Big Gardening vs. Small Farming
Why not? I think the main reason is that not many veg growers, even small-scale ones growing on a few acres, would describe their work as gardening. It is more like small-scale farming. Where do you draw the line? Depends on many things, but I would say whether you cultivate with tractors is not a bad indicator - if you do that, you're farming, if you don't, you're basically (market) gardening.
I have nothing against tractors. We don't use them to cultivate here, and never have, but this doesn't mean we didn't plan to. When I initially started the market garden with Nat, Danny and Ben, the plan was to start small and expand into a new field, with potential tractor cultivation, in year 2.
As always, things didn't go according to plan. The workload on the initial site in the first year was too much for us to consider expanding, and Danny and Nat moved on at the end of the second year followed by Ben at the end of the third. I now manage the garden myself, ably helped by assistant grower Charlie and trainee grower Kirstin. As the team has changed and we have discovered what we do well and what we do less well, it gradually became clearer that the obvious way to produce more from the market garden was (to steal a line from JM Fortier) to grow better, not bigger.
What does this mean in practice? Focus on leafy crops and others that yield well off a small area. Harvesting techniques that optimise the productivity of the plant rather than the productivity of the person harvesting (i.e. picking not cutting). Lots of compost mulching, stale seedbedding and minimal cultivation for better weed control. I realise I am not inventing the wheel here and much of this will be familiar to anyone who is a fan of Charles Dowding. But as our system gets gradually refined and our productivity gradually improves, it feels exciting to be part of something that is steadily becoming a more viable growing business despite having just 1/2 acre of land under cultivation.
I think the reason this is important is because big gardening is ultimately more accessible than small farming - for a start, you need less land and you don't need the funds to buy a tractor. The potential financial rewards may be smaller, but so are the costs and potential losses. Because of this, if we are going to get more people back working on the land, some of those will be at the market garden scale. And the more examples of successful market gardens there are out there, the more people might be inspired to take that leap themselves.