Sharecropping gets a makeover


I love discovering new or novel applications of property rights that make everyone better off without government interference.  A New York Times article charts the rise of so-called “community-supported agriculture," in which families buy shares in local farms in exchange for a proportion of the meat and produce that is made. The families value locally produced, organic produce and are willing to spend a bit of extra money for the convenience and quality of the produce, in addition to whatever satisfaction they get from knowing that there is a successful old-fashioned, small-scale farm nearby. Because they are paying for a percentage of the produce, not a set amount, they have an extra incentive to help the farm succeed, and many of them even do voluntary fieldwork.

When small farms go out of business, so many people are quick to say that the solution is government subsidies. In contrast to government solutions, this system does not burden taxpayers who get no benefit from the farms, yet it still mitigates the risks of crop failure and market uncertainties that are inherent to small farms. Moreover, thousands of families get the benefit of fresh produce delivered to their door each week. In the lasts 15 years, the number of farms with this style of financing has grown from less than a hundred to over 1,500, and the trend continues to grow. Once again, the private sector solves a problem all by itself, and thousands benefit!