The Public's Idea of a Family Farm

Telling Your Story

Which family farms will consumers find acceptable?

Published on: August 21, 2013

I first became aware of the increasing interest by the public of where our food comes from four or five years ago.  Most of the criticism seemed directed at big agribusiness corporations.  The arguments were always quite careful not to blame farmers themselves, but large agribusiness corporations trying to make a buck off the little guy. 

Remember, this was 2008 and the economic meltdown. There was a lot of controversy about big bank bailouts. 

Over the past couple years the conversation has increasingly shifted to what types of farming practices are acceptable to the public.  More often, if farm practices are not in popular terms acceptable, then those farmers are in the group of Big Ag.

Most recently, there has been more blatant questioning of whether farmers are good or bad.  A recent Washington Post article says, "just remember that when you say 'family farm,' you might actually mean 'small and relatively diversified farm,' though advocates for such operations might try to get you to think otherwise."

Small and relatively diversified does describe some farms, but certainly not all.  Family farms look very different from one another, as different as the families themselves.   

It's apparent that the public has become increasingly aware that a family farm might involve several different family members making decisions on the farm.

The good thing is, many people involved in agriculture are doing a good job sharing information. As a result, more people understand that many farms are run by families. 

Perhaps urbanites are no longer asking what a family farm is. Maybe now the question is, which types of family farms are acceptable? That's a subtle distinction all of us should be aware of as we continue sharing our story with the non-farm world.

Does your farm fall into the 96% of farms in America that the USDA describes as a family farm?  If so, what does it look like?  Consider sharing with others how various family members are involved in your farm.  Share how you work together and that everyone has their own set of responsibilities. 

There are certainly challenges that come in working with family members, but many rewards as well.  It's inspirational to see the knowledge in farming passed on from one generation to the next.

Intergenerational sharing is valuable and somewhat unique to agriculture. Families working together on the farm is a success story that agriculture can be proud of!