As a young farmer my biggest pet peeve is hearing about how awful big, corporate agriculture is. We hear about it all the time; weather it’s an article recently published, or an opinionated peer. With my strong agriculture roots I can’t help but explain how agriculture got to be the way it is today. There are reasons why many people don’t know who their farmers are or how their food was made.
The past one hundred years have changed our ways of living and farming drastically. The biggest change we’ve seen is in technology. People are now able to travel far distances in fast, safely designed cars, receive antibiotics and vaccines to prevent and cure illnesses, and we are able to grow many different crops in this country to feed and fuel not only the U.S., but the world. All of this has been done through research, and technological advances.
I hear a lot of people say that we only care about money and there are barely any family farms left. I take a lot of this to heart because it is my industry and my future. I’m an aspiring fourth generation dairy farmer however; none of my four sisters have taken a sincere interest in the farm like I have. This may change, but other family farms face the same issue. People find more enjoyment working in a clean environment inside. No one wants to work outside when it’s -30 degrees or work in poop. Although I am not a parent, most of you would want the best for your child and seeing them leave the family business could be difficult, but they’ll be happier pursuing a career they’ll love. It’s not that family farms are getting run over by large corporations, it’s that there is less interest in agriculture. However, 98% of farms in the U.S. are still family owned. With less interest; we have fewer farmers. With fewer farmers, we need more food because there are not enough farmers to produce it. This has caused our farms to become larger.
Technology has also played a huge role in making a farm’s size much larger. We are able to use machinery to plant and harvest our own crops as well as computer software to keep our records all in one place. People are now able to purchase robots that milk cows! Farms can be more efficient because of this. Farmers are able to manage larger numbers of cattle and crops. Research has also allowed us to know our animal’s digestive needs to properly feed animals and minimize waste in our environment. Genetics plays a big role also in both the cattle and crop world. As dairy farmers, we are able to get any bull semen we want from anywhere in the world and this has rapidly improved our animal’s efficiency as well. Year after year we are able to purchase a wide variety of corn seed, GMO and non GMO, and select what traits in a corn crop we are looking for and what will work best in our soil. We are able to pick and choose the tools that make our farm as efficient as possible.
All this talk of efficiencies leads me to my last point. Farmers not only take care of animals and/or crops, we are also a business and many people fail to realize this. As much as every farmer loves his or her job, we have to make money in order to continue as a business. Farmers do not get paid very much compared to many other jobs in America, but we aren’t in the business for the money. It’s a passion that we have grown up with and grown to love. I would much rather be outside in frigid temperatures than sitting at an office all day. I love working outside with animals. I love being able to visually see what I have accomplished in the day and seeing how happy the animals are. Big ag has become the way it is because of our growing population and smaller interest in agriculture. There is room for both small and large farms in America. Whether you chose to head to the grocery store or farmers market please know that there is a lot of hard work, dedication, passion, and care behind that packaging.