Wow, I'm no expert. And frankly, I really don't care. You see... I'm old, have no children, thus I have no grandchildren to be worrying about their future. And a shift in farming really won't effect my lifestyle. So I suppose "W", you're asking the wrong person. I'm not an economist, agronomist, nor politician.
"W" wanted to know the answers to these questions because he hopes to follow in my footsteps some day. Well, let's reaffirm that I do indeed know there are can be significant benefits to this homesteading lifestyle. Regardless of how the future develops, I believe there will always be those who will embrace a homesteading. So even if food in the United a states is produced by mega and corporate farms, I believe that homesteading is here to stay. Small farms may become scarce as hens' teeth, but there will always be independent souls out there living off the land.
I read that ag economists predict a future that holds a shift to mega corporate farms. According to what I've read in a variety of publications, government agencies are predicting a shift of the main population to urban settings....rural population goes down, urban population goes up. The vast majority of small farmers and homesteaders will disappear. It's just a continuation of the trend of the past several decades. For the past 100 years, small farms have been gradually morphing into larger farms. Initially, as farmers retired or went bankrupt, neighboring farmers bought them out. Lately the shift has been to corporations buying and consolidating. The government does not support small farms in the way that large farms are, thus in general, small farms are financially being starved out.
Other countries have demonstrated that effective ag and increased food production can be achieved via intensive methods, including greenhouse/hydroponic production. Small farms are common. Will the world be able to produce enough food? I think, yes, at least for the next 50 years. But at a price. In the USA, the number of small farms will gradually keep going down. Mega corporations will more and more control our food. I don't know what the predictions are for the rest of the world, but the US will be up to the challenge. But after 50 years, I have no confidence. With the world's population growth totally uncontrolled, who knows what things will be like. In addition, useable water will become a crisis, both for ag and residual use.
Personally I'm not ready to disappear, or move to an urban area. I might be a dinosaur and due for extinction, but I ain't dead yet! Personally I want to feel connected to the land and nature. I want to eat naturally grown food that is chemical free. I want the satisfaction of being semi-independent, or as independent as feasible. So living in an urban condo, eating factory farmed and processed food, in a world of unnatural chemicals isn't my idea of wholesome, happy living. Been there, done that, ran away from it! Egads, they're talking about future food being grown in laboratory-like settings. Artificial lab grown meat. Tissue culture edible plant material. Not my idea of fine dining.
I predict that there will always be the "hippies", "back to earthers", and independence lovers. Their numbers will stay small, just as they are today and have been all along. I don't see the countryside returning to pre-industrial revolution farming. I do believe that mega farms and intensive ag is the path of the future, at least for the US.
"W", if you want to have a homestead farm and be reasonably independent, go for it! If you want to be a small acreage farmer, go for it. As long as you develop your skills, cultivate your market, choose the right location, opt for a simple lifestyle, I believe that you can make a living. And I believe that there will be others doing the same thing. Some will use low tech methods, others will go with intensive farming. But the small farm will continue to exist, even though it may be only a very small percentage of US agriculture.