Collective farming and communal farming are various types of, "agricultural production in which multiple farmers run their holdings as a joint enterprise". There are two broad types of communal farms: agricultural cooperatives, in which member-owners jointly engage in farming activities as a collective, and state farms, which are owned and directly run by a centralized government. The process by which farmland is aggregated is called collectivization. In some countries (including the Soviet Union, the Eastern Bloc countries, China and Vietnam), there have been both state-run and cooperative-run variants. For example, the Soviet Union had both kolkhozy (cooperative-run farms) and sovkhozy (state-run farms).
A small group of farming or herding families living together on a jointly managed piece of land is one of the most common living arrangements in all of human history, having co-existed and competed with more individualistic forms of ownership (as well as organized state ownership) since the beginnings of agriculture.
Private ownership came to predominate in much of the Western world and is therefore better studied. The process by which Western Europe's communal land and other property became private is a fundamental question behind views of property. Karl Marx believed that the system he called primitive communism (joint ownership) was unjustly ended by exploitative means he called primitive accumulation. By contrast, capitalist thinkers posit that by the homestead principle whoever is first to work on the land is the rightful owner.
Under the Aztec Empire, central Mexico was divided into small territories called calpulli, which were units of local administration concerned with farming as well as education and religion. A calpulli consisted of a number of large extended families with a presumed common ancestor, themselves each composed of a number of nuclear families. Each calpulli owned the land and granted the individual families the right to farm parts of it each day. When the Spanish conquered Mexico they replaced this with a system of estates granted by the Spanish crown to Spanish colonists, as well as the encomienda, a feudal-like right of overlordship colonists were given in particular villages, and the repartimiento or system of indigenous forced labor.
Following the Mexican Revolution, a new constitution in 1917 abolished any remnant of feudal-like rights hacienda owners had over common lands and offered the development of ejidos: communal farms formed on land purchased from the large estates by the Mexican government.
Main article: Economy of the Iroquois
The Huron had an essentially communal system of land ownership. The French Catholic missionary Gabriel Sagard described the fundamentals. The Huron had "as much land as they need[ed]." As a result, the Huron could give families their own land and still have a large amount of excess land owned communally. Any Huron was free to clear the land and farm on the basis of usufruct. He maintained possession of the land as long as he continued to actively cultivate and tend the fields. Once he abandoned the land, it reverted to communal ownership, and anyone could take it up for themselves. While the Huron did seem to have lands designated for the individual, the significance of this possession may be of little relevance; the placement of corn storage vessels in the longhouses, which contained multiple families in one kinship group, suggests the occupants of a given longhouse held all production in common.
The Iroquois had a similar communal system of land distribution. The tribe owned all lands but gave out tracts to the different clans for further distribution among households for cultivation. The land would be redistributed among the households every few years, and a clan could request a redistribution of tracts when the Clan Mothers' Council gathered. Those clans that abused their allocated land or otherwise did not take care of it would be warned and eventually punished by the Clan Mothers' Council by having the land redistributed to another clan. Land property was really only the concern of the women, since it was the women's job to cultivate food and not the men's.
The Clan Mothers' Council also reserved certain areas of land to be worked by the women of all the different clans. Food from such lands, called kěndiǔ"gwǎ'ge' hodi'yěn'tho, would be used at festivals and large council gatherings.
The obshchina (Russian: общи́на, IPA: [ɐpˈɕːinə], literally: "commune") or mir (Russian: мир, literally: "society" (one of the meanings)) or Selskoye obshestvo (Russian: сельское общество ("Rural community", official term in the 19th and 20th century) were peasant communities, as opposed to individual farmsteads, or khutors, in Imperial Russia. The term derives from the word о́бщий, obshchiy (common).
The vast majority of Russian peasants held their land in communal ownership within a mir community, which acted as a village government and a cooperative. Arable land was divided into sections based on soil quality and distance from the village. Each household had the right to claim one or more strips from each section depending on the number of adults in the household. The purpose of this allocation was not so much social (to each according to his needs) as it was practical (that each person pay his taxes). Strips were periodically re-allocated on the basis of a census, to ensure equitable share of the land. This was enforced by the state, which had an interest in the ability of households to pay their taxes.
In the European Union, collective farming is fairly common and agricultural cooperatives hold a 40% market share among the 27 member states. In the Netherlands, cooperative agriculture holds a market share of approximately 70%, second only to Finland. In France, cooperative agriculture represents 40% of the national food industry's production and nearly 90 Billion € in gross revenue, covering one out of three food brands in the country.
There are also intentional communities which practice collective agriculture. There is a growing number of community supported agriculture initiatives, some of which operate under consumer/worker governance, that could be considered collective farms.
In Indian villages a single field (normally a plot of three to five acres) may be farmed collectively by the villagers, who each offer labour as a devotional offering, possibly for one or two days per cropping season. The resulting crop belongs to no one individual, and is used as an offering. The labour input is the offering of the peasant in their role as priests. The wealth generated by the sale of the produce belongs to the Gods and hence is Apaurusheya or impersonal. Shrambhakti (labour contributed as devotional offering) is the key instrument for generation of internal resources. The benefits of the harvest are most often redistributed in the village for common good as well as individual need – not as loan or charity, but as divine grace (prasad). The recipient is under no obligation to repay it and no interest need be paid on such gifts.
Collective farming was also implemented in kibbutzim in Israel, which began in 1909 as a unique combination of Zionism and socialism – known as Labor Zionism. The concept has faced occasional criticism as economically inefficient and over-reliant on subsidized credit.
A lesser-known type of collective farm in Israel is moshav shitufi (lit. collective settlement), where production and services are managed collectively, as in a kibbutz, but consumption decisions are left to individual households. In terms of cooperative organization, moshav shitufi is distinct from the much more common moshav (or moshav ovdim), essentially a village-level service cooperative, not a collective farm.
In 2006 there were 40 moshavim shitufi'im in Israel, compared with 267 kibbutzim.
Collective farming in Israel differs from collectivism in communist states in that it is voluntary. However, including moshavim, various forms of collective farming have traditionally been and remain the primary agricultural model, as there are only a small number of completely private farms in Israel outside of the moshavim.
In Mexico the Ejido system provided poor farmers with collective use rights to agricultural land.
The Anabaptist Hutterites have farmed communally since the 16th century. Most of them now live on the Canadian Prairies and the northern Great Plains of the United States, as well as in Southern Ontario in Canada.
Until recently Western Canada had a centralised wheat board where farmers were usually obligated to sell their wheat to the province which sold the product at a high collective price. Ontario currently has a milk board which obliges most milk producers to sell their milk to the province at a regulated quality and price.
A movement of voluntary collective farming started in 2008 in the Research Triangle under the name of crop mob. The idea spread throughout the United States and less than 10 years later this particular type of incidental, spontaneous, social-media driven collective farming was reported in over 70 places.
In the 2021 Telugu film Sreekaram, the main protagonist encourages people for a community farming.
The 1929 Soviet film The General Line features Martha and a group of peasants organizing a kolkhoz. The film began production as a promotion of the Trotskyite Left Opposition viewpoint on collectivization. After the rise of Joseph Stalin and expulsion of his rival Leon Trotsky, it was heavily re-edited into the pro-Stalinist film The Old and the New.
The 1930 Soviet Ukrainian film Earth features a peasant encouraging his village in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic to embrace collectivization, which they do after he is killed by kulaks.
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