One of the great things about my job is that I get to travel and see agriculture in many different parts of the United States. This week I had the pleasure to visit three Michigan farms. Two were dairy farms and one was a beef cattle/swine operation. Warning: My job focuses on manure management, so you can guess which “end” of the farm was interesting to me.
Some things I noticed on this trip:
- Farm people are nice everywhere.
- Fields are much smaller in Michigan than Nebraska. I am pretty sure there are no 24 row (or bigger) planters. Even if the fields were big enough to handle those planters, I do not think the roads are!
- History matters. Many of the Michigan farmers we visited would face fewer challenges if they relocated to Nebraska or other areas (fewer neighbors, more land to spread manure, less observation by people outside of the farm). However, they are reluctant to move because they greatly appreciate the community and family ties that exist in their current location. Which leads me to the next point….
- Young farmers do exist!! Two of the three farms we visited had a younger generation actively managing and participating in farm decisions (On the 3rd farm, the next generation was far too young to be included…yet). I find young farmers in Nebraska too, but it seems like farms are being absorbed and cannibalized at such a rate as to make young farmers more and more rare.
- I was gratified to see that “medium” farms do still exist. I have no problem with large farms and I am very excited to see the rise of “small” farms occurring in modern agriculture. However, I have really lamented the demise of the medium-sized farm that can support a family and offer opportunities for the next generation to get started. I grew up on a “medium” farm and worry that as fewer children grow up on farms we have created a generation of people who do not understand or appreciate the value of hard work or physical labor.
All in all, it was a great trip. I love seeing how agriculture is different, and alike, in different areas. I would love to hear more about your travels and your observations about agriculture in different parts of the country (and world).