All the doom and gloom reporting on farming is disheartening. An increasing population, hunger, food waste, crop failures, farmers getting out of farming. Feeding 9(+) billion people in the coming years seems like a daunting task but from the farmers I know and meet through Farmbrite, I believe we're up to the task.
Instead of getting discouraged by these numbers we should work to be better producers, growers, ranchers and farmers. We have 30 harvests before 2050 and we need to get smarter about our farming practices. My grandfather repeated the old adage to me many times, "work smarter." He was a successful, hardworking businessman and farmer. If we value this kind of thinking we can succeed in any business, farming not excluded.
In an effort to feed this growing world population, small farms get overlooked because they are not producing as much and don't make as much. I think they are an undervalued player in our food resources. These farms feed themselves, their employees, as well as producing for others. The unreported amount of food doesn't get calculated in the amount produced and their hard work is often discounted.
On the other hand, large farms are the powerhouses of farming. They are organized, mechanized, and have coherent processes helping them run a streamlined agricultural business. But those streamlined processes sometimes come at a high cost to natural resources.
Let's not let this get personal. Why does it have to be one or the other is better? To bring about change we have to take the emotion out of it and work together. Here are some interesting statistics about both large and small scale farming.
Some global farm statistics:
+ One acre of land can grow a variety of crops, including 50,000 pounds of strawberries or 2,784 pounds (46.4 bushels) of wheat-depending on the climate. (We can grow a lot of food on a small amount of land.)
+ The amount of feed (grain, forage, etc.) a dairy cow needs to eat to produce 100 pounds of milk has decreased by more than 40% on average in the last 40 years. (We're getting more efficient.)
+ A staggering 40% of all food grown in the U.S. is never eaten. (We could be much more efficient and reduce waste.)
+ The USDA counted 2.1 million farms in the 2012 census, more than half of which reported farm commodity sales of less than $10,000. (Small farms are out there working hard and could use some help.)
+ In 2017 according to the USDA, there were over 321,000 young farmers (under the age of 35) in the U.S. up from 2012, when there were 208,000. (More people are interested in getting into agriculture.)
+ The average farm in China and India is about 3 acres. (Small farms can be efficient and feed many people.)
+ Large farms in the EU produce 71% of their agricultural output, but account for just 6.3% of total farms.
(UK large farms are producing very well.)
+ Large industrial farms in the U.S. with over $1 million in sales account for 4% of all farms but 66% of sales.
(US large farms are producing very well.)
+ Since 1994 the number of farmer markets in the US has grown to 8,720 and increase of 7+% from 2013. (People like supporting their local farmer-large or small.)
It's been said that small farms are less efficient, have a hard time finding land, are failing like many small businesses do in the first 5 years and aren't really "farms" at all because they don't support themselves from farming. Large farms make a bigger splash in the capitalistic pond and so get more press. They also are able to buy better/newer machinery/resources, are sometimes subsidized and often have been farming longer which often means they have efficient processes and possibly inherited the land and don't have to find/buy/or lease land. But don't count out the small farm. Small farmers are on the rise, willing to share their information with others and are often times working for that dream while holding a second job-off farm.
Down doesn't mean out.
All this means is small farms need more efficiency in their farming practices. Using more mechanized planting (using DIY options), vertical farming, cover crops, no-till farming practices, better storage, pest and weed control, more efficient tools for planting, weeding and harvesting, and all and all better processes. YouTube is filled with videos helping small producers grow smarter and be more efficient with growing practices. If we spread ideas across
Another win for the small farmer is that they tend to grow diversified crops instead of one mono-crop on their land and use crop rotation which builds the soil and keeps carbon in the soil keeping the planet cooler.
Both- and thinking.
Large family farms have more resources, possibly subsidies, better machinery, and own the land which helps them keep their heads above water -even when it's flooding. But it means they often use practices that are harsh on the environment or wasteful; large quantities of pesticides, large scale tilling and leaving food waste at harvest. They also may not be growing food for food-they are growing food for biofuel, animal feed and processed food. It also means they are good at growing a lot of food. Which we're going to need if we're going to feed all these people. We just need to be smarter about how we go about it. But large farms need our help just as much as the small farm. Their costs are high and their risk is greater. They need to support themselves and their families just like we do.
So, there seems to be a market for both types of farm. The use of crop diversity and smart growing practices is better for our health and the environment but we need the larger producers to continue to grow some types of crops in large quantities.
How about a truce? We can work to find ways to support the small farm grow and be successful and help the large farm have better growing practices.
One tool is our support. Even as farmers we sometimes need to buy food we're not growing. As consumers, when you shop, buy food from local small farms and support the large farms that are working toward sustainable practices in the grocery stores. Do your research and know who you're buying from.
Another way is as farmers we can spread the word about our own practices and what works and what doesn't. We can also be better farmers by using tools and growing practices that are shown to be more efficient.
Lastly, we can think outside of the box and try new things; start a local growing co-op. You're produce and your neighbors produce can be sold together. Let's get innovative; I'm not talking about expensive gadgets but things like vertical farming, aquaponics, aeroponics and more innovative ways of growing food.
The solution is in the how we work smarter together.
It's not a secret that businesses stay in business because they do what is profitable. So, as a farm, do you know what is making money on your farm? Do you know what isn't? If you can't answer these questions -quickly-you need to look into farm management software.
Keeping your farm/ranch organized is an important part of your job as a businessperson. The fact that your job is in agriculture is just the icing on the cake. There are many things that go into your day but never forget the business side of your agribusiness.
Finance management, daily tracking, task management, schedule juggling, these are all inevitable parts of every business, and farming is no exception. No, it's not the most fun part of business but every farmer should be informed about their finances, farming productivity and how they're business is running.
Why use a farm management software for your farm?
Writing everything down manually or keeping all your information in separate spreadsheets requires a lot of time to calculate each expense/ sale/ investment and compare productivity. To make it easy, Farmbrite has done this for you. We have many charts, graphs and profit and loss reports, seed calculators, etc to give you this information quickly. You can also enter notes and information quickly with our QR scanner and your mobile device.
Keeping track of your agricultural business online with Farmbrite helps you track costs and income, tasks, schedules, and all the daily work for your agricultural business easily and saves you a ton of time. Let Farmbrite do the tracking for you, while you focus on the rest on your daily tasks.
As we move into longer and hotter days it's a good idea to keep in mind the changing needs of your herd. Heat stress can reduce population, fertility and milk. Here are 10 ways to keep your cattle herd cool this summer.
Water needs change each season. Stored hay and feed has less water and pasture grazing has a high moisture content. Even so, it's important to provide cattle access to feed and clean water at all times. For reference a mature lactating cow will consume more than 20 gallons of water in a day.
2.) Cooling systems:
Using evaporative cooling with exhaust fans, circulation fans is an easy way to keep the air moving and the cattle cooling. Equip barns with fans or a cooling system to minimize heat stress.
3. Sprinklers, soaker lines and misters:
Adding a sprinkler over a clean area of the barn can cool the area 10-15°. These can also be automated and can keep flies down as well since it makes it harder for them to fly.
4.) Additional venting:
Add ventilation to barns to provide more air flow. Keep the barn doors open and fans circulating. Overheating can cause stress, sickness and even death. Adding additional ventilation can help like ventilation in the tunnel and cooling cells.
5.) Moving day:
When working or moving your herd, remember to move them slowly - at their own speed, to minimize stress. Also, keeping vaccinations, sorting, and other changes to cooler days. Additional stress can be extreme for severely affected animals and can suppress the immune system .
Work cattle early in the morning or evening when it's cooler. Pay close attention for stress signs, especially in cattle with higher risk factors like ones that have not shed/long haired or were previously sick.
6.) Dietary considerations:
Adding minerals, high quality forage, some fats, and feeding them at specific times can be key to keeping them healthy. Cattle won't want to eat or ruminate during the hottest times of the day. Feed them when it's cooler and they will eat better.
7.) Minimal amounts in the holding pen:
Keep smaller amounts of cows in the holding pen. This will allow them to keep their temperature down, and have air circulate letting them keep cooler.
Shade not only keeps them cool on hot days but it could also help them avoid sunburn. They might not stay in the shade though because of flies or other environmental factors but it should be available. If you don't have trees or natural shade you can add shade tarps or netting for additional shade.
9.) Prevent pests:
Rotating between fly control methods is the best way to keep down the population and reduce damage and stress to your herd.
10.) High quality or low quality forage:
Providing high quality forage during heat stress helps them produce less heat during digestion. Offering high quality reduces the amount of heat load on the animal.
Extra tip: This isn't going to keep your cows cool but it's summer, don't forget to put up some hay for the winter.
1.) You can Farm by Joel Salatin
This book gives the rundown of how to be successful and profitable in a small farm business, aptly subtitled "The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise." There are many ideas that can help you even if you aren't selling at market.
2.) The Market Garden by Jean-Martin Fortier
Micro-farming on 1.5 acres and feeding more than 200 families this book is all about efficiencies. They talk about low tech options but high yield. It is a great read with pictures, check lists and many innovative ideas.
3.) The lean Farm by Ben Hartman
Work smarter, not harder is the key takeaway from this book. Hartman is farming on just 1 acre and using innovative and progressive farming techniques which he talks about in this book. He is helping to bring farming to a new generation of farmers.
4.) Dirt to soil by Gabe Brown
The soil is the star of this book. Through his family trials he has found some innovative solutions to some of the pressing agricultural challenges we come up against today. The question asked here is, "How can we get more life from the land?"
5.) The resilient Farm and Homestead by Ben Falk
A land designer and site developer took some land that would not conventionally be used for farming and made it thrive. He has a team of researchers and this book gives loads of helpful information and strategies on his work. You'll find gravity fed water systems, site design, agroforestry, fertility management and more.
Flowers are a great option to sell at the farmers market. Not only are they beautiful but you can make a fair profit on them. You have the option to sell loose cut flowers as well as making up bouquets to have on-hand. Other farmers at market might also be selling flowers but by making your bouquets unique will help you stand out and bring more people to your booth. Here is a list of the top 10 flowers to sell at market:
A showy flower that makes a lasting impression.
Growing tip: They like full sun and neutral PH soil.
A very easy flower to grow. They grow quickly and bloom heavily.
Growing tip: Do not seed until the last frost has passed.
A free flowering annual that is extremely easy to grow.
Growing tip: Don't over water.
A spring blooming perennial that grows between 4-28 inches tall in many different colors.
Growing tip: Plants the bulbs deep; 8 inches. Plant different varieties with varying bloom times.
A big, bright large stemmed flower and can grow over 16 feet tall.
Growing tip: Plant in full sun. They are heliotropic, and follow the sun through the day.
An oldie but a goodie.
Growing tip: Deadhead to keep them blooming and wear sturdy gloves.
A short-lived perennial that may not come back every year. They come in wide variety of colors and heights.
Growing tip: They prefer cooler soil so don't use a seed mat.
Also called bachelor's button. It is an annual that grows about 1-3 feet in height.
Growing tip: Drought tolerant once established they will benefit from mulching with bark.
A showy perennial flower that is either a bulb or rhizome.
Growing tip: Especially bearded irises do not like shade.
These can be a little challenging to grow but are well worth it once they get going.
Growing tip: Watch the watering. Too much can cause pythium.
If you have the space, adding flowers to your farm can bring a profit and make your market booth look more appealing. This list is a great place to start but keep your eyes out for types of flowers that no one is selling and bring those. Whatever you don't sell you can always sell to the local florist.