Size Doesn’t Determine Worth
“Musings of a Pig Farmer” by Larry Sailer
#Harvest13 is winding down, but there’s still combing to be done on my North Central Iowa farm. All this “windshield time” has given me so many things to think about, and so many ideas for today’s blog have come to mind. Since this evening’s #AgChat discussion will focus on family vs. corporate farms, it made me reflect upon last week’s AgChat discussion about the size of farming and ranching operations.
Ownership nor size determines a farm’s worth. Farms, big or small, can be good or bad – or simply average. Management makes the difference.
When I was young, I grew my farming operation to about twice the average farm size in just under 10 years. Growth can lead to problems in any business, and farming is no different. Farming is extremely capital intensive. Even in the 1970s, farming wasn’t a cheap business to expand. The 1980s Farm Crisis with high interest rates took a toll on my operation. Since then, my operation has been close to what is considered an average-size Iowa farm. Herein lies another problem…
To use most of today’s farming technology, an operation must be large enough to spread out the cost. I’m not a large farmer, so I don’t have large machinery. That’s not a problem for me, but it is a problem for others in the industry who assume bigger is better.
My point is that farmers come in all sizes and operations come in all types. Each farmer must learn to adapt and do what works for him or her. They may find that new equipment is the best fit for their operation, or they may scour the combine grave yards in search of replacement parts. Perhaps a farmer may find his niche raising crops or livestock for a certain market. In the past, I’ve grown seed stock for seed companies and breeding stock for suppliers of hog genetics.
There is technology that can be used by all farmers of all sizes. At World Food Prize Tweet Up where I recently met Dr. Robb Fraley, he made a comment that has stayed with me: The technology he has helped develop is good for operations of all sizes. Seed technology is size neutral.
There is a place for every size of farming operation. With only 28% of the world’s land mass suitable for growing crops, we’re going to need every farmer to help feed the growing world population. I’m certainly looking to see how to make my farm better! Sometimes adjustments must be made on any farm, regardless of its size. Times change, and farming never stands still.