Are We Losing Family Farms?

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Ask A Farmer - Heather Barnes

Question: I hear we are losing family farms every day and that large corporations are taking over farming. Is that true?

Answer: As I sit and watch my 18-month-old son play with his tractors (or “broom brooms,” as he calls them), the future of family farms hits close to home. I often hear people say that family farms are dying out, when in fact the opposite is true. According to the USDA Agriculture Census data for 2007, 99 percent of North Carolina farms are family owned.

I think some of the confusion comes because many farms, including ours, have incorporated to take advantage of tax benefits afforded businesses. Our farm name ends with “LLC,” meaning we are a limited liability corporation, but my husband and his father are the owners and decision-makers. Confusion also comes when people hear we have contracted with large companies to buy our agricultural products. Yes, we sign a contract with a company to sell them a certain amount of our crop, but we have a choice to sign that contract and a choice of which company we sign with. We buy our seed from our local distributor, who works for a larger seed company. Again, we as farmers have a choice in who we buy from and what we buy. While we work with a number of large corporations, as anyone in any line of business does, at the end of the day, my husband and his dad are working the land, raising a crop and making decisions that affect the future of our farm.

Heather Barnes, Wilson County farmer

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1 Comment

  1. Marcus C. Hamill

    June 15, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    I came across your Pinterest page, and saw the post “Ask A Farmer,” and that led me to your website. I grew up on a family farm in Halifax County, where I worked with my father. I farmed with him throughout my high school years, and continued after graduating in 1995. Around 2003, things were not looking good for the operation, so I decided I should probably try and go to college to have something to fall back on. Essentially, he continued farming until 2005, and then had to call it quits. I graduated from ECU in 2008 with a BSBA in Business Management & Entrepreneurship, and also with student loans that afforded me the opportunity to go to college. Its been a complete and utter disaster since graduating from ECU, trying to find a job has been extremely difficult and all I really want to do is to farm. But I know that the capital needed to start a farm today is astronomical, and then of course my federal student loans makes it that much worse. Does the Department of Agriculture, either on the state or federal ends working with people who want to farm who have student loans? Also; to your knowledge, are there others that are in similar situations? It can become a bit depressing being in the situation I have found myself. I often find myself telling others (including my parents) that I wish I’d never gone to college, but I know that’s not right. Thanks for allowing me to have somewhere to speak about this. And thanks to all the organizations that are able to help bring a new generation of farmers to NC and other states.

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