Friday, November 21, 2014

All Size Farms Produce the Food Supply
March 27, 2014 by John Parker | No Comments

The country needs farms of all sizes, both large and small. And, it isn't one size against the other, as some would lead the public…

The country needs farms of all sizes, both large and small. And, it isn’t one size against the other, as some would lead the public to believe. Most food today is produced on the larger, more efficient family farms. At the same time, the smaller farms produce a significant amount of what the public eats and provide good opportunities for “niche” farming and rural family living.

All farms, large or small, have the opportunity and ability to use new technology. Larger family farms tend to use it more often that the smaller ones because they can spread any additional cost over more acres of crops or number of cows.

While there is considerable diversity in size and kinds of farms, they are all out there and need to work together. Farmers have a real challenge to tell their story of what farming is like today. With most folks in the United States two or three generations away from the farm, helping them understand what farming of all kinds is like is important.

It is not “big” against “small” farming, as some suggest. They are all in the food production business and need to respect each other.

In today’s society, there is plenty of room for niche agriculture. Interest in grow local-buy local programs is one example of that. Producing grass fed foods has a place. And, small dairy or grain farms can be profitable given the right management and careful spending.

Small farms provide an opportunity for families to experience living and working in the country and producing a crop or milk, beef, pork or chicken. Many small farmers supplement their incomes with a family member working off the farm, which may also provide fringe benefits, such as insurances for the family,

With the average size farm in the local area only about 150 acres, it is mostly a small farm kind of agriculture. Small farms are important.

At the same time, one needs to recognize that about 75 percent of the food that is consumed in the United States comes from the larger, efficient family farms. If people were trying to grow all their food on the small farms, 60 to 75 percent of them would have to move back to those farms. And, it would be difficult for the farms to provide the farmers with enough income for a good family living.

Keep in mind that the larger family farms are not corporations. They may be incorporated for legal family reasons but are not the huge corporate operations some would suggest.

There are some fairly large, efficient farming operations in the area. They are all family farms, owned and operated by the family with some outside help. They are 1,000 to 4,000 or more acres and use new technology to help make them more efficient and profitable.

Today’s farmers have many more “tools” to use than their grandfathers had. These tools include much new technology and equipment that have made them more efficient and have kept food costs down.

Farmers need to help their friends in town understand that the changes that have taken place in farming over the years have been necessary. Otherwise there would be much more hunger in this country and the world than there currently is.

Farmers have and continue to demonstrate that they provide a safe, healthy and abundant food supply. They need to get together and tell that story — repeatedly.

Parker is an independent agricultural writer.

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