Farming Isn't What It Used To Be

Apr 25, 2018

My father was born into a farm family in 1908. The land was worked with horses. His day went sunrise to sunset.

As a farmer, he never owned his own land but share-cropped with land owners. By the time I was in eighth grade in 1965, he was working nights as a watchman so he would have enough money to keep farming.

At the time, the Secretary of Agriculture toured the country telling farmers, “Get big, or get out.” My father got out, sold his farming equipment, and we moved into a little ranch house in town. He went to work as a truck driver in a small-town factory.  

When my father was born, there were 6.5 million farms; today there are just over 2 million. Between 2009 and 2016, another 110,000 farms were lost. According to the USDA, net farm income has declined by 50% over the past four years -- the largest fall since the Great Depression. And the CDC reports that the agriculture employment segment has the highest rate of suicides.

Farms have gone from two-horse power to tractors that today have horsepower in the hundreds. We have seen the effects of getting bigger on our rural landscapes: towns drying up and barns falling down.

It’s time to stop and re-evaluate the path of agriculture in America.

I’m Dan Kenney, and that is my perspective.