Agriculture is all about the different seasons. Spring for planting, summer for growth, fall for harvest. As a business owner, I’ve tried to position IntelliFarms to be able to support farmers and buyers, no matter the season. And what about winter? As any farmer knows, winter is just as important, as the time of year when we and the ground rests, and we also do our homework in preparation for the year ahead.
Winter is also a season when thoughts turn to giving.
Don't worry - this isn't a cleverly disguised post about how IntelliFarms' suite of products make the perfect gift - that's not our style. (Not to mention, that a BinManager doesn't fit very well in a stocking). We’ve designed our products -- and our company -- to be partners in agriculture, and we believe that if we do the right thing for our customers, our products will find their home on America's farms.
Instead of talking about us, I want to take time during this holiday season to write about a much more important gift:
The gift of the family farm
In October, the USDA published a report on the long-term changes happening to family farms. You can read a summary here. What is striking to me is how ownership of smaller farms, those with under $10,000 in annual revenue, has dramatically increased since 1992. There’s also been an increase in very large farms, with over $1 million in revenues.
But what about those farms in between - what we often consider the traditional “family farms”? That number has declined by 27%. And ownership-wise, farmers are older than ever before. These farms are most likely to transfer into one of the other categories, either become smaller and less productive or sold to a larger operation.
Is this a sustainable future? I fear that it is not. I fear that the industry is setting itself up to weed out many independent farmers, accelerating an ill-fated transition to a world of consolidated corporate farms.
As I look ahead to 2017, I find myself focusing on sustaining the independent farmer not just today, but for years into the future. I want independent farms to pass along the gift of farming to the next generation.
Keeping the independent farmer independent
We all want to pass along our success to the next generation. I believe that for family farms to be sustainable for future owners, we must rethink and make sure we're paying attention to quality as well as quantity.
It’s time to harness the power of data to maximize profits - whether it is finding buyers who will pay you the best , or more carefully monitoring grain from seed to harvest to eliminate waste and spoilage. It’s the little changes that can have big results and put the power in the market in the hands of the farmers. Farmers own the dirt, they should have the power.
There can be no greater gift in our farming communities than passing along the family farm to the next generation. In 2017, we at IntelliFarms plan to focus like never before on helping to put farmers in control of their destiny. While our thoughts are turned to giving this holiday season, I look forward to concentrating on the gift of farming all year long.