Last week, I attended our county’s annual Farm Bureau banquet, where my family was honored as the Kent County Farm Family of the Year.
The introduction the Farm Bureau leaders gave included some interesting info – they mentioned that this side of my family has been farming in our county since the early 1900s. My research into census records list my great-grandfather as living on the same street (and likely the same block) as my childhood home. Further digging into our history revealed that my ancestors identified themselves as “farmers” going back at least 150 years. If that’s not a tradition of farming, I don’t know what is.
Going through all this history made me think about all the changes to the farming industry over the last several decades. Back in 1960, when my grandparents were farming, the average US farmer could feed 26 people. Now, our farm is feeding six times that. And since 85% of Americans are at least two generations removed from the farm, it’s going to be necessary in the next few decades to continue increasing the number of people each farmer can feed.
We are able to feed more people because of huge jumps in technology and education. Thanks to bigger, more efficient equipment, and selective seed breeding programs, farmers are able to produce more crops on less land. Take corn, for example. According to numbers from the USDA Census of Ag, farmers today are producing about five times as much corn as they did in the 1930s. And they are growing that corn on 20 percent less land!*
Many members of the current generation of my family are still farming. My Uncle “M” operates a cattle and grain farm, following closely in the footsteps of my grandfather. My Uncle “R” had a poultry operation until his passing just a couple of years ago. My father no longer farms, but he has been an agri-science teacher and FFA advisor for at our local high school for 30 years.
And there are a few farmers in the younger generation, too. My cousin “A” married into a local farm family with a dairy, poultry, and grain operation. Her youngest sister “M” raises and shows market lambs and hogs. My youngest sister, Amber, is preparing to graduate this winter with a degree in AgBusiness. She probably won’t be farming, per se, but wants a career in agriculture.
And then there’s me. Not only is my job as an ag lender directly involved with the farming community, but I also married a farmer. We own a small grain farm just five short miles from what most of my father’s family would consider the “home farm.”
Last, we have our youngest generation – the current great-grandchildren. Will they continue the farming tradition? It’s too early to tell.
Though based on his current fascination with all things tractors and farming, odds are pretty good that my kid will be a farmer.
*As found on www.americasfarmers.com