By Mike Barnett
Family farm. Two words Americans love. With good reason.
Family means many things. Loving. Caring. Nurturing.
All apply to the family farmers I know. Too bad there are many misconceptions about what family farms are and aren’t.
Could be many of us are far removed from farm life. Some think of family farms as idyllic—a small place where the sun always shines, with chickens and cows, a patch of corn and a vegetable garden.
And it used to be that way. Kind of. Before World War II, much of the U.S. population scratched out a living on the farm. A family’s welfare was determined by what they could grow. Sometimes that was very little. It was an extremely hard life.
Then young men went to war. Leaps and bounds were made in agricultural technology as America became industrialized. Fewer people could work more land. Many left the farm to pursue careers. Farms grew bigger. And more efficient. But like the many small operations scattered across Texas, they were—and still are—family farms.
Here’s five things you should know:
Big or small, most farms are family farms. There are 2.1 million farms and ranches in the United States. Some are thousands of acres. Many are less than 100. Ninety-seven percent of them are family-owned, says the United States Department of Agriculture.
Food safety is first. A misconception is that farmers farm only for the bottom line. That they are willing to take risks with your health. Wrong. Sure they have to remain profitable. That’s their business. But farmers have families, too. Their loved ones are in the environment where crops and livestock are raised. And they are eating the same food as you.
Farming is a job. A lot like yours. Except a tractor is the office. And the field is where the farmer goes to work. To feed his family. To provide them shelter and clothing. And to send kids to college.
Family farms are sustainable. Many family farms stretch back four and five generations. A common thread is love of the land. Each generation takes care of the soil and resources that provide their livelihood. As their fathers and mothers did. So they can pass down a farm or ranch that is better and more productive to their children and grandchildren.
Everyone has a role. From the little tykes. To the old guys. Everyone pitches in. Knowledge is shared. Lessons learned. Teamwork makes family farms hum.
Family farms stock the grocery shelves in America. They provide the wonderful fresh produce at your local farmers market. They grow everything under the sun.
No matter their size, family farms put food on our tables. And that makes us a blessed nation.