Monday, March 6, 2017

A Myth About Family Farming Agriculture

May we suggest some Food For Thought ...  

Myth: Family farming is Dead and Corporations Rule

96 percent of the farms in America are family farms, according to the USDA. The vast majority of the food being produced in America is being produced by family farms. Corporations do play a big part in the industry, but they do not “control” or “rule” the food supply. Farmers are still at the root of the food equation, and are growing healthy, nutritious crops better than they ever have! Technology, efficiency, and commodity prices have definitely increased the size of these family farms, and many of them farm thousands of acres and thousands of animals, but they are still the same value-driven family farms that were around 50-100 years ago! 

But a number that does matter to the argument is this one: “99 per cent of farm animals in the US are reared in factory farms, according to the ASPCA.” That’s not good at all, because what you get is this: Think of a farm and what comes to mind? Lambs leaping through a field, pigs rolling around in the mud and cows chomping on lush grass.

Sadly, that vision is now a rarity - most chickens, ducks and turkeys are farmed in huge industrial sheds and a whopping 99 per cent of farm animals in the US are reared in factory farms, according to the ASPCA.

Family farming is a full-time job. Farmers cannot just leave for a vacation and have someone else take up their responsibilities. Ron Elliott, a dairy farmer from Gambier, says, "I don't think that we've had a good vacation for at least two or three years. We've only had a few days here and there--but just get up and go somewhere different? No." Don Hawk, a turkey farmer from Howard Township, also explains the daily responsibility of being a farmer. "On a day-to-day basis, the turkeys are a 365 day operation---there are always turkeys on the farm. And that includes doing chores, the necessary chores each and every morning and each and every evening." The typical daily chores on a family farm require a firm understanding of a variety of related areas: mechanics, economics, land-use, veterinary medicine, business, biology, government regulations and computers. For these reasons, it is a myth that farming is an "easy" job requiring few skills to be successful. 

Myth: Family Farming is Inefficient and Outdated

Opinions about "what is efficient" are shaped by the neo-classical economic model of the market economy. This means that questions of environmental stewardship and the social effects of a certain type of economic system are largely ignored. These issues are considered "externalities"---not a concern of the business. On the family farm, land use and quality of life are very important. Farmers, knowing that the land may stay in their family for many generations, are concerned about the quality of land that they leave to their children. For this reason, it is "efficient" for the farmer to consider such methods as crop rotation, no-till and reduced till farming, narrow row spacing, post-emerge herbicides and organic farming.

Another so-called economic externality is community life. Family farming communities, characterized by owner-operated farms, often help each other in times of need. Because of the competitive nature of large national companies, they do not have the same kinds of ties to the local community and are less likely to share knowledge and help with one another in the same way that locally owned businesses and family farms are more inclined to do. Farm economies based on a multiplicity of family farms breeds a climate of cooperation and community values. Generally, large-scale, absentee-owned businesses and farms do not consider the effect they have on the local society because they are simply not an integral part of all aspects of the community. 

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Porterville, CA  93257

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