Module: Small Scale Farming and Local Food Supply

Module details

  • Module code

  • Module leader

    Dr Richard Baines
  • Module Level

  • Module credits

  • Min study time

    150 hours
  • Contact hrs

    25 hours
  • Teaching Period

    Semester 2

Module content

Estimates of the number of small farmers in the world vary; however, it is generally agreed that half of the world’s population depends on subsistence farming, around 40% of cultivatable land is worked by small farmers and some 60% of all farms are small-scale.  This emphasises the significance of small-scale farmers to agricultural production and food security.

In contrast, Agricultural and Food policies often focus on national strategies in the context of globalisation of food supply and international trade.  Such policies often favour larger commercial producers and those who dominate regional, national and international food supply as articulated in the growth on international food and agricultural private (market) standards.  This means that small-scale farming not only suffers from capacity constraints but also the failure of domestic policies, structural adjustments and the international trends and spikes in market prices for raw materials, energy and finance. 

The module explores the dimensions of small scale farming and local food supply in the context of public policies, market structures, consumers, society and the sustainability of food supply at the local, regional, national and international levels.  In doing this, three countries (UK, South Africa and Cuba) will be used as cases in point and as a link to the Poverty and Food Security and Agricultural and Rural Policy modules.

Module outcomes

To achieve credit for this module, students must be able to:

  1. Critically evaluate the impact of agriculture, food and trade policies on small-scale agriculture and local food supply and recommend modifications to ensure that such policies support this sub-sector of the industry.
  2. Evaluate the sustainability of small-scale farming and local food supply systems using appropriate indicators.
  3. Critically appraise the current and potential contribution of small-scale and local food supply systems to local, regional, national and global food security.


Assessment Description Weighting
Coursework Report 60%
Examination Exam (2 hours) 40%

Key texts

Students should be familiar with the content of at least one of the following:

  • Blay-Palmer, A. (2010) Imagining sustainable food systems: Theory and Practice. Ashgate Publishing Ltd. Farnham, UK
  • Vermeulen, S. and Cotula, L. (2010) Making the most of agricultural investment: A survey of business models that provide opportunities for smallholders. IIED/FAO/SDC London, Rome, Berne.
  • Djurfeldt, G., Aryeetey, E. and Isinika, A (2011) African smallholders: food crops, markets and policy. CABI, Wallingford, UK
  • Whitefield, P. (2004) The Earthcare Manual: Permaculture handbook for Britain and other temperate climates.
  • Mollinson, B. (1994) Introduction to permaculture 2nd Edition.
  • Foresight. (2011)The Future of Food and Farming Final Project Report. The Government Office for Science, London.
  • Narayanan, S and Gulati A. (2002) GLOBALIZATION AND THE SMALLHOLDERS:
  • A REVIEW OF ISSUES, APPROACHES, AND IMPLICATIONS. International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, D.C. and The World Bank, Washington, DC