This week, I’ve been walking the fields of corn and soybeans on our Illinois farm. Those little seeds germinated, and the plants are pushing through the soil and heading skyward. Look down those green rows stretching across the black land. What a beautiful sight.
When I look at my farm and my neighbors’ farms today, I can’t help but think about the dramatic change we have seen and lived through in my farming lifetime.
Most farms, when I was a boy, were not specialized as they are today. We milked 8 or 10 cows – by hand. We raised purebred Duroc pigs – 200 or 300 head. Every spring, my dad would get about 50 baby chickens. We raised them and saved the hens to lay eggs. The rest, we ate. Fried chicken almost every Sunday. My grandfather lived with us and he had 6 or 8 turkeys. I hated the turkeys. They were mean. We pulled our 2-row corn planter with 2 horses – Burt and Bill. Our corn couldn’t even yield 100 bushels per acre. Today, we expect 200 bushels.
Farms today are more specialized. We don’t have milk cows or chickens or turkeys or any beef cows either. We do have a lot of soy beans and corn – close to 4,000 acres and 5,000 pigs. Farmers today utilize all kinds of new technology. It’s precision farming.
We have a new report out which details how this business is changing. Just in the last 5 years, the footprint of U.S. agriculture has shrunk by 95,000 farms. That’s a 3% reduction. The land being farmed has also declined by a little over 7 million acres, which is less than 1%.
We have seen a huge increase in total production, even as the acres farmed have declined. We product more with less – less labor, less energy, less chemicals. One important thing that is still the heart and soul of American agriculture is the family farm. Drive from East Coast to West Coast and 87% of our farms are still family farms. They are just bigger. Average size – 434 acres.
Our crops are off to a good start this year. We hope for timely rains and a good growing season. They’re in God’s hands now.