Farm fragmentation is defined as the division of a farmer’s land into a collection of scattered lots. Much of the fragmentation resulted from inheritance — splitting up the farm between family members.
Over the years large acreages have become smaller and smaller, and so today’s farmers own or leasing multiple properties that are non-contiguous. Fragmentation has spread their farming operation over several spatially separated properties.
Yet fragmentation is also cultural.
When residences encroach on a farming area, the urban development brings increased traffic, new shops and buildings, school zones, municipal rules, and complaints (the rich smell of manure spreading in the autumn); as well as more urban development.
Agriculture gradually loses ground. Farmers sell all or part of their properties to “city-folk” and adjust their farming practices accordingly. Businesses that support the farmers such as feed mills, tractors and parts sales, mechanics, welders, informal country kitchen diners, local co-ops, and other farmers, go out of business or move to more profitable farming communities.
Farmers are forced to drive their trucks and tractors to properties further and further away, putting up with more complaints (tractors on the roads, noisy farm trucks), fewer services and more aggravation, until they too stop farming in the area, retire or move.
No One to Blame
It’s hard to blame the city-folk who just want to live in a house they can afford in a nice area.
It’s hard to blame the farmers for taking advantage of property market values driven higher due to increased demand.
It’s hard to blame the business owners who simply want to operate viable businesses.
It’s hard to blame local cash-strapped governments that need the increased tax base.
It’s hard to blame a provincial government that touts urban intensification and tries to protect greenspace.
But it is all fragmented short-term thinking. We have to start thinking comprehensively for the long-term and future generations ahead. How will our children’s children’s children live? Where will they get their food and water?