Small Family Farms: The Heart of the Midwest
Small family farms and ranches need our support so that family operations of rural America are a part of our future.
Small family farms are not just the livelihood of generations of families; they are the social capital of rural America.
Kleiner Junge am Strohballen/Fotolia
When you hear the term “Traditional Family Farm” what comes to mind? Perhaps, a giant red barn, fields of healthy crops promising an abundant harvest, small herds of livestock happily eating upon the rolling, green pastures. Land holding sweat, blood, tears, dreams, and a means of survival for generations of the same family name.
However, there is still more than what meets the eye. Let me fill in the rest of the story … a family that shops at the local grocery store, a family that buys gas at the local station, a farmer who purchases machinery, fertilizer, and feed from their community, where their children attend school. In other words, a business unit that supports the economy, natural resources, and the social capital of rural America. You see, for rural America to have empowered and thriving communities, which is a very positive asset for our nation, the traditional American farmer must excel.
In recent years, the large expansion of industrial agriculture has made it increasingly difficult for the small family farms and ranches of America to stay in business. At an alarming rate, every week, 330 farmers leave their land. This leaves two million remaining farms and of these only 565,000 are family operations. The statistics continue to be negative. Between 2005 and 2006, the United States lost 8,900 farms and to break that number down, that would be a little more than one farm per hour. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 3,000 acres of productive farmland in America is lost due to development everyday. Between 1974 and 2002, the number of corporate-owned American farms increased by more than 46 percent. So what is the problem and why is this a concern?
Well, to me these aren’t just numbers on paper, rather a reality. I am the fifth generation of my family that has been directly involved in agriculture. I live on a small family farm just north of Beresford, a rural community. My family raises sheep, hogs, cattle, corn, soybeans, and alfalfa. Yet, agricultural isn’t just something that surrounds me daily, it’s a part of me and it’s very near to my heart. I am who I am today because of the effect it has had on my life. I love everything that it is and stands for. I love 4-H, FFA, riding my horse, and the smell of tasseled corn. But it’s not only the fun, enjoyable things, because I know first-hand the hardships and difficulties there are in agriculture. At any moment, in just a blink of an eye, everything you have worked for can be destroyed. Mother nature or disease can take their strike. It’s days where you get up before the sun to fence and when you’re out way past dusk to finish throwing bales onto the flat-bed before the summer storm moves in. Still, it’s the feeling of overcoming the trials and stepping back after a honest hard days work, to see your accomplishments and God’s blessings. There’s no place better to see God’s creation and His hand in our lives. And the days when you have come to the end of the rope, just to make ends meet, and all that’s left is faith. Through it all I’ve learned responsibility, strength, a hard-work ethic, honesty, dedication, and a foundation of morals and values. I’ve learned to be a leader, to be efficient, organized, respectful, humble, patient, financially aware, and most important, that happiness is wealth.
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