It’s coming back round again. For more than a century, most technological developments produced a dehumanizing effect on society because of their large scale: factory production, mega-machines, extractive fuels. All dwarfing the individual. Driving a wedge between producer and consumer. Size mattered. The bigger a machine, the more economically efficient it was, because our competencies with engineering and the sciences were very crude. And big things were best operated far from where people lived a human-sized life, except in communities where a human-sized life seemed a dispensible thing anyhow.
But as our tools evolve and our knowledge deepens, look what’s happening! We’re developing finesse. We’re reducing the size of everything, even while increasing its economic efficiency. Tools for making things, for measuring things, for moving things are getting smaller, more subtle, and more efficient. Internet connectivity has taught us the value of disaggregated and networked systems. If our machines and methods are getting smaller, and more precise all around us, why would we expect agriculture to be an exception?
During technological transitions, a paradigm shift can get out of hand. When all you have is a hammer, everything you see is a nail. Gorwing vegetables... why do we do that in small gardens? This is the age of big machines and big chemicals and big business models? Changing over to big production obiviously did little good for flavor, for health, or for the good of our lifestyles.
I firmly believe the only reason we ever stopped gardening our vegetables was because we thought we shouldn’t. We changed our values. It was a fashion choice more than it was a practical choice. The "efficiency" gain of large-scale vegetables necessarily delivers something different -- the math might be good, but the vegetables are not, so it's a values choice and not a practical choice: do you want garden-fresh vegetables or tough, easily-shipped, gas-ripened vegetables? We decided that Industrial vegetables were a good idea, because industrial everything was a good idea. So we took out the garden -- what an antiquated thing -- and made room for evergreen lawn and more daisies. Big machines somewhere would grow us our broccoli.
But it’s coming back round again.