"Get Big or Get Out"
Mar 07, 2011
The lyrics to one of my favorite songs say,
“I wish it was the Will James days when all little boys wanted to be cowboys when they grew up, and I wish it was the days when all you needed was a hand shake for a cowboys word. They’ve passed on and now they’re gone but we’ll miss them with all our hearts, the Will James days.” -Adrian
When were the Will James days? Will James the cowboy writer and artist was born in 1892 and passed in 1942. Agriculture during that time was a major part of our Nation’s economy just as it is today. The difference between then and now is that during that time the future of agriculture rested in the hands of nearly every citizen of our country. For the most part, especially during the beginning of James’ life, everyone was an agriculturalist because everyone needed food for survival. That is still true today right? Everyone needs food to survive? If that is the case why is it that according to the USDA, today only 2% of the population is involved in production agriculture? Is it because of startup costs for new farmers? Maybe you attribute it to lack of support for agriculture by our government? Maybe you think that it is because of the movement in the 1970s to either “get big or get out”?
Whatever reason, very few people grow the food that we eat. If you really want to get serious about the numbers, think about the fact that the USDA figure of 2% of the population being considered a farmer is only based on the criteria that an individual makes $1,000 or more from the sale of agriculture products in a YEAR. These folks, while farmers and great contributions to society, are not exactly individuals who cause shifts in commodity supply curves. Fewer farmers means fewer citizens in tune with agriculture and it’s needs, which often relates to trouble for agriculture in Washington.
Enough talking about the problem let’s brainstorm solutions. Is local the way to go? While buying local is a great contribution to local economies and helps to put “a face on the farmer” I’m not sure that it is the end all and be all. I’m pretty certain that in order to feed the world productivity, sustainability and efficiency are major factors that the locavore movement can’t meet. What about entirely industrial? I’m not sure that it is a solution either. The problem is too few farmers correct? The movement in the 1970s caused many small farms to go under because they had no place to market their product. My opinion, (not necessarily that of Farm Journal), is that a balance of both is entirely necessary for us to compete globally and to meet the needs of a hungry world.
What do you think?