Bucking the Trends

The preliminary data from the USDA’s 2012 Census of Agriculture shows that Virginia is experiencing the same trends that are common to American agriculture as a whole.

Since 2007:

  • The number of farms in Virginia has decreased
  • The average farm size has increased
  • The average age of the principal farm operator has increased
  • Farm production and the market value of farm products has increased

These are the same trends seen nationwide, that have been ongoing now for decades.

With each passing year there are fewer farms, as more and more farms are consolidated into larger and larger “operations.”  Likewise with each passing year the average age of farmers increases, as cultural forces and prohibitive start-up costs drive young people away from farming.

The industrial megafarms that remain grow increasingly profitable.  Last year farm profits hit their highest level in nearly 50 years.

As I’ve said many times before on this blog, we are seeing a dangerous concentration of our food system into a handful of multinational corporations and a small number of very large industrial farming operations.

It is easy to find food that is cheap.

The survival of small sustainably-operated family farms like ours depends upon people making the effort to choose, and pay for, food that is nutritious and ethically-produced.


8 comments on “Bucking the Trends

  1. just saw this graphic relating to same issues but in Europe http://www.tni.org/eulandgraphic


  2. bobraxton says:

    on my mind this Friday: roof rain water harvesting – at home, suburban


  3. Bill, when I think of Virginia, I just don’t think of big agribusiness. Being in the heart of farm country the most famous big farm here was in Iowa. It was the Adams farm some times called the Adams ranch. It was 10 square miles of farm land with mile long rows. The home place was so big and housed so many farm hands that the owners actually built a water tower similar to a small city. The ranch contained a bunk house for the men; a kitchen and dining hall; commissary; a blacksmith shop; mule barn; several homes for married men and their families; a large garage with chauffeur’s quarters above; and the palatial home of the Adamses. The ranch had its own ice house and kept milk cows to provide butter and milk for the tables.

    Here is an excerpt about the farm taken from a forum that explains the massive farm better than I can:
    http://www.allischalmers.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=35226&title=large-farm-of-yesterday It’s a short read but quite interesting.

    This farm was started and maintained starting in the 1800s and the land was worked with 60 teams of mules shipped in from Missouri. It was split up and sold in 1978.

    Have a great Large farm day.


    • Bill says:

      Do you remember my joke about the Virginia farmer and the Texas rancher? Our traditional main crop here was tobacco, which is so labor intensive that the fields just can’t be that big.
      Our farm is 183 acres but we’re only growing vegetables on a small part of it. We only own the old “home place.” The farm was once a much larger group of farms (about 1000 acres). Still small by midwest standards but it took many families to farm it. Back then it was largely self-sufficient, like a village. Really large farms just don’t make sense for the way we farm, just like small farms don’t make sense for farming the way the big farms do.


  4. Multinationals’ influence in just about every aspect of our lives troubles me, even more so with the recent ruling about campaign contributions.

    I say that in complete hypocrisy, though. I took a break while writing this comment and ended up snacking on some pitted black olives in a convenience package. *sigh*


    • Bill says:

      They’re difficult to avoid. It seems to me we worry (often rightly so) a lot about the increasing power and control of governments, while tending not to notice the increasing power of large corporations.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s