me or other commenters on the site, please.
  • No threats of violence to anyone.
  • No racism, misogyny or similar forms of prejudice – this potentially includes generalisations about what people from any particular sub-set of humanity are like
  • Any individual persistently flouting these rules will be barred from commenting.
  • Decisions on the above matters will be made by me and are final – no discussions will be entered into about them.

Please bear in mind also that if you include a lot of hyperlinks in your comment it will automatically be held in the moderation queue.


The end of the small farm, the family farm, the smallholding, the peasantry – all slightly different, but call it what you will – has long been predicted, though never fully realised. Still, there seems to be a clamour of voices urging its demise – from development specialists to ¬†anthropologists, economists to politicians, Marxists to neoliberals, environmentalists to agronomists, architects to urban planners. Usually, the best interests of small farmers themselves, or of society more generally, are given as the reason for wishing them into history.¬†It’s worth taking these views seriously, but there’s another side to the story which is less widely heard. I hope visitors to this site will find in it an interesting collection of discussions, links, research and resources that make the case for the continued relevance of small-scale farming around the world to the present, and the future.

Chris is a social scientist by training, with degrees in anthropology, health planning and sociology. He is an occasional writer and researcher on farming and environmental issues, but is now a full-time grower/farmer at Vallis Veg where he has discovered that it’s a lot harder to do farming than to write about it, but probably more important and more rewarding (at least in a non-economic sense…)

12 thoughts on “About

  1. Chris, Nice job on the summary. ILEIA has done a nice job in its re-organization aruond family farming a nice platform of social change in rural areas. We should continue to explore ways of supporting their important work.

  2. Hi Arpita

    Yes I’m on Twitter as @csmaje and usually send a tweet when I post something new on the blog. You can also subscribe to this blog as an RSS feed via the orange button on the top right of the homepage. Thanks for your interest.

  3. Yes, I’d like to follow this blog too and the orange button directs me to something else– just so you know. WordPress can be so tricky sometimes.

    • Thanks for your message Annie. I checked the orange button & it seems like it should work – right click on it, save the link address and then copy it into your feed reader. I’m loath to mess around with it because the last time I did I had a major meltdown of the whole site!

  4. Pingback: I pionieri della Permacultura in Europa da Patrick Whitefield

  5. Dear Chris,

    I have been thinking for a long time about starting my own small farm and am trying to do a business plan. My main problem is knowing the figures for electricity, water etc. I realise this is dependent on size, area and products however do you think you could point me in the right direction? My main goals would be to achieve growing a variety of foods that would be used for the family and visitors (residential rehab for 5 nights per week for vulnerable teens – 10 to 12 at a time), a few dairy cows, some goats (make cheese), sheep and of course chickens.
    Could you offer any advice please?

    Thank you,


    • Thanks for commenting, Paula. Very hard to answer your question. Depends on where you live, what you’re growing etc etc. Water wise, I’d say that vegetables require quite a lot (irrigation is necessary even here in wet SW England with a precipitation of >1000mm pa), staple crops not so much. I’ve kept sheep, pigs and poultry on a small scale and found their water demands quite modest. Presumably a dairy cow would be a different proposition, but I’ve never kept one. Electricity wise, we have a 3000W off-grid system based mainly on PV panels which works pretty well for basic home & business needs, though it’s a bit touch and go in the winter. However, that’s assuming that you find other ways of getting energy-intensive jobs done – no kettles, irons, electric heaters, stoves, welding etc!

      Not sure how much that helps…

    • Try to get a copy of the Farm Management Pocket Book (original author John Nyx) published by Wye College – Ashford in Kent, for general economic/planning information. This was updated annually. Also the (primrose McConnell’s ) Agricultural Notebook Edited by Richard J Soffe Published by Blackwell Science 195 etc has a wealth of useful information on just about anything to do with farming. I am not aware of updates to this since about 2000, but I have had difficulty finding any useful information on agriculture using Google etc. Freams Elements of Agriculture is another classic reference book. Though dated these books are still the best sources of information for anyone involved in the practice of farming. there are American equivalents which are more up to date, but contain a lot of misleading information because they refer to American breeds of animal, crop varieties, chemicals and American law

  6. Hi Chris
    I enjoyed an article you wrote on right-wing populism, which I came to after a right-wing populist (old friend from childhood) berated my terribly leftist bourgeoisie ways (even though I am more of a left wing anarchist!). My wife grows salad and veg for local sale, and we are connected with many local growers and environmentalists here in the very north of Yorkshire and Teesside. Yes, even the mucky “North” has its alternative lifestyle folk!
    Anyway, you provided an interesting perspective on John Michael Greer and I shall be trawling some of your other articles. I’ve followed you on Twitter, so I’m, looking forward to further reading.
    Keep up the great work.
    Regards, Scott

  7. Hello Chris,
    I discovered you from reading your comments on The Market Gardner, and it was my first encounter with someone who shared my view on the importance or potential of the mutually beneficial Peasantry -and the likely misunderstandings of that proposal. As the son of a conventional Midwest U.S. grain/hog farmer, it’s not hard to see that our current race-to-the-bottom agricultural system could be partially replaced by micro-farms and produce much more product, happiness, and “flourishing” environments from an ecological and social point of view.

    It seems to me that recent neuroscience and human behavioral studies are at least hinting at the practicality of such an agrarian system (for many, not all). Of course, “It’s not your ancestors’ peasantry”, so I don’t use the term when I talk about this idea -I get enough funny looks as it is. I’ve just arrived at your site, so I haven’t read the historical perspectives but it looks great. I’m a former HS physics and environmental science teacher, so I love to learn “how things work”, but I’ll have to dig into your essays still.

    We’re planning to do a pilot here next summer with just college kids to demonstrate what something like this can do for a rural location as well as the participants. The idea is to rely mostly on young couples looking to have a rewarding, fun, and educational immersion into the agrarian world (with smart phones for connectivity and conventional entrepreneurial aspirations) without seeing it as a long term commitment -and alongside other young couples.

    I’m writing at https://regroup.farm/about/ and at

    They both deal more with background for now, because the Left/Right divide, the generational divide, the rural/urban divide, and the materialistic sea of marketing are both hurdles and opportunities long term. Haha, I don’t mean for this to sound Utopian, but it does seem like the divisions are as much manufactured as human nature -and we have a better understanding of both mechanisms now. I’m just saying “better” is within reach, not perfection.

    I’ve been looking at this since 2008 when I left teaching. I’m familiar with the regenerative ag and permaculture approaches from a methods perspective, but I’m especially happy to see what you’re writing about in terms of workable execution.

    Thanks for reading!


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