Christian. BoyMom. Farmer's Wife. Marathon Runner. Ag Professional. Bourbon Lover.
Advocate for all things agriculture and rural.
Advocate for all things agriculture and rural.
Tunis Sheep Hampshires heed
When someone wants to discount my information on modern agriculture, they state that we are just “for profit farmers”. People even protest farmers making a profit, with signs saying things like “people over profit”.
Some people seem to be of the a mindset that those who are trying to make a living farming are in some sort of conspiracy with “Big Ag” that results in nearly all the evils of the world from starvation and obesity to autism and cancer.
Last week, a visitor to my blog asked me to visit a website of a self proclaimed "sustainable farmer". He appeared to be taking full advantage of all the hot buzz words – he was verified organic, labor intense, small, local, natural, non-GMO, hormone free, antibiotic free, gluten free, Monsanto free – but he was not sustainable.
How do I know? On the side bar, of every page on his website, he was asking for donations to be able to continue his farm.
Farmers have to be profitable to be sustainable! And you WANT farmers to be profitable. Here is why.
1. Farming takes a lot of money. And if farmers are going to make long term investments, they must be profitable. The information, technology and equipment available is constantly changing and improving. When farmers can take advantage of these changes they can get better at managing the high demands of the industry with caring for their farms and caring for the environment.
For example, when my father in law made the management decision to switch to no-till farming in 1992, it took money to do that. He had to purchase a new drill and new attachments for his planter. He had to spend time and money learning about the process.
A person can farm on a small scale as a hobby. These types of farms are great for the people running them and the people that are close enough to buy from them! They are are often supplemented by other sources of income and only exist as long as those other sources (like website donations) are available. These small farms are NOT a sustainable model we can duplicate across the country to meet the high demands of modern agriculture.
"These small farms are NOT a sustainable model we can duplicate across the country to meet the high demands of modern agriculture."
2. Farming takes a lot of work with crazy hours. Right now, 93-96% of all farms in the USA are family owned. Farmers, and their families, give up a lot to live this lifestyle. I have never met a farmer who would change a thing, but if they cannot make a living at this they would never be able to justify the hours and sacrifices they make. Farmers have bills to pay and kids to send to summer camps just like you!
3. Farmers need to be experts. Farming is not easy and it requires expertise in a lot of areas. If you want your farmers to be experts in protecting the environment, food safety, technology, soil science, biology, the weather and the countless other areas they need to master – they have to be able to do this for a career. They have to be able to afford to devote the time and money into educating themselves and improving their farming practices.
Someone recently commented on my blog that farmers “just do whatever the experts tell them”. If you have ever met a farmer, you’ll know there probably is not one in existence that just does what someone tells them to do. Farmers take great pride in making management decisions and they need the ability to spend the time and money to make educated choices.
4. Profitable farms can focus on long term planning versus short term cash flow. It’s popular to claim that farmers make management decisions based solely on increasing a single year's yields or increasing a single year’s profits. The truth is some farms are forced to do that.
Farms that have not been profitable in the past and are feeling that pressure can often be forced to make decisions that may lower input costs or increase cash flow in the short run. This can result in some of the devastating stories we hear about mismanagement of animals or food on farms.
Farms that are profitable can make decisions based on what is best for the long term. A farmer’s long term is not his retirement – it’s his grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, taking over the farm.
Financial stability allows farmers to make decisions that are best for soil health, animal health, the environments surrounding our farms and consumers. Contrary to what internet activists will tell you, it's not in the industry's best interest to poison consumers.
Sustainability on farms is a process with many steps. The first step, the foundation to any farm being sustainable, is to be profitable. It’s time to stop making profit an evil word and start embracing it for our farmers and the industry!
"It’s time to stop making profit an evil word and start embracing it for our farmers and the industry!"
9/13/2015 03:50:30 pm
People who are unfamiliar with farming tend to be unaware of the financial risks involved. There are good years, and there are bad years - there's no such thing as a steady income in farming. Insurance can help counter some losses, but our income is not in any way guaranteed.
9/14/2015 09:19:31 am
Thanks for the comment Helena! Not growing up on a farm it really was a huge shock for me just how risky the income is and how challenging it is to deal with the large volume of money that comes in and then almost always goes right back out!
9/13/2015 03:56:53 pm
I've always wondered why anyone would work if there wasn't profit involved. Would one go to a factory and work just to break even. Farmers feed the world but need to be able to afford to feed their family's first. As for farmers doing only what the experts tell them, well I've yet to meet a farmer that wasn't an expert in many areas or one that you could tell to do anything. Best to make suggestions and leave it at that. These men and women work countless hours so I can't imagine anyone knowing more about their operation than they do. Also as far as being a "sustainable farmer" well if you are not making a profit then its a hobby and your a gardener. Its possible to be sustainable when farming organic or when farming with Non-GMO anyone who says otherwise well I'd best not say what I believe them to be. We farm non-gmo's are sustainable we have also made money when farming organic. So if one is looking for true information on farming be it conventional gmo, organic or non-gmo's don't always believe what the person "farmers market" tells you because its very rare that they are actually farmers. Do your research and I'm not talking Google, I'm talking your USDA office, local farmers. You might be surprised what you might learn. Thanks Kate for another great post.
9/14/2015 09:20:49 am
I think you hit exactly on one of our biggest challenges. People in urban areas go to the farmers market and talk to a gardener about farming. And there is no PC way to try and explain that his or her thoughts may not be as valid as it appears. Thanks Diana!
9/14/2015 06:32:22 am
Major HAT TIP to you, your husband and children. I was fortunate to spend 4 years of my childhood on a farm, All the fresh vegetables and fruit we needed. The cash crops were tobacco, pork and beef.and furnished what we needed. At an early age, I learned the meaning of hard work and teamwork with the added bonus of appreciation for the land and the outdoors. I commend your family for contributions toward a better country and salute you all for lessons we can learn about the earth, family and love of the land. Respectfully, L Little
9/14/2015 09:21:17 am
Well thank you Lee! Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment!
9/14/2015 05:53:58 pm
When people comment to me about farmers being all about profits I ask them if they would work for their employer for free? If we don't turn a profit, we can't pay or keep our employees. It's not rocket science.
9/14/2015 09:26:55 pm
Thanks for visiting, I LOVE your page! Someone actually sent me a page run by a guy who thinks we should all farm for free because taking the money out of it is the only way to keep "food honest" or something like that.
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Kate Lambert grew up in northern Illinois, not on a farm but active in FFA and showing livestock.
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