Jack and Garrett help their Dad feed calves.
Ohio has 75,861 farms (a farm is defined as an agriculture operation with more than $1,000 annual revenue). Of these Ohio farms, 48% are less than 70 acres and use just 7% of Ohio’s farmland and 9% are 500 acres or more account for 52% of our farmland. Only a quarter of one percent of all farms in Ohio are not family owned and operated.
In 2007, 2,087 farms (2.7% of all Ohio farms) produced $500,000 or more of agriculture products. These few farms produced 20.7% of the total value of agricultural production in Ohio. Of these large farms, 99% are family owned and operated.
Our dairy farm is included in the 2.7% of Ohio’s largest farms. We care for our cows, are responsible stewards of the environment, provide jobs, purchase goods and services, pay taxes and contribute to our community. We don’t consider our farm a “factory farm” and I don’t know any farmer who considers their farm a factory. Our cows receive individual care on daily basis.
Farmers have lots of similarities, they like working with animals and land, enjoy hard work, take pride in producing a quality product and value raising their family in a rural environment. To me, the difference between small and large farmers is their tolerance for risk. By expanding your farm, you must take on additional financial debt, care for more animals and manage extra staff. Each farm family must make that choice. Farmers who choose to operate large farms should not be criticized they should be applauded for their willingness to take that risk.
The idea that small farms take care of their animals and large farms don’t is simply false. There is a place and need for farms of all sizes. All types of farms must follow the same quality control and food safety standards to produce a nutritious, wholesome product. The reality is large farms produce the majority of the food that feed this nation and the world. Each year there are fewer farmers using less land to produce more food to feed a growing global population.
So next time you hear the term “corporate factory farm”, know that it’s a negative term made-up by groups that have no idea what happens on farms across this nation everyday - families working hard to care for their animals and land in order to provide you with quality, safe, affordable and nutritious food.