Wether you manage several thousand acres or have a plot in your back yard, you are a vital part in agriculture in America. I am always astounded what people do on small bits of land. And that is the focus of my words today.
A story: My family originally owned over a couple hundred acres, and in California that is a lot. It slowly shrank to 80 acres when all was said and done for multiple reasons. There are two types of growers, those who know nothing else, that is their livelihood and it is not so much a passion as it is what puts food on the table. Then there is the business farmer. One who farms in order to get max output on the least amount of land or investment. These people do well when it comes to making money off the land, even though they may be missing other ingredients such as a general passion of the dirt. If you are lucky you may have both, a love of land and a business sence. These days it is not uncommon for the young to continue their education in agribusiness or continue their education in agriculture in general, and with the internet it is not hard for one to educate themselves.
I say this all because my grandparents fell into the later category, which means that my parents also did. No education other than what they learned on the job and in the field. Things were planted to put food on the table, cattle were bought and sold for the same reason and honey was harvested for the same purpose. Have many kids so you have more hands helping out. Buy only the equipment you need to get it done, and even then they purchased used machines and gave them life again. True environmentalist before the word even existed.
Yet, when you are always just surviving as a farmer or any other profession, it is hard to get ahead, hard to see beyond what you have, hard to believe that you can do more. Education provides for those dreams.
Many are doing more with less, the business model. More are growing in there back yards and selling at markets or providing for their own families. More are taking 5 acres and doing more with it than some do with 100 acres or more. This is truly inspirational to me. Having grown up in the house I did, poor, barely making it, yet possessing some of the greatest wealth to man (California land), working so hard as a child and now adult; and then seeing others so successful with but a few acres. This truly speaks to me. What was I missing?
Drive, education, risk, confidence to name a few. These people used all these qualities to get them started as growers and business people. Is a farm a business? Of course it is and it should be run as such if you want to do more than survive. Of course there are good ways of doing business and there are bad. This exists everywhere. One does not need to follow this model to call themselves a business or a farmer. My mom never thought of herself as either, oddly, but she most certainly was. In fact, she was the hardest working farmer I have ever known. Maybe if she had taken the leap and gave herself more credit, we would have been able to save that which was lost.
Butte County is blessed with some of the best farm land in the country. Surround by two major water ways, the Feather River and the Sacramento River, the sold is rich. There are small farmers everywhere here represented at the farmers markets either selling their produce or what they have made from what they have grown. Not only that, we have secondary Ag businesses represented as well in the form of soaps, sauerkraut, or breads. They are people that buy local produce, process it and sell it locally. These people too should be commended for their drive and the part they play in local agriculture. Again I am impressed with the passion and drive these people have for the land, the environment and the business. Their stories inspire me everyday to do more with what I have. If you want to be inspired, simply talk with them the next chance you get. They will blow you minds when it comes to their drive and passion.
In conclusion, Ag in America is an amazing thing no matter what side of the fence you are on, and no matter what title you give yourself. You are contributing greatly if you are growing and producing. It is about giving yourself credit, about having a passion and drive for what you do and what you produce, about always educating yourself because time does not stand still. And RISK. Nobody takes risks more than a farmer with so many uncontrollable factors. But, financial risk? Financial risk can be tough and not mandatory if you are happy where you are at. Think, Grow, Live with Passion. And if you are not a farmer, grower, producer…now is a good time to give appreciation to those who are.
Farming is Passion, Family and Earth-Teach em’ young….