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Is bigger better?

Is bigger better?

Is bigger better?

Lately I have been reading about how the farming industry is changing drastically.  A lot of the family farmers here in Kansas are dying out, their kids are leaving the small farms for the city and not taking over, and the majority of farming is swallowed up through large corporate farms as I understand.

There is also a lot of discussion I hear about how politics and government are driving this, and how subsidized farming is actually helping the corporate farmer take over the little guy, meanwhile the land is being used improperly and enviornmentally damaged in some cases in the interest of making higher profits, and a larger percentage of the food is going to waste.

I am also finding out about the reasons for commodities and futures trading, and the subsidies encourage overproduction , while the commodities futures are limiting the value of the production, keeping the prices down for us consumers, but also killing the small farmer.  Basically while the cost of everything else goes up for inflation, the farmer is not compensated, while his costs are constantly going up for the expense of maintaining his small farm.

What to the Ag engineers have to say about this?  It doesn't make a lot of sense to me to reap profits now while enviornmentally damaging the land for the future crops.  Are some of these concerns valid, or is this political propaganda?  I do not fully understand reasons for the subsidized farming system.  I'll go back to my industry now, thanks.

RE: Is bigger better?

When people begin to pay for their food rather than having it subsidized by the government small farms will come back. The prices will need to probably double or triple. Not likely.

We serve a very small beef market at prices that are at least double the open market. I take no government subsidies directly. I barely break even.. maybe. I want the life style. That's why there are family farms.

And that's why I work off the farm as an engineer. But it wears pretty thin at times.

RE: Is bigger better?

I agree with MJR2 to some degree.  I raise blueberries part-time and serve a niche market.  I try to do this with as little chemicals as possible but there are some problems that are just too labor intense without them.  Over the last ten years we find that fewer people seem to want to pick their own and when they order ready picked they want them NOW.
Some twenty-five years ago when I first started the berries an old fart who called himself a "Chinese Hoe Farmer" lamented that he was having similar problems even then.  He raised two acres of truck crops and about two acres of apple orchard.  He contended that the societal changes of working mothers, smaller families, more urban dwellers and instant gratification were the leading factors in this process.  From what I've seen, he was pretty much right on.
BTW, there are no subsidies in our area for fruit growers. What was I thinking!!


RE: Is bigger better?

This systems seems so wrong.

MJR2, that confirms my understanding of the problem in your area of cattle.  Let me get this straight:

Feed lots are probably exposing cattle to the most disesase risk, and I know that must drive you smaller cattle farmers crazy every time the press mentions the words "Mad Cow", and futures take a dive.  It seems to be a major case of quantity over quality, only I am confounded by this whole system.  

I mean Wal-Mart has everyday low prices, but I am not sacrificing quality to the point that it's harmful, and their methods are more in line with capitalism and competition driving efficiency.  If the mega farms use the same business principles as wal-mart plus government subsidy and advantageous price setting by the CFTC, looks like there won't be any small farms in a few more years, unless I am lucky enough to be friends with MJR2, I won't be able to get good quality meat so I can eat my steak medium rare.  Or maybe I'll be eating buffalo by that time.

A lot of the major dirt/landowners around  here are also the biggest real estate developers in the city.  They ensure their investments return buy annexing city limits closer to their property, and eventually developing.  

I believe that for investment purposes, dirt is one of the best investments you can make.  In buying land, especially in counties with some form of city/urbanized area, you have very low risk of depreciation, and a high probability of doubling your asset value in 6-7 years if near a growing population, even if you buy at premium prices.  These developers are already multimillionaires, the kicker is while their land sits there appreciating at 6-12% per year, they are also receiving government subsidy for the current land use.  They never had any intention of farming the land, but they would be silly not to take that check.  The across the state, griffengm's neighbor the "Chinese Hoe Farmer" is breaking his back over his 4 acres and getting even less whether he works or enters the government program.

I imagine the oppisite is occurring where populations are declining in primarily rural counties.  Land is much cheaper, so the major farming conglomerates mega-farming the land, because they can control costs associated with seed, fertilizer, transportation, distribution and equipment this way.  Is this correct?  

Where is the sense in all of this, or is there any?

RE: Is bigger better?

There is one way to make friends with someone who can supply you with excellent meat. Go to your local county fair which hosts a 4H livestock sale. In our county there are three different fairs but only one has the 4H program. So you might have to work at it.

Talk to the kids and learn about what they are trying to produce. Most don't understand what they are doing but a few of the older ones have learned. 4H the way we run is about education, kids, parents, community. You'll find a couple who really do understand their stuff. Fairs are intense work so when you are there is important.

Then go to the auction/sale. Buy the animal that places as a class winner or reserve champion. Grand will hopefully be way too expensive. But sometimes for bragging rights they get donated back for resale. Bargin time then.

They arrange getting it to the processor. You pay 4H and packer.

A steer usually takes up about a 20 cu ft freezer (500+ lbs)
Pig (125 lbs)
Lamb (65 lbs) (average whitetail doe size)

If you enjoy meat you will smile every time you eat it.

Don't get really thick steaks. 3/4" recommended 1" max. About 1/3 steaks, 1/3 roasts, 1/3 ground and other stuff.

Vaccuum pack is a absolute must.

Cost will be about what you pay or less at premium meat market.
Figure $3-4.00/lb for everything. At a equitable price. You might get away with $1.50 or less. But thats tooo cheap.

This is some of what we teach 4H. Well at least our club. It's all about marketing. They think it's cute animals when they start.

RE: Is bigger better?

Thanks, that sounds cool, I will check it out.  I am lucky enough that my girlfriend's family lives on a farm with livestock, chicken, and all the crops.  We raid the meat freezer whenever we are aound, but I have never found that tenderloin...

RE: Is bigger better?

We have small farm on which we bale hay to sell to horse owners.  We get the same price per bale as was charged 15 years ago, despite the cost of fuel and labour almost doubling since then.

I was talking this morning about this, I don't understand how beef grown in argentina can be cheaper to ship to the grocery store than a beef in my neighbours field.  He hardly gets a thing for it compared to even 5 years ago but the price has magically gone up up up at the grocery store?

Problems? Government inspection programs here have all but eliminated the smaller slaughter houses.  The large ones are all in bed with gov grants etc and prefer to buy huge shipments from big companies.  The small guy has no muscle to deal with them, there is no marketing board to set a price for them.  Each one gets low balled on price.

RE: Is bigger better?

Some years past I read a story somewhere about a society where the entire US of A was divided among three farmers who went on strike for better prices.  Anarchy was the result.
In another bit of reading was a corporate farm where the crop was harvested, processed, and shipped as finished baked goods by a rolling behemoth of a machine factory.  Worked okay until agri-terroists substituted helium for the co2 used to simulate risen dough.  All of the production drifted off in a cloud of white "bread".
Yet another one described a society where everyone was guaranteed their daily ration of "grub" at a very familiar fast food outlet.  The entire life cycle of everyone was regulated and dependent on this consumption.
Which one are we headed towards?


RE: Is bigger better?

To top off what we are getting from corporate beef producers, you are getting a lot of growth horomones and chemicals fed to your beef.  This is showing up in that the average girls in the US are now reaching puberty at an average age of 8 rather than 13.  Also in a report released lately, 70% of girls age 9-13 are testing positive for steriods which is probably also coming from our corporate meat industries.

My dad has cut back his cattle heard to 25 since retiring.  He isn't making a profit, but we will probably start keeping a steer back every year for the reasons above.  Currently we have venison in our freezer that we are collecting from the fields that we have shutoff from farming.

We can make more money selling hunts to corporate executives than we possibly could farming.  $1800 for a three day turkey hunt, and $6000 for a three day deer hunt plus a trophey fee if they actually get one.  

RE: Is bigger better?


The farmers I have met share your sediment about the possibility of the hunting farm.  My Uncle (an engineer) belonged to a hunting club, a timeshare property which is a nice cabin sleeps up to 25 in bunks on about 100 acres.  They grow milo and crops for the deer to eat basically, and they flood it out when duck season rolls around.  There is a nice deck with trap shooting, some gun and bow targets, and several deer stands throughout the property.

I imagine that you could do very well turning a farm into this kind of venture - build a medium size cabin, buy a couple of four wheelers, and sell memberships.  Insurance would eat a lot of your profits though.  Better do it before it gets overdone - I would expect to see some competition for these hunting farms soon.

I have a friend who shot his own Buffalo in Wyoming on a similar type of farm.  It's not really hunting, they drive to the herd in a truck, pick one out, and you basically shoot it right there, bag it, tag it, and take it to the butcher in the storeroom. Probably similar to the price you state above, about $1000, but they control the herd which is nice because you are guaranteed the trophy.  I thought it was kind of weird, and frankly my friend did too, but he had the opportunity so he did it.

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