Family Farms: The Heart of the Midwest
An FFA member from Beresford, South Dakota, provides insight into why family farms are critical to the wellbeing of rural America.
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 are 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 every day. Between 1974 and 2002, the number of
corporate-owned American farms increased by more than 46%. 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, agriculture isn't just something that surrounds me daily, but a part
of me that is very near to my heart. I am who I am today because of the effect
it’s 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 com. 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.
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