So How Many Acres DO You Farm?

My Generation

Whether it's the New York Times or Prairie Farmer, asking how many acres you farm is still a sticky question.

Published on: January 11, 2012
I received a most thoughtful response to last week's blog, where I re-told my cautionary feelings about sharing information with the New York Times.

The reader, Bill Graff (farmer and former IL FSA head), offered up this bit of insight: "We farmers probably give out way too much information. My wife, Judi, did not grow up on a farm and she thinks farmers let too many of their business decisions go out of their mouths that should 'never leave their lips,' as she says. I think we (farmers) are always in the mode of trying to impress that prospective landlord that we do not realize very few decision makers/reporters/farm group staff/etc. are potential landlords."

And the more I think about it, I think he's right. Harkening to my German ancestry, my thinking on acreage is generally: it is what it is, and here's how much we farm and that's that. Nothing to hide, nothing to brag about, it just is what it is. Done.

And I think the average non-farmer doesn't really grasp the weight that the response to that question can carry. The problem, of course, is that agricultural business operates in a bit of a strange world. Most non-farm business owners wouldn’t hesitate to share the scope of their business. However, we are a modern business structure (attempting to) operate at the whims of our landowner neighbors. And if you don’t own your ground, their whims are important. And relevant to your business.

So there's that.

Having said all that, what do you think? Do we share too much in agriculture? If I call you up for a story and ask how much you farm, would you answer? Or would you – as Bill does – simply say "I farm enough"?