A few years ago we had a new pastor come to our church. Upon the usual introduction, I mentioned that my husband and I farm. I was slightly puzzled by his immediate question: “Are you a corporate farmer?” The tone was almost accusatory.
At the time, I worked closely with families in succession planning who were working on transitioning their farm from one generation to the next. As I was working with a farm family, I would consider their situation for what the advantages or disadvantages were for them to operate as a partnership or perhaps an LLC or an S-corp.
So I told the new pastor how our business was set up, but was thinking that it was odd to want to know what type of business entity we operated under.
About the same time, I started to notice more and more popular media focusing on bad things in agriculture, and make them seem as if these bad incidents were the norm.
So, what’s the big deal about being a corporate farmer to someone not in agriculture? First, there is a popular belief that you, as a farmer, do not make your own decisions. Some big company tells you what inputs you will buy and where you will sell your production. You have no choice in decisions and are simply a puppet.
Second, right now, “corporation” has a negative vibe. Recently, there was an article in a large publication that talked about farmers who are “business men riding around in half million dollar combines.” This comment was meant negatively, and with no understanding of where agriculture has come from over the past several decades.
Third, you know those seed signs that might be posted at the edge of your field? There are people who think those seed companies own that field.
In the U.S. only 2% of us work in agriculture. That leaves 98% that are not from a farm. That's a big number. Of those, on average they are three generations removed from the farm.
Is it any wonder that our city cousins have questions about where their food comes from?
I’d like for you to consider the people you see regularly - your neighbors, friends, a cousin at the family reunion, people you go to church with, the waitress at the local café. Do they understand what you do on your farm and why you feel it’s the best choice? If not, I encourage you to have one conversation this week with someone who may have questions about your farm. Also, I encourage you to start listening to the conversations that are going on in the public about farming. You might be surprised what you hear.I’m looking forward to sharing more about the national conversation that is going on about food and how it impacts your farm.