To Agribusiness, Small Farms are Irrelevant

I had a list of things I needed to get for the farm (I didn’t care where I found them, Farm & Fleet, the Co-op whoever might have them) a feed scoop, a barn broom, a couple of neck straps for the cows, small things, but necessary. I stopped at a big hardware store last Saturday on the way home from the Farmers Market. They used to cater to small farmers — no more, unless you have only horses or pets.

I found two of the ten or so things I needed.

So this Saturday I stopped at Farm & Fleet, what could be more about farming than Farm & Fleet? Well, I picked up one neck strap, that was it. I counted two isles of “farm” supplies and nine isles of horse and pet supplies.

Now I have no problem with people having horses an pets and being well supplied with every color of halter, feed bowl and saddle blanket available, in addition to plenty of dog leashes, cat scratch posts and fake coral for the fish bowl.

I guess stores have to give people what they want, and apparently there is way more money in pet supplies than there are in supplies that small farmers routinely need.

My farming partner Ben and his family went to the World Dairy Expo in Madison last month, he stopped at one of the many dairy equipment displays and was immediately and enthusiastically greeted by one of the company sales reps. After Ben told him that he did indeed milk cows the rep asked “how many”. When Be responded “45” the rep turned and walked away— no sense wasting time on farms that small I guess.

Everyone seems to have swallowed the “get big or get out” line and the misguide notion that American agriculture, and that would be BIG, progressive agriculture, is some how supposed to be “feeding the world” and “moving the rural economy forward”.

No one seems to recall that a small farm economy re-invested money in the local community and kept it growing. All our local farm cooperatives are gone, merged into one of the Big Three, Allied, Federated, or United (somehow those names don’t give me the same friendly feeling that Hillsboro or Yuba Farmers Cooperative did). Lots of local jobs are gone, the money goes to wherever the co-op headquarters is located and they could care less about the needs of small farms. Perhaps it’s just another way to get rid of us.

It seems small farmers are pretty much written off as irrelevant. While they used to be the economic engine of Rural America, that is no longer the case— perhaps that is why the small towns, schools and infrastructure of Rural America are crumbling.

Its too bad, it was a pretty good place to live and a pretty good way to live. Not a bad place to raise kids either.