Seems some people outside of agriculture routinely try to define the family farm. These same folks tend to question corporate farming whether family owned or not.
Let’s look at a Kansas family farm. In our state, many are based on owner operation. This means the rights and responsibilities of ownership are vested in an entrepreneur who lives and works the farm for a living.
The second key to defining the family farming system would include independence. Independence implies financing from within its own resources using family labor, management and intellect to build equity and cash flow that will retire the mortgage, preferably in the lifetime of the owner.
Economic dispersion is the next important step in defining what a family farm should entail. Economic dispersion would include large numbers of efficient-sized farms operating with equal access to competitive markets worldwide.
No family farm would be complete without a family core. This family-centered operation must have a family who lives in harmony within the workplace. All family members share responsibilities and the children learn the vocation of their parents.
The ideal family farm would be commercially diversified. Production of diversified commodities would help reduce price risks and maximize the use of farm resources. In turn, this would provide greater self-sufficiency to produce crops and livestock.
One final attribute necessary in defining today’s family farm would be the acceptance and use of innovative technology. This not only enhances farm labor, but also helps boost production.
Family farming carries with it a commitment to specific, independent values. These values become a part of the community and include conservation, frugality, responsibility, honesty, dignity in work, neighborliness, self-reliance and concern and care for future generations.
While it’s rare indeed that one family farm may possess all of these attributes, together they have created a system of agriculture that has been a part of our rural culture since our state’s beginning.
Today, detractors of this profession are making it increasingly difficult for this vital industry to progress and prosper. That’s why it’s more important than ever to share information about our skills and attributes with those unfamiliar with our calling.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.