Are you familiar with Joel Salatin's book, Everything I Want to Do is Illegal?
Susan Monroe wrote:
Many farmers operate on a low profit margin for mainly two reasons, as far as I can tell:
They spend more money on inputs than common sense would dictate. Buy a calf for $300, then spend a fortune buying feed for it, then wonder where the profit margin is?
They sell wholesale to another operation that really kicks the price up, instead of selling retail himself. Sure, it's easier to have some guy with a cattle truck pick up your steers, turn them into a filthy holding pen, and slaughter and butcher them with godknowswhat standards, if any. Sure it's easier than doing your own clean butchering and looking your customers in the eye. Sure, just take the check and stick it in the bank and hope it covers the bills.
Small farmers in particular need to get out that cheap product/low income mindset. Put a little money into improving your soil and pasture, then rotate your stock carefully, butcher it yourself and sell it retail. Fence off a few acres and grow a high-value crop instead of growing all the same low-income crap that everyone else in the valley is growing.
Just because your daddy did it for sixty years and worked himself into a pauper's grave doesn't mean you have to.
Like the man said, Don't work harder, Work SMARTER.
And the question you should ask is.... "Have you ever considered ... [fill in the blank]?" Some people have had their head down for so long they're never even considered an alternative. Maybe you'll be a flash of inspiration for them.
Susan Monroe wrote:
There have to be some smart farmers out there, but all of them aren't.
I've been watching farmers all my life, and they just seem to do a lot of dumb things.
Now, for the last 15 years I HAVE been living in Stupid Central, and that, too, may be coloring my attitude.
There is a little cafe near me (the only one for miles), and a lot of the local farmers go in there to eat breakfast and socialize. Some of the conversations I've overhead make it very difficult not to say something out loud.
One guy grows feed corn to sell. He figures that it costs him about $150 per acre for fertilizers and RoundUp (etc), and his net profit per acre is only $50. FIFTY LOUSY BUCKS! That's insane! And he can probably write off the $50 for his labor (but I don't know that for a fact). But he still keeps growing corn, year after year.
Corn production is running between 125-150 bushels per acre. The price of corn was at somehwre around $4/bushel this year, a price that was the same back in the 80's and it's been traded at $2-$3 a bushel in the 90's and since until the ethanol boom.
So let's say 125 bushels an acre @ $4/bushel. That comes to $500/acre of corn harvested.
You can do the math from there........
Another guy whose farm I used to pass daily left his tractors and stuff outside all winter in the rain and snow, fully exposed.
Many farmers do leave equipment out, becaus ethey can't afford to lose the storage space for hay crops and such, and building another machine shed usually isn't in the budget.
There's a sheep farmer with lousy fences. I can't count the times I've pulled into his driveway and laid on my horn to tell him his ewes and lambs were out on the road AGAIN.
Last winter, the weather prediction was for multiple storms, one after another, bang-bang-bang, with heavy rain. The water standing on Interstate 5 was 10-12 feet deep. So, naturally, that's when one farmer went to visit his son. His farm is low, near the river. The flood just filled up his property and his house, four feet deep. What do you think happened to his sheep? Well, you're wrong. They didn't drown, simply because the guy behind him saw the water rising and went down and cut his fence open so the farmer's sheep could come up onto his property.
No farmer just "leaves" his or her farm without someone watching over things, they simply can't, it isn't an option. It was probably discussed with the other landowner to just let them on his property if things flood out, It's what farmers and rural folks do, they help each other out.
Okay, some farmers are smarter than others. But when, nationally, farmers are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on farm chemicals that they seem to see at a (hopefully) magic bullet, and yet their income barely exceeds their outgo, PLEASE don't try to impress me how smart farmers are. I'm just not that gullible, and I'm not that stupid.
I've never seen a hungry farmer, or at least VERY few. Money isn't the only thing involved for them. They are self sustaining BECAUSE they are farmers, not in spite of it. Their cost of living is pretty low if it is a family farm.
Farming income is just about the same as the average household income for the country, so I'm not sure where you're getting your numbers from, but they aren't living in a stone cave huddling around the fire to keep warm at night.
The billions spent on chemicals is because people simply aren't interested in spending $6 a gallon for milk instead of $4, so if you want to help farmers compete and move to other practices, offer to pay more for your groceries, and lobby congress to stop the importantion of cheaper commodities like fruits and vegetables from countries where DDT is still used.
Why do you think that the number of small farmers in America has decreased from approximately 5.5 MILLION family farms in 1930 to only 565,000 in 2006? How many more do you think we've lost in the last two years?
Family farms have been lost because the spoiled generations found jobs in the city where convenience rules and hard work isn't to be spoken of.
If more people would get into farming and demand changes, things would change. As it is the corporate farms are setting the stage, not the family farm.
Personally, I don't think these losses are due to smart thinking by farmers. They were sold a bill of goods over a half a century ago, never seemed to recognize that fact, and most went broke following bad advice from our government/agricultural colleges and the chemical companies (which are probably near to being all the same thing at this point).
So in other words, when corn goes from $4/bushel in the 80's and then drops to $2/bushel in the 90's it is the farmer's fault for not being able to pay their bills while THEIR cost of living continues to increase?
That's not smart. That's pathetic. And I'm sorry about it, and hope that the farmers who are smart can get the others to follow in their footsteps and succeed.
The only farmers in business today ARE the smart farmers, since farming is in fact a business, and no business is viable without proper decision making abilities. Wether you agree with that or not is up to you, since this is America you have that option, but knowing something about how business works, I believe I can speak to some of this.