There is a lot of talk about farming, farm size and the food we eat. With all this talk, is a lot of misinformation. Let me help you debunk some of these myths.
1. Myth: Small farms don’t utilize technology.
Fact: The agriculture field is an exciting place to be right now! Innovative technology is emerging each year, helping farmers continue to improve the way they raise crops and livestock. Learn more about “SMART” farms and how they have incorporated technology.
2. Myth: Large farms are not family owned.
Fact: Even a large farm can be family owned. There are some families that have multiple siblings, or other relatives, that wish to be a part of the agriculture community and continue their family’s farming tradition. These farms often expand and/or diversify to make it possible for the next generation to be a part of the family business. Some families may even choose to incorporate their farm for tax, liability or other reasons. 99% of Wisconsin’s dairy farms are family owned. Overall, 97% of the 2.1 million farms in the U.S. are family owned, so that is no small piece of the pie.
3. Myth: Only small farmers care about their land and livestock.
Fact: This couldn’t be farther from the truth! Farmers chose their career path because they are passionate about what they do. This passion drives them to do everything they can to keep their animals comfortable and healthy and care for the environment around their farms. Farmers are the type of people who like to learn new things that they can bring home to their farm to allow them to provide better care to their crops and/or livestock.
4. Myth: Large farms are bad for the environment.
Fact: The term CAFO, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, is often used in a negative light – and sounds quite terrifying. This term simply describes the size of the farm. It has nothing to do with farm ownership, cleanliness, environmental impact or animal care. In fact, once a farm reaches the size to be considered a CAFO, there is additional documentation and oversight that is needed. There are many groups monitoring these farms to make sure they are adhering to strict standards. It is important to note that many farmers eat the food they raise and drink the water from their farms. They care about healthy food and water and want to protect the environment they rely on to raise their crops and/or livestock.
5. Myth: All small farms are organic.
Fact: Production style does not determine farm size. Organic does not equal small. Likewise, conventional does not equal large. There are organic farms that span thousands of acres, like Earthbound Farm, and some that span only a few. The same can be said about conventional farms.
6. Myth: Large farms do not provide quality care to livestock.
Fact: As a farm gets larger, with the addition of more family members and employees, each person can have a specialized role on the farm. On a dairy farm, you may find individuals who specialize in calf care, milking cows or growing feed. On a pig farm you may find individuals who care for the mother pigs and piglets, a different set of people caring for the newly weaned pigs and even another set of people caring for the growing pigs. These people get to know a lot about their specific area, allowing them to better identify ways to improve the overall comfort and health of the animals. Again, the term CAFO just refers to the size of the farm, not the care the animals receive.
Sarah Marketon serves as the Director of Communication for Wisconsin Farm Bureau. She is a Minnesota native and an active member of the swine industry, which sparked her interest in helping farmers share their story. She is passionate about answering consumers’ questions about how food is raised and encouraging farmers to engage in those conversations.