What Farmers Want You to Know

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

There have been posts recently that have pointed out to some of us that there is a vast chasm between the American farmer and the American consumer. In all the cases that I've read, the farmers have taken the posts and turned them to an educational opportunity, but there is monstrous confusion amongst the food buying public about what farmers do, want, deal with, approve of and how and why we do what we do. Many of you start out saying yes indeed, I support my local farmer, but those dirty agri-business folks, well, they are ruining the earth. Sorry, not that easy.

In this thread, I hope to have the members of the farm forum who do farm post some of what we really need and want the members who don't farm to know. I'll start out with a statistic. When Stan and I started farming in 1972, the American farm population was 11% of the total population. We are now very near 1%, and no that is not a typo. ONE PERCENT of our total population feeds all of us. To me, that is a terribly frightening statistic. Why has the farm population dropped so drastically? Isn't owning and working your own piece of land the American dream? Well, it's economics. There's not much profit in farming, some years, none at all, and it takes a different kind of person to know that and keep going. Beyond that, it is important to know that the optimum percentage of the population that SHOULD be farming is 15%.


this addition is promted by a Dmail that I got from a non subscriber. They didn't believe that 1 % of the population could indeed feed the rest because of the imported food:

"I can't post to any threads because I'm not subscribed., but I wanted to comment about your Farm Life Forum thread: a statistic that "Farmers are 1% of the population". This probably doesn't mean that "1% of the population feeds all of us", but that more and more of the food (and some other resources) in the markets is from overseas."

My answer:
No, it means that 1% of the population is farming and yes, they do feed all of you. The imported food doesn't equal the amount that we expport to the world. The US is capable of feeding itself and much more. The imported stuff is excess as far as our critical food supply goes.

This message was edited Dec 9, 2005 5:00 PM

Kathleen, I hope you don't mind this British ex farming member joining in :)

Same things occuring this side of the water, 1% of the British working force is involved in agriculture, the average age of the British farmer (owner/tenant) is 58 years old and rising is that similar for you too?

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

Hi, Baa. Nope, don't mind at all. I didn't mean to sound exclusive, and I do realize that the situation is similar in all of the industrial (or are we post-industrial now?) nations.

The average age here is, I think, a little older yet. I know the other day we discovered that we were still younger than average - sad commentary on the future of farming.

Verona, ON

Kathleen,
There is a sign on the farms in my area that really hits home for me, it says:
No farm
No food
No Future
and so, so true.
Dianne

Thanks Kathleen :)

Yes it is sad for the future of farming, the cry here is that there are few experienced but young farm workers to teach the new lot just dipping a toe. What they mean is people my age, unfortunately the funds to pay us the wages the wage board says qualified and experienced workers must have just aren't there on most farms.

Kidneyguy

The sign says a great deal. No farming, no food is something the British faced in the first half of the last century and seriously compromised our national security. We could feed ourselves for 9 days out of each month at that time.

Kathleen do you know the self sufficiency of each sector? I know we are only self sufficient in dairy produce now.

southeast, NE

Yes the average age of the farmer in the US is 55. Every time a census is completed, the age increases. The amount of money and work required to farm is atrocious. Unless a young farmer takes over the family farm or has someone sponsor him/her, it is impossible to get in the business. And unless someone “walks in those shoes”, it is hard to imagine what they go through. I don’t even feel like I can talk the talk as we both my husband and I work full time off of the farm and we are considered “hobby farmers”, i.e. if the crops fails, we lose a cow, the markets bottom out, the price of diesel fuel skyrockets, the interest rates increase, etc. we absorb it with our full time job salaries.

We recently sold my parents’ farm. We sold it to a young farmer. He was able to buy the farm with the help of his mother and the help of a very low interest government sponsored Farm Service Agency loan. It is my understanding FSA is practically begging first time farmers (defined as someone who has not farming more than 10 years) and they are getting very few takers.

A farmer’s overhead is extremely high. Included in that is the amount of limited hours needed to plant and harvest a crop, they are constantly looking for ways to improve their productivity. This is where gm crops come in. In order to increase amount of bushels per acre and reduce pesticide and herbicide use, gm crops have been marketed to the farmers. So farmers “do the math”. This is the economics of farming.

I have a daughter who loves agriculture. This year was her first year of teaching agriculture education classes to junior and senior high school kids. She was a FFA Nebraska semi-finalist for “farmer of the year”. Anyone who knows about FFA knows this is not an easy accomplishment. When other kids were sleeping in, crusing the malls, etc., she was working with her sheep and cattle. It appears that she will marry a farmer. Some days I wished she didn’t have this love for farming as I have this premonition that she will become disheartened with the system.

CHINA, MI(Zone 6a)

Kathleen, not all farms are having a hard time because they learned how to farm and not ruin the earth by using organic fertilizers. The pasture-based food industry has very high profits. Also small farms are starting to pop up all over. CSA's are community supported farms where members purchase a share in the harvest every season. They pay for shares in the winter and pick up their shares each week during the season. If you want to no whats new in farming get the STOCKMAN GRASSFARMER. It is sad we inport so much of our food.
Ken

Edited out.

This message was edited Dec 24, 2004 6:13 AM

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

Ken, we've been a grass farm for 20 years - the rest of the crowd is just catching up to us. The point is not that it's impossible to farm, but that it has become darned near impossible to get the numbers of people really needed to farm because it is so blamed hard and mostly not for profit. We run a dairy farm that makes money. How did we do it? hard work and living poor for a long time. Most people who don't mind hard work don't really want to see no return for it and too much of the time that is what farming is all about.

We have been shouting from the hilltop for quite sometime about grass farming - Stan's done two presentations on it for the Cooperative Extension and serves on the Pasture Committee. There are a lot of people coming around, BUT as an industry, farming is in trouble. Farmers are fighting uphill battles against corporations who have decided that they know better what farmers need and have convinced the powers that be that this is so. Its not too hard to do when the population is 99% non-farming and really has no idea about how or where their food is produced.

You're preaching to the choir here - its the rest of the country we need to educate.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Kathleen, yes you are preaching to the choir. It's too bad all y'all farmers don't have this information in a forum that lots of DGers read.

CHINA, MI(Zone 6a)

Kathleen, glad to hear you are a grass farmer and a lot of what you say is right. It is hard work, it has to be a love of life witch most kids don't have to day. All the farmers around here stop farming because of no help. Its getting harder and harder just to get hay because the farms don't grow anymore because of no help. I no of 4 kids around here who like farming, thats just not going to work out. When people do wake up to the fact that if the inported food stops coming in, it will be to late. Even my kids don't want my little farm when I go. You all have a nice Xmas.
Ken

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

Some thoughts from the heart of "CORN" country.

Many farms here 10,000 acres or more.

Hog barns with 3000 or more pigs each.

Dairy farms, lots with 200 + milking. A couple not far away in the 1000's.

A friend of mine retired & had an auction. I asked him what he did with his farm land. He said he is getting $200.00 per acre rent, per year. A farm family that farm extremely big is the new tenant. These people grab every acre they can get their hands on, buy or rent. (By the way sale price of farmland is over $3000.00 per acre.) They are trying to farm the whole country, I think. The reason, goverment farm payments. These people collect well over a million dollors,($1,000,000.00) per year. Thjis operation is not a corperate owned farm. There are none around here that I know about. Almost all the chickens, turkeys, & hogs are corperate owned, paying the farmer wages to feed them. Most of the corperate farms are run by the old co-ops that farmers started. Farmland, Land'O'Lakes, Cenex, etc.
I am a very little farmer, 5 acres. I am happy that the goverment lets me pay them so I can continue farming. I seem to make a little money, so I get to pay income tax!
Another probelm as to why the big farmers take over, is the estate tax laws. A farmer CANNOT give the farm to a son or daughter. They must pay fair market value for it & going rate of interest if it is financed by their parents.
To make a living here on a crop farm you would need about 1000 acres.
1000 acres X $3000.00= $3,000,000.00 X 6% interest=$180,000.00 per year.
Now, let me ask you non-farmers, why is the farm population dropping to 1% or less?

Merry Christmas!
Bernie

CHINA, MI(Zone 6a)

How true it is Bernie, farm land here goes for 4 to $5500.00 an acre. Now the state is into buying farms, they give you the cash so you can't sell out but you have to keep farming.
Ken

CHINA, MI(Zone 6a)

If you want to read a good book on the decrease of american family farms (WHEN THE LEVEE BREAKS) BY PATRICK CHALFANT

Land prices in the UK vary but I'm in one of the more expensive parts and as there isn't exactly a lot of land, even a very small farm of 25 acres is around $800,000 + here in Hampshire for a pretty scrubby lot.

It's interesting that you said US pasture farming is very high profit Pondview, do you have any statistics for this please (purely casual interest, explained below)? Here in the UK our biggest crop is grass due to the climate, the vast majority of grazing livestock are on fields with some winter housing especially dairy animals, while the grazing is relatively cheap feed in comparison to zero grazing methods, 'high profit' is something I've never seen in relation to livestock farming. While I accept that the US and UK have some big agricultural differences in culture and economy, it would be interesting to make the comparision.

Wauconda, IL

Wanna know why I don't farm? Even though I'd love to? Hellacious start-up costs..money and knowledge wise. Land is so expensive...let alone the machinery to harvest your crops. Though I think organic produce and meat is the way to go for the family farmer today, and that's just the way I'd go, and just MHO. I think the family farm life is a good, honest living. But as a rural/suburban dweller...I don't know if I could cut it. I could deal with the hours....as I'm up by about 5 am, and go to sleep after 11 pm...but...the money....sheesh. For instance..I would love to have an organic veggie farm and roadside farmstand. I have friends in Wisconsin who have them. They are mortgaged up to their ears, even though their crop is sold in advance every year! Even so, they aren't going to retire wealthy, if you know what I mean! Same with my cousins who do beef and soy and corn in southern Ohio. They break even. They work from can't see to can't see. No vacations. That's a hell of a lot of work just to break even. The system is tilted against family farmers. It has been for years, and I don't like it. Hard work is gratifying...yes! Constant, thankless hard work makes your soul dead. The fact that our government doesn't appreciate your efforts even more so! Vacations are important!

In season, I buy my meat and produce and cheese from local farmstands and family farms. This year, I am going to learn how to "put stuff up", so I don't have to depend on corporate farming. If anyone has any canning advice for a complete novice, I'm all ears! I'd like to avoid botulism, LOL, which is why I've never done anything but strawberry jams and jellies. I don't know...it just seems complicated to me.

And the simple fact that some of my livestock would have to be butchered. GAK~ I couldn't kill something I've named, LOL! Call it sissy...but them's the issues for me. April

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

I think we need to address the issue of vocabulary here: "family farm," "organic farm," "corporate farm," "commercial farm."

There seems to be a tendency in any thread concerning farming to use "corporate farm" and "commercial farm" as dirty words. Let me be blunt, anyone who is in farming as their main occupation is a "commercial" farmer. "Corporate farms" can be both family farms and organic. Earthbound Farms and Seeds of Change are well know corporate organic farms. It is easy to take words and villainize them by generalization. I will agree with you from now until doomsday that the "corporate" take over of hog farming and chicken farming in this country has not been a good thing. I will agree with you that there are insanely huge commercial farms that suck up good farm land at exorbitant rates putting smaller commercial family (sometimes organic) farms out of business.

BUT it is too easy to generalize and that's quite specifically the point I want to make. You do not want all of the corporate commercial non-organic farms to go out of business. Americans pay the smallest percentage of their income for food of anywhere in the world and it is because of the large commercial corporate farms that that particular statistic is true. ALSO, think about the last time the price of milk went up - did you grumble? People on the street in New York City were interviewed last year when it was announced that there would be a government aid program for dairy farmers to bolster falling milk prices. They universally said that as dairy was already subsidized they didn't see any reason for the program and that farmers were just being greedy. grumble, grumble, grumble. Well, point of fact, milk is not subsidized. Secondly, we have nothing to do with the price of milk. The farmer is the only person involved who has no say in the price we get for our milk. Processors - milk bottlers and cheese manufacturers - have a great deal of say in the price of milk and the government has placed a floor under it so that it doesn't bottom out, but Kraft, for instance, was single handedly able to put a huge artificial drop in the price of milk a few years ago by flooding the cheese market with a surplus that they had built for just that purpose.

All that said, I will reiterate that I do indeed feel that the state of American farming needs a long hard look, that it should be possible for more people who really want to farm (no offense April, but there's alot more to the hours than just up at dawn and working until after dusk and its the "working" part that most people don't understand - spend a day running from 5 am until 10 pm and you'll have a little bit of an idea) to be able to farm. We should have small rural communities supported by prosperous farms in this county - no wait, we MUST have small rural communites supported by prosperous farms in this country. The urbanization of America is stretching the very fabric of our culture and what's being lost is perhaps our very soul.


Oboy, did it again. I'll get off the soap box for awhile and let someone else have a shot.

Wauconda, IL

I quite understand, as I DO run every day from 5 am to 10 pm. And on the 6th day, I rest. I also know that in addition to physical labour, that farming comes with a ton of administrative work, too. Plus the other stuff we all do every day, too. I'm not saying the running I do compares with the running that someone who has a farm does. Exhausted at the end of the day is exhausted at the end of the day, no matter how we got there. Did anyone here see that PBS special "The Farmer's Wife"? Good series. Very revealing, and made me realise that farming is a heck of a lot harder way to make a living than I ever thought.

To the general public and ME...corporate farm means...Tyson. Conagra. Cargill. Pilgrim's Pride. Etc. "Giant, Multi-National Agri-Business" takes too long to say. We must have these. As you said, we have cheap food here, and they are part or most of the reason. BUT... I can't help but wish they were more concerned about the environment, the health of their workers and the communities surrounding their huge farms. They are also the largest (by FAR)recipients of farm subsidies (our tax dollars), for some reason.

I didn't grumble the last time milk went up because I don't drink milk, and haven't since I was a very young child. I'm also smart enough to figure out that when the price of milk or produce or meat goes up....the farmer is getting little or none of that price increase, it is instead going to the "the middle man." Unless, of course, it's a price increase engineered by a Giant, Multi-National Agri-Business concern. Then, they get to keep the whole pot, because they have their own canners, bottlers, whatever.

The price of tomatoes was very high this year. From what I understand, lots of growing fields in Florida were wrecked by hurricanes. Did I grumble about the price? Yes, it's human nature. I also know the Jewel doesn't buy its tomatoes from Joe Smith's little farm...it buys them from a Giant, Multi-National Agri-Business concern. And that the Giant, Multi-National Agri-Business concern was doing a bit of bottom line enhancement.
Joe Smith MAY work his land for the company...and he'll only get for his produce what the company chooses to pay him. I doubt Joe is seeing much of an enhancement to HIS bottom line.

I don't, and never said that I wanted the Giant, Multi-National Agri-Business companies to go out of business. I do want them to have less power, i.e., the example you cited vis a vis Kraft Cheese. They shouldn't be able to wreck your life on a whim dictated entirely by the bottom line profitability dictated by share-holders. They shouldn't be able to pressure or pay off politicians to propose and enact laws that favour them, and hurt everybody and everything else. Since the climate these days is very pro-big business, I think we're going to see the loss of many, many more small, independent farms. Which is a real shame. I love capitalism, I'd just like to see it become more fair and humane.

Family Farms can be corporate. Organic or not. They are, out of necessity, commercial. No one farms just for the heck of it, I assume. I choose to support farms that are small concerns, run by a family or a couple of families or whomever, organic or not, and hopefully treating the earth, employees, life and traditions they've been blessed with ethically and very well.

Basically, incorporation means that your company is imbued with the rights of a human being, that's all. If I'm remembering my business class correctly. It costs $100 to incorporate in Illinois. I could incorporate my small native plant business, Restless Natives. Right now, it's just Restless Natives. If and when I Inc. my company, I think someone would have to be pretty silly to call what I do corporate farming or confuse it with what most people think of when they think of corporate farming. April

A question if I may.

I'm confused and it may be a difference between the UK and North America. Are agricultural and horticultural systems regardless of mode and intended end use of product both considered farming?

Wauconda, IL

Baa,

I think it's all called farming, whether you're growing flowers for the cut flower market, or meat or produce, for commercial purposes. As it was explained to me, if you sell what you produce, it's farming, if not, it's just gardening, and having a couple of critters. LOL! I could be totally wrong, and I'm sure there are gradations. April

CHINA, MI(Zone 6a)

Baa, go on the web and look up( THE STOCKMAN GRASS FARMER) you can find out why they make good profits.

Thanks Dodecatheon.

Thanks Pondview. I've just had a look at the site for the magazine and I'll be honest, all I saw was an relatively short explanation of a management method. Perhaps later on there will be more information to glean or I'm looking in the wrong place.

I do see why grazing at optimum stocking rates can at least lower fixed costs, increasing income depends on the market and I personally feel that where possible, grazing species should be grass fed and in fields. This is the kind of stock keeping I'm used to in the UK as I've indicated above. If it's sufficiently different enough to be marketable under grass fed banners or the lowered fixed costs are significant enough from other systems with reduced or zero grazing, then I would agree that a profit from grazing stock can be and is possible, but forgive me if I'm not entirely sold on the idea of high profits just yet :)

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

Baa, I think the thinking behind the high profits is in thecost difference between "conventional" farming that has been practiced in the US for the last 40 years or so and grass farming. There was a movement towards total confinement in dairy in the early 60s, the motivation being that you could control the the cow's feed intake without having to guess at the feed value of pasture. We, my family and Stan's, never took that route as we were not set up for it and at least in my family's case, my grandfather and father felt that it was better for the cows to get them out on pasture as much as possible. When Stan and I started farming, we did morning and evening pasturing and eventually worked into intensive rotational pasturing.

The higher profits now come from less purchased feed imput, cheaper housing costs, lower veterinary bills, and lower breeding costs (cows on pasture tend to breed back faster lowering number of services, etc.). This is, of course, a dairyman's point of view, but I'm sure that it carries over to beef and fowl as well.

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

From the USDA website, the definition of "farm" and "agricultural products" ( more or less):

WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF A FARM?

For the purpose of the Census of Agriculture, a farm is any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year. The $1,000 value is not adjusted for inflation.

For the 1997 and 2002 census, operations receiving $1,000 or more in Federal government payments were counted as farms, even if they had no sales and otherwise lacked the potential to have $1,000 or more in sales.

If a place does not have $1,000 in sales, a “point system” assigns dollar values for acres of various crops and head of various livestock species to estimate a normal level of sales. Point farms are farms with fewer than $1,000 in sales during 2002 but have points worth at least $1,000. Point farms tend to be very small. Some, however, may normally have large sales, but experience low sales in a particular year due to bad weather, disease, changes in marketing strategies, or other factors. The census of agriculture uses the point system to help identify farms meeting the current definition. For 2002, a farm that had $500 point value and $500 in government payments is considered a farm. This would not have been true for the 1997 census. For farms with production contracts, the value of the commodities produced is used, not the amount of the fees they receive.

USDA's definition of "agricultural products" is based on the following:

Agricultural products, sometimes also referred to as "food and fiber" products, cover a broad range of goods from unprocessed bulk commodities like soybeans, feed corn, wheat, rice, unprocessed tobacco, and raw cotton to highly-processed, high-value foods and beverages like sausages, bakery goods, ice cream, beer and wine, and condiments sold in retail stores and restaurants.

All of the products found in Chapters 1-24 (except for fishery products in Chapters 3 and 16) of the U.S. Harmonized Tariff Schedule are considered agricultural products. These products generally fall into the following categories: grains, animal feeds, and grain products (like bread and pasta); oilseeds and oilseed products (like soybean oil); livestock, poultry and dairy products including live animals, meats, raw hides and skins, eggs, and feathers; horticultural products including all fresh and processed fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, as well as nursery products and beer and wine; unmanufactured tobacco; and tropical products like sugar, cocoa and coffee.

Certain other products outside of Chapters 1-24 are also considered agricultural products. The most significant are essential oils (Chapter 33), raw rubber (Chapter 40), raw animal hides and skins (Chapter 41), and wool and cotton (Chapters 51-52).

The major products derived from plants or animals which are not considered "agricultural" because of their manufactured nature are cotton thread and yarn; fabric, textiles and clothing; leather and leather articles of apparel; cigarettes and cigars; and spirits.

*Note USDA's trade databases also include selected "non-agricultural" harmonized tariff schedule commodities. The non-agricultural commodities which have been included are those which are closely associated with agricultural commodities and those which the Department is interested in tracking. They typically fall into two groups: manufactured products derived from plants or animals like yarns, fabrics, textiles, leather, articles of apparel, cigarettes and cigars, spirits; or products used in the farm production process like agricultural chemicals, fertilizers, and farm machinery. Fishery products are included as non-agricultural products because of their food value and the fact that FAS collaborates with the seafood industry to promote exports. Solid wood products are also included as a non-agricultural product because FAS collaborates with U.S. industry to promote exports of these products as well.

CHINA, MI(Zone 6a)

Kathleen, you are 100% right. lower cost highter profits and thats how pasture farmers do it with chickens,cows,sheep,pigs,turkeys, and so on. There are many farms around here that had not been worked for years, now they lease them out to grazier's. Also there is less equiptment needed.

Thanks Kathleen, you know my background, so I hope you don't think I'm being a thickie *G*

Soooooooooo let me get this straight, it's high profit in comparision with other livestock systems rather than high profit in a more general business sense? That would make sense to me if it's so.

Here in the UK ornamental horticulture is practised in nurseries and is considered seperate from farming, hence my confusion!

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

And we wonder why people are confused about "farm" in the US . . .

Humansville, MO(Zone 6a)

I'll through in another one, rabbits are ag non ag product they are regulated by the fda not the usda our prosessers have to pay the usda inspectors if they need to be usda for meat sales in different areas that won't take state inspections or fda just though i'd through that in the mix to confuse everyone even more My rabbitry does way more than enough to qualify to be a farm but need other stock that for it to count they don't care whare the money comes from as long you have other farm crops that they reconize in our case we are going to use goats as we have about 35 arces of brush and it seems that they will give the best returns with the least investment and i hope our hay field will produce enough for the winter feedso i don't have to buy much hay but won't take but one cutting as fescue seens to hold good protein standing the field so we will use it for winter graze when they cleaned up the leaves in the fall

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

Yeah! Dave.
We don't count anymore either. Seems like 5 acres of veggies, which take more labor than 500 acres of corn, isn't considered a farm. As long as we arn't considered farmers, maybe we shouldn't pay taxes on the income. How can you make a farm profit if it's not a farm?
Even the farm co-ops turn up their nose at you, but they still want you to pay for the goods you get from them. (At least we are not going to go bankrupt and leave them hanging!)
I just smile as I drive away in my Caddilac!
Bernie
Edited to add: They did send me a farm cenus questionaire. This was the one where they call you later. well I asked the person why they would bother me when I am not a farm. All said and done I am no longer on their list!

This message was edited Jan 3, 2005 8:47 PM

Wauconda, IL

Dave and Country...can't understand why you guys aren't considered farms. You're raising a crop that you derive you livlihood from. Seems simple to me! ;-) april

Humansville, MO(Zone 6a)

April It called the US goverment and each branch not wanting to work with the other but belive me the feed stores sure like the 6 to 8 hundred i spend on feed every mounth

Wauconda, IL

I believe you, Dave! Leave it to the gov't. to make things complicated. Heard an interesting story on I heard NPR today about "place based farming/foods." Here's the link: you can listen or read.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4245627

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

That story is all well and good - small dairies owned by millionaires often do well.

Stan was recently one of several farmers at a meeting of the Cornell Cooperative Extension's Small Farms program. There was a woman there who wanted to start a small cheese processing plant on her organic dairy. Even with manufacturing equipment loans through a NY state program, it was prohibitively expensive.

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

Don't look like a small farm to me.
We have a neighborhood farm that has all their equipment going on the auction block on Jan. 12. This is not a small farm. They were farming 5000 acres, all owned by them. They also own another xx acres that they rent to others.
In this senareo, who are they?
They are a family of millionaires that live around the country. They are ceasing farming operations because it is not profitable.
A little history. The farm started in 1880's, when the man bought up railroad sections. (He was already a millionaire then.) He then rented these parcils out on share farming. Each farm had to have x number of dairy cows, pigs, chickens, beef cattle & poultry. Every acre was planned for them as to what crops to raise. Also had to have a garden for their vegetables. That was probably planned by the company also.
These farms lasted until the 70's, when they started to disperse them as the families ran out of people to operate them. They would bulldoze the buildings, then the company did the farming. The last of the tenant farms went under the bulldozer the last few years as a couple of oldtimers died. The company had decided the generation that was all over 60 years old was the last. (Did I mention, these tenant farms went from father to son all those years.) One family we know well was the last to go. The man, about 65 died suddenly of a heart attack. He had one son farming with him full time & 2 others part-time.
The boys were forced to do something else. Their equipment was auctioned.
They moved on. The buildings were bulldozed & burned. These people had no equity after farming this piece of land for at least 4 generations!

The man that started this company, willed all the land to his heirs. So since the 1920's, this land has been managed by a company hired man. The heirs keep getting to be more. They decided farming does not bring them the percentage return on their investment that they need, so quite farming.
The acreage is now rented to 14 different farmers. I have heard as much as $200.00 an acre.

Smallest farms around here are now 600 acres +.
Other than myself. I am the only one I know of making a living on a few acres.
But we have to supplement by doing carpenter & cabinet work.

Oh well, enough ramblin'.
Bernie

Wauconda, IL

Kathleen,

I just sent it as something that might be remotely interesting...yes, I know the maytag family is quite wealthy. I am not saying that it would be even remotely possible for someone who wasn't wealthy. But what the program did bring up is that niche marketing for farm goods may be the wave of the future (The program said that)There are community gardens in the City of Chicago on plots of land that are 60x120(sometimes there are 2 of these plots together) each that sell produce to the fancy restaurants in Chicago. Since the land is owned by the city, the gardeners don't make a profit...but the city does. People from the neighborhood are paid minimum wage to take care of the gardens. Their wages are paid by the city. The profit is then used to pay wages, hire more people, and the extra is put into local community centers, and after school programs for kids. It has been quite successful. Also, there is an agricultural high school in Chicago! There's a waiting list to get into it.

CHINA, MI(Zone 6a)

Kathleen, a couple in Warwick Massachusetts have a 30 cow dairy farm and make a great living off it. They sell raw milk and cheese. It cost them $25,000.00 for the cheesemaking equipment. They work 8 months and take 4 off. It is grass base and no winter milk. Sally Fallon founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation said the farm of the fature is not the mechanized CAFO or mega-monoculture farm, but the 30-cow dairy farm that sells directly to the public or provides products to shareholders. Another reason for less large farms is we are not a big exporter of food like we use to be. We use to export to Russia, India, and China, now they export food to us. Cheap labor is gobbling up the last of the U.S. FARMS. Surging imports of food threaten a wider trade gap.

And position of farm is everything in self-marketing.

To validate my last comment. If you farm close to a built up area or near to processing/packing facilities, you have a much better chance of being able to market direct or under your own brand and the transport costs are much cheaper.

It's great that some people are doing really well but I'd also like to add that not every farm has the same advantages and so different ways of selling crops are needed. It does sound all wonderful and why isn't everyone doing it but if you live 50 miles from the nearest big town and 20 from a small one there is no point in setting up a direct selling outlet, it's a waste of time and money and those farmers are pretty well tied into having to sell to larger processors.

The farming often falls into that generalised catagory, Agriculture, however, there are sections of the industry that share little with each other in truth and within the individual sections there can be vast differences between how they do business and much of it has to do with where the farm is situated.

Rocky Mount, VA(Zone 7a)

~bump~ please as this is an educational thread.

Wauconda, IL

What are the feelings about the soon to be vanished farm subsidies? April

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