Family farms important to food

Published 10:03 am Wednesday, June 6, 2012

by Dell Cotton

In this day and age, if you notice, there is an increased interest of consumers in where their food comes from.

I’m not saying it hasn’t always been important — it certainly has. However, farmers’ markets are booming, along with produce and vegetables marketed locally regardless of what area of the country one may call home.

There is a concept here that at times has been overlooked but remains extremely important. That concept is one called the family farm.

I have no figures to back up what I am about to observe, but instead I would say my point comes from years of editorials read and watching consumers.

I would say that when consumers go to the grocery store, they could be divided into probably three groups.

First are those who expect the food to be there and have no concept of what it takes to put it there. This group would also be the first to complain when prices go up even though we spend 7 percent of our income on food. The next best country is 14 percent of income.

The second group has some appreciation for the food that is in the store. These consumers know agriculture is essential in making it happen, but really don’t know whether the bulk of it comes from family farms, factory farms, or what.

The third group gets it. Whether it is a freeze in the winter in Florida that damages oranges, or a drought in New Mexico that devastates the pepper crop, or floods that wipe out thousands of acres of corn in the Midwest and Delta, they know not only that grocery prices will rise, but they also understand that this act hurt someone on their level.

They know that the basis of the majority of the food we choose from was the result of a family farm with members who work the land for their income resulting in their paying taxes just like us.

They take pride in the fact that we still rely on family farms for our food and fiber, and those family farms are the foundation of many of our country’s communities.

How much do we rely on family farms?

For this I do have statistics from the Economic Research Service of the U. S. Department of Agriculture. According to them, farming in the United States is still an industry of family businesses.

Nearly 98 percent of farms are family owned, which account for 88 percent of production. The remaining 2 percent account for the 12 percent production.

Fortunately some things really don’t change that much over time.

DELL COTTON is manager of the Peanut Growers Cooperative Marketing Association. He can be reached at