Farming is different now. Today’s farms range from giant corporate farms to small, multi-generational family farms. Corporate farms rely on full-time managers. These farms use minimum wage laborers to do the actual work. On the other hand, small farm owners do everything. These farmers spend their days outdoors in all kinds of weather. They do everything from plowing to feeding cattle to repairing fence.
Almost all farms now practice sustainable agriculture. This means farmers try to put back when they take from the land. Smaller farmers are especially good at this. They will limit or not use pesticides. Most growers are careful to salvage feed sacks, scrap lumber or anything that is not consumable. Recycling is a great way to help the environment. It also saves a farmer’s cash reserves
Family farms allow their animals to freely roam. Free range chickens and cattle won’t eat tainted feed or require antibiotics like corporate farm animals. Many farmers plant green belts in uncultivated areas for wildlife protection. Instead of using regular markets, some growers sell their crops at farmers markets or cooperatives. This allows consumers to meet the people who raise their food.
Most farmers have a high school diploma. However, this may not be true in areas where there are few laborers. Most farm hands receive on-the-job training. Many young farmers do earn bachelor’s degrees in agricultural fields. Their degrees may let them make more if they take managerial positions. Most laborers are paid minimum wage.
According to government statistics, a farmer’s median income is $60,750 annually. Laborers earn $29.21 per hour. This average varies by region. California farmers may easily make more than $60,000 a year. On the other hand, farmers in southeastern Oklahoma may barely clear $20,000 annually.
America is losing her farmers. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, there were 1,202,500 farmers in 2010. This number will drop eight percent by 2020. This means 96,000 fewer farmers in 2020. Some of this decline has been caused by better farming methods and equipment improvements. Farmers now raise larger crops with fewer people. Also, the rising cost of supplies and equipment are driving many away.
Farming is different now. Corporate farms are now part of our world. We have fewer farms and family farmers. The men and women who choose to farm do so because they love growing food for the rest of us. Farming is truly a special lifestyle.