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What does it mean to be a Family Farm?

Posted on August 21, 2014 at 8:00 AM by Iowa Corn

I recently read a post written by the Kansas Grains intern, Paige McFarland, on what a family farm means to her. It was a great post (read it here) that got me thinking, what does a family farm mean to me?

I grew up on a corn and soybean farm near Kensett, IA where my dad, mom, uncle, and older brother continue to farm. Although I was raised in a primarily rural community, I was one of the few students in my graduating class that came from a farm. My background and continued interest in agriculture has created a definition of a family farm that may be different from the average consumer.

Even today, this is the image many people see when they think of farmers
When people think of family farms they may think of a small farm with a farmer sitting on an old cab-less tractor with a piece of straw hanging out of his mouth. While this may be an accurate way to describe some family farms, a lot of family farms are often pretty size-able and utilize technology in their machinery to improve their yields while utilizing fewer inputs. In fact, many people do not realize that 95% of corn farms in the U.S are family owned and operated.

My family and I are all active members of the farming operation. Yes, even the dog pitches in to help pick up rocks once in a while!
The media often portrays the family farm to be the way the consumer has been trained to think of them: small and employing old-school technologies (at best). So, naturally when consumers see anything other than the ideal portrayal of small family farms they immediately have a different label for these farms: factory farms.
With consumer’s inquires growing on where their food comes from, I think many are shocked to realize how advanced the field of agriculture has become. People are panicked by the thought of GMO’s and critical of farmer’s methods in continuing to bring in a better, higher yielding product. While we as farmers welcome consumer’s questions and curiosity about the origins of their food and the technologies implemented to sustain them, there is still a lot of misconception out there that we can’t seem to get ahead of.

Farmers across the United States are opening up their farms for consumers to come and tour. Many have taken to social media to spread the word on how family farms are really operated ( be sure to check out the Peterson Farm Brothers). We want you to know that we genuinely care about our land, our animals and our resources. As farmers, we are also businessmen and women and failing to care for our land, animals, and resources would be detrimental to our business and to those who plan to take on the family business when we’re gone, which is usually the younger generation of our family. The U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance has sponsored the film, Farmland, which has been shown in over 170 theaters nationwide. This documentary takes an intimate look at the lives and struggles of real farmers to provide the general consumer with an idea of where their food comes from and the work it takes to provide that food.

Want to know more about GMO's? Visit our website to find out more information from credible resources
With all of that being said, then what is my definition of a family farm? To me, you can’t simply describe what a farm looks like to determine if it meets the definition of a family farm. A family farm is a farm in which members of the family are actively involved in the day to day operations of running the farm, regardless of the size, both big and small. A family farm is operated like a business, but sustained like a livelihood. After all, we feed our families the same food we produce. And lastly, a family farm does not have business hours; we’re not a 9-5 operation, we work until the job gets done…even if it does mean working until 3 a.m.

If you haven't been on a farm, ask a farmer in your area to tour their operation and share with others what you've learned. I hope that the next time you sit down at the dinner table, you’ll think of a family farmer and smile.

Sarah Tweeten, Iowa Corn Communication Intern

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