Monday, November 25, 2013

Day 23: Big or Small Farms, What's Better?

Lately, throughout the agriculture sector, and the consumer world, there is much debate about who is better, the big or small farms.  The same goes for big seed and chemical companies or small ones.  This can be looked at a few different ways, and it is largely opinion based.

When someone wants to buy seed, (supposing they never have before and that they have no company bias - as if this ever happens) they will often begin by driving and looking at other producers' fields themselves to get a feel of what different brands seem to be doing better in their geographical area, as opposed to others.  Truth be told, all of the brands that are around today and continue to stay around are yielding close to the same.  If this were not true, the companies would not be in business.  Often it is the larger companies that stay in the market, or merge with others to grow.  You must consider why this "phenomena" occurs.  Charles Darwin proposed the idea of natural selection - survival of the fittest.  This is not just a human/animal thing.  Survival of the fittest works in all walks of life and business.  Those who perform well consistently, have good management practices, and in this case, have the best genetics, will outlive those who cannot perform at this high rate. 

If one looks at a farm in itself, you have many variables.  These include geography, topography, and soil quality.  Other variables include management practices and the hands doing this work.  What kind of farm is better, big or small?  There is no straight answer.  I go back to my reference from a post or two ago.  It takes all kinds of kinds in this industry and what is important is that we work together to provide a healthy, safe food supply for the world to eat.  In all reality, a small farm may be better in the sense that an operator can focus more attention on smaller areas of crops, and or livestock.  On the downside, they may be operating with less resources, lower quality seed, feed, or breeding stock.  It is all dependent upon the individual operation.  Some large operations are more efficient than smaller operations in that they often have more capital for more efficient equipment, labor, and inputs.  On the downside, there is the possibility of having less skilled labor performing tasks on the farm, and less skilled attention paid to certain aspects such as runoff, and the like.  This again is not always the case.  When someone asks me if a big farm is bad, I say no.  I do this with honesty.  A farm is a farm.  The management practices of the entity in itself will define "good or bad."  There are good farmers and bad farmers big and small, just like there are good and bad bankers, accountants, teachers, and other workers.  One must not be condemned for the acts of a few.  The majority of farmers are still doing what they do because they are successful, reasonably efficient, and dedicated.  As in all industries, the bad ones will weed themselves out. 

In the words of Dr. Tempel Grandin, "We need to quit arguing between big and little ag and realize that we're one industry and that the success of the industry as a whole depends on cooperation and success of both sides.  Nobody is better than anyone else.  We're all Ag."

Linking up with Holly and the other 30 Days bloggers here.

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